Thirty-six distinguished economists and professors of law and economics including three Nobel laureates, two recipients of the American Economic Association’s prestigious John Bates Clark Medal, and two past presidents of the American Economic Association filed an amici curiae brief to assist the Supreme Court in understanding the free-rider problem at issue in Janus v. AFSCME.
Richard B. Freeman, who holds the Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University, and is currently serving as Faculty co-Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at the Harvard Law School, was on of the 36 signers.
In November, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta said ominously that he was “looking at” the possibility of imposing new regulations on worker centers that could hobble their ability to get funding and operate freely. This would be the regulatory equivalent of a sniper taking pot shots at the medic who has rushed onto the battlefield to tend to a dying soldier. It is a remarkably bold threat. To see what is at stake, I traveled to frozen Minneapolis, home to one of the most effective worker centers anywhere in America.
[Sharon Block, who served as a Labor Department official in the Obama administration and is now the director Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program] points out that the George W. Bush administration already scrutinized worker centers on the same basis—and the Bush Labor Department sided with the worker centers, twice. “Who am I to argue with the Bush administration?” she laughs.
The Trump administration is moving to undo the actions of former President Obama on almost every front, and now it's happening with breathtaking speed at an agency charged with protecting worker rights.
Now, it appears Robb may also back off what has become one of the most expensive and staff intensive cases in the board's history: A complaint filed against McDonald's in 2014 that claims the company should be held liable for alleged retaliatory actions by its franchisees against workers who participated in daylong strikes as part of the Fight for $15 movement, a union-backed campaign to raise wages.
"I think that's a bellwether issue as to whether this leadership cares about these statutes making sense and applying today," said Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, who served as head of policy at the Department of Labor until President Trump took office. "Or is this just a way of letting everybody fend for themselves, without the protections that they were supposed to have?"