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Investors can help prevent “race to the bottom” on labour conditions

October 7, 2022

Ben Hurley
Top 1000 Funds

Investors should avoid simple one-number metrics when assessing whether companies have good labour practices for their workers, according to labour lawyer and former Biden and Obama Administration official Sharon Block.

Rather, they should look to a range of metrics to gain a broader insight into worker conditions, and the level of respect a company has towards workers’ rights to organise and collectively bargain, she said.... Read more about Investors can help prevent “race to the bottom” on labour conditions

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‘It just shouldn’t be this hard’

September 26, 2022

By Brett Milano
Harvard Law Today

“The real world is exciting and fun in a way, which for labor lawyers hasn’t always been true,” she said in a conversation with Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry Benjamin I. Sachs. Block recently returned to Harvard as executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School after a career that included key positions in both the Obama and Biden administrations — serving on the former’s National Labor Relations Board, and as acting administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under President Biden.

We’re seeing organization in workplaces that were previously thought to be un-organizable. These workers are getting over that hurdle, so is that going to inspire more organizing?

The path to change, she said, may instead be political. “Not to abandon organizing but having more people in Congress who will vote for labor law reform. You mobilize people around the big issues, not by nibbling around the edges.”

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Why does work feel so dysfunctional right now? A psychologist, labor expert and CEO weigh in

September 26, 2022

Jennifer Li

If you’ve talked to anyone about work in the last month, you’ve probably discussed quiet quitting (or setting boundaries), the not-so-quiet backlash from bosses, and even warnings of quiet firing (or managing out).

Railroad workers prepared to go on strike. Starbucks workers are unionizing. Teachers and nurses, burned out beyond belief in year three of the pandemic, say they’re reaching a breaking point.

All the while, the Great Resignation has become less of an anomaly as sky-high turnover every month has become the new norm. Even worries of a looming recession and mounting layoffs haven’t shaken workers’ confidence.

The power struggles between workers and bosses may have buzzy catchphrases now, but they’re really nothing new, says Sharon Block, professor and executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.... Read more about Why does work feel so dysfunctional right now? A psychologist, labor expert and CEO weigh in

Mandatory overtime is garbage

Mandatory overtime is garbage

September 22, 2022

By Emily Stewart 

Many American workers have very little control over their schedules. For some, that translates to too few hours, or a complete lack of control of when they’re expected to work week to week. For others, it means too many hours they can’t say no to. Often (but not always), mandatory overtime comes with a carrot of being paid time and a half for their labor. Sometimes, the carrot isn’t worth it, but workers have no choice. Their employer also has the stick and can fire them for refusing.

“There’s essentially no scheduling protection for workers in this country, and we have a problem on both ends of the spectrum,” said Sharon Block, a law professor at Harvard and former Biden administration official. “You don’t even have protections when you complain about it unless you do it collectively. But if you, just as an individual, go to your boss and say, ‘I’m just really tired of working all this overtime, do you think you could not schedule me for overtime this week?’ An employer can fire you for that.”


U.S. railroad worker fight for pay, benefits could be model for other deals

September 16, 2022

By Lisa Baertlein and Doyinsola Oladipo

Union railworkers in the United States scored a potential key victory in their fight for improved pay and working conditions on Thursday in what could be a model for other unions.

"The pandemic gave workers a different view on what they should have to put up with at work. It's just not OK to go back to the way things were," Harvard Law School Professor Sharon Block said.

Indeed, railworkers received support from several industry groups representing hundreds of customers, who in letters to lawmakers complained rail service suffered from layoffs and other cutbacks while prices increased. Railroads inflamed that ire by cutting rail services before this week's deadline for a deal, worsening train delays and cargo backups.... Read more about U.S. railroad worker fight for pay, benefits could be model for other deals

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A super-sized labor experiment

September 14, 2022

Adrian Ma
NPR Interview

Historically, building a union in the United States has been a grassroots process. For example, while workers at one Chipotle may succeed in bargaining for better wages, that doesn't guarantee the same success for the Chipotle across town or the Qdoba down the street.

But California's FAST Recovery Act (Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act) may flip America's labor dynamic on its head. Instead of a bottom-up approach, why not a top-down approach where industry representatives decide on working standards for all? There's even a phase for this: Sectoral bargaining.... Read more about A super-sized labor experiment

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