Rebalancing Economic and Political Power:
A Clean Slate for the Future of Labor Law
Opening Conference: What Problems Should We Be Solving For?
Made possible by the generous support of the Ford Foundation
DATE & TIME Tuesday July 24, 2018, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
LOCATION Harvard Law School, Wasserstein Hall, 2036 Milstein West A
1585 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138
Project Background: Wages have been stagnating for decades. Income inequality is at its highest level in history and still growing. The political and economic power of ordinary Americans is dwarfed by the massive influence of corporations. The right to unionize has been eviscerated. Demagogues are seeking (sometimes successfully) to capitalize on these trends to advance their own goals to the further detriment of working people. In the face of these trends, how can ordinary Americans organize and mobilize for economic and political justice? And what does the law do to enable or impede their efforts? The magnitude of the challenges requires more than tinkering around the edges of the existing legal frameworks. It is critical that we bring new perspectives to answering these hard questions in order to build a policy agenda for legal reform that will restore balance to our economy and our politics.
Rationale behind this opening conference: A key element of this opening conference is to get input and recommendations from conference participants on the topics to be discussed at future convenings and which draw from the above identified challenges. Toward that end, opening conference participants will be asked to reflect throughout the conference about the best way to organize the project to create policy "pathways to solutions" for the problems discussed.
Public Transportation: The conference venue is in a 10-minute walking distance from Harvard Square, a central hub for buses and subways.
Registration and Breakfast
Sharon Block, Executive Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School
Opening/Vision for the Project: Addressing the Big Problem of Economic and Political Disempowerment of Workers
Benjamin Sachs, Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry and Faculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School
Panel One: Transformation of Work
Moderator: Christine L. Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project
Panel Two: Constraints on the Labor Movement and Worker Organizations
Moderator: Catherine Fisk, Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong Professor of Law, Berkeley Law
Lunch Panel: Problems Have Consequences: A View from the Frontlines
Moderator: Michelle Miller, Co-Founder and Co-Director, coworker.org
Panel Three: Challenges to Collective Action and Structural Fairness Problems
Moderator: Jake Rosenfeld, Associate Professor of Sociology, Washington University in St. Louis
Break and Afternoon Refreshment
Breakout Groups: Pathways to Solutions
- Ajunwa Ifeoma, Kate Crawford, and Jason Schultz: Limitless Worker Surveillance, California Law Review, Vol. 735, 2017, read introduction and section III
- Andrias, Kate: The New Labor Law, The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 126, October 2016, read introduction and section I
- Bivens, Josh et. al.: How Today’s Unions Help Working People: Giving Workers the Power To Improve their Jobs and Unrig the Economy, Economic Policy Institute, August 24, 2017
- Gilens, Martin: Affluence and Influence. Economic Inequality and Political Power in America, Princeton University Press, 2014, read the introduction
- McCarthy, Michael A.: Which Side Is Your Pension On?, Jacobin, March 7, 2014
- Rosenfeld, Jake: What Unions No Longer Do, Harvard University Press, 2014, read the introduction
- Sachs, Benjamin I.: The Unbundled Union: Politics Without Collective Bargaining, The Yale Law School Journal, Vol. 123, October 2013, read introduction and section I
Weil, David: How To Make Employment Fair in an Age of Contracting and Temp Work, Harvard Business Review, March 24, 2017