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Why American Workers Have Been Left Out of Our Life-and-Death Decision-Making

March 30, 2020

By Sharon Block
The American Prospect

For too many American workers, this crisis is happening to them, not with them. With only approximately 6 percent of the American private-sector workforce in unions, the vast majority of workers have no voice in the decisions that businesses are making in response to the pandemic.

Our laws fail to ensure that workers have an adequate voice in important decisions that affect their lives. The current crisis highlights the ways that our labor law leaves workers out of these critical conversations.... Read more about Why American Workers Have Been Left Out of Our Life-and-Death Decision-Making

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50 State Survey of Access to Unemployment Insurance during COVID-19

March 25, 2020

by 

In the wake of massive layoffs and an unprecedented rise in unemployment claims, a report released today by the People’s Parity Project, in conjunction with the Harvard Labor & Worklife Program, reveals that only a minority of states have embraced all available opportunities to expand unemployment insurance (UI) for workers affected by COVID-19.

After surveying 50 states and the District of Columbia, PPP also found that most states’ unemployment insurance websites are still providing incomplete or even misleading information about filing for UI during the ongoing public health crisis. Worse still, many states’ UI websites have crashed under the avalanche of new unemployment insurance applications.... Read more about 50 State Survey of Access to Unemployment Insurance during COVID-19

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How To File For Unemployment If You've Been Affected By Coronavirus Layoffs

March 23, 2020

Monica Torres
HuffPost

What every worker needs to know if they've lost a job because of COVID-19.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the nation, many Americans are losing their jobs as nonessential businesses grind to a halt. Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. workers lost their jobs or had their hours cut as of March 14, according to one poll, and that number is expected to grow. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 3 million jobs will be lost by this summer.... Read more about How To File For Unemployment If You've Been Affected By Coronavirus Layoffs

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DO DEMOCRACY AND CAPITALISM REALLY NEED EACH OTHER?

March 11, 2020

By Laura Amico
Harvard Business Review

Isabelle Ferreras, Tenured fellow of the Belgian National Science Foundation, professor at the University of Louvain, and a senior research associate of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, answers, "Clearly not: Capitalism, as we can see across the globe, is compatible with all different kinds of political regimes: liberal democratic, communist, autocratic — and now illiberal democracies, too....We have a clear choice before us: either expand our democratic commitment to include corporations, through democratizing them internally (by including the representation of labor investors along the current representation of capital investors), or forfeit our democratic rights to those who own capital — a possibility looming on the horizon, particularly in the United States."... Read more about DO DEMOCRACY AND CAPITALISM REALLY NEED EACH OTHER?

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Google Salary-Sharing Spreadsheets Are All The Rage. Here's What You Should Know.

January 17, 2020

By Monica Torres
Huffpost

Workers across a number of industries are creating their own widely shared salary databases, with employees anonymously entering their earnings for all to see. Adding salary info to these lists usually works like this: Through a Google Form, individuals enter information anonymously about their salary and organization, usually with the option to include years of experience, geographic location, race, gender and sexual orientation, as well as industry-specific information such as awards, worker injuries incurred or billable hours.

You may worry about getting into trouble if you share your salary on a public spreadsheet. But discussing wages is allowed and protected in the U.S. for people who are employees protected under The National Labor Relations Act. The NLRA allows employees “to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”

“People who are employees, treated as employees, have been able to assert their right as employees. In circulating this spreadsheet, they are acting concertedly, they are joining with their co-workers to say we think pay transparency is important,” said Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. “They cannot be fired for that. The law says they have a right to act concertedly.”

Can California rein in tech’s gig platforms? A primer on the bold state law that will try.

Can California rein in tech’s gig platforms? A primer on the bold state law that will try.

January 14, 2020

By Eli Rosenberg 
Washington Post

A new law in California seeks to rewrite the rules of work and what it means to be an employee.

Known informally as the gig-economy bill, or AB5, the legislation went into effect on Jan. 1, seeking to compel all companies ― but notably those like Lyft and Uber ― to treat more of their workforce like employees. 

Tech companies like Uber, Lyft, Postmates, DoorDash and Instacart have joined forces — and pocketbooks — to sponsor a $110 million ballot initiative that would formally exempt them from the law. 

“States should hold off in the face of all these challenges that have emerged in California,” said Maria Figueroa, director of labor and policy research at the Worker Institute at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations. “The ideal situation would be for other states to come up with legislation that would be narrow enough in terms of its parameters to cover platform workers …[but] would enable these states to avoid these challenges."

Others see the opposition in the terms of greed.

“We are in this place because we have these really big companies that will put tens of millions up for the right to deny basic protections for workers,” said Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

Respecting the Right to Strike at Harvard

Respecting the Right to Strike at Harvard

December 16, 2019

by Sharon Block, Benjamin Sachs and Laura Weinrib
OnLabor Blog

According to the Crimson, Harvard has circulated an email advising departments seeking to hire spring teaching fellows (and other student workers) to include certain language in job postings and offer letters. The Crimson reports that the email “recommends departments include a provision in postings and offer letters that conditions teaching fellow positions on whether candidates can commit to a start...

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Worker Misclassification in Washington State Leads to Millions in Revenue Losses, New Harvard Report Details

December 16, 2019

Widespread misclassification of workers could mean millions of dollars uncollected and thousands of workers underpaid and without benefits

OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON — The number of employers engaging in worker misclassification in Washington state has risen substantially over the last 10 years. Misclassification has resulted in the denial of pay and benefits for tens of thousands of workers as well as millions of dollars in lost revenue, according to a new study from researchers with Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program.... Read more about Worker Misclassification in Washington State Leads to Millions in Revenue Losses, New Harvard Report Details

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Grant Makers Face Uphill Battle as They Push for a Kinder Form of Capitalism

December 4, 2019

By Alex Daniels
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Some of the country’s largest foundations and billionaire philanthropists want to upend the very system that allowed them to build massive endowments and personal fortunes. Among wealthy donors and foundation heads there is a growing belief that capitalism, the financial engine that put Ford cars in driveways and Hewlett-Packard printers on office desktops nationwide needs to be rewired. The relentless pressure on companies to serve up quarterly profits to shareholders has widened the gap between the superrich and the rest of the...

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More and more workers are taking advantage of informal activism

November 8, 2019

Meghan McCarty Carino
Marketplace

According to Michelle Miller, co-founder of Coworker.org — a non-profit that helps workers organize online — this trend of informal worker activism is spreading.

Coworker has helped workers from baristas to grocery clerks demand change on matters as varied as family leave policies and workplace tattoo or beard bans.

According to Sharon Block, executive director of the labor and worklife program at Harvard Law School, informal actions like WeWork’s have the potential to address issues more quickly than...

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Walmart’s Strategy When Wading Into Culture Wars: Offend Few

Walmart’s Strategy When Wading Into Culture Wars: Offend Few

November 4, 2019

By Michael Corkery
New York Times 

When navigating the nation’s culture wars, Walmart follows a strategy it has honed for years: Alienate as few customers as possible, and do no harm to its core business. In many cases, it appears to be working.

Many in the administration, which was also pushing for a higher federal minimum wage, appreciated Mr. McMillon’s support on the overtime rule. But some of the officials did not overlook that Walmart, which employs about 1.5 million people in the United States, remained resistant to unionizing its American stores....

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One year after the Google walkout, key organizers reflect on the risk to their careers

November 1, 2019

Story by Sara Ashley O'Brien, CNN Business
Video by Richa Naik and Natalia Osipova, CNN Business
Photo illustrations by Ken Fowler

One year ago on November 1, tens of thousands of Google workers spilled out of their offices around the world, protesting sexual harassment, misconduct and a lack of transparency at one of the most powerful tech companies in the world.

In the year since then, at least four of the core group of walkout organizers have...

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Some anxious thoughts on the future of labor arbitration

October 28, 2019

By Arnold Zack
LWP Senior Resarch Associate

As a labor‐management arbitrator for more than 60 years, I have witnessed the practice change
from an informal problem solving conference to a formal lawyered adversarial combat where
winning preempts compromise. The contrast reflects the changing nature of the workplace and
workforce, the altered priorities of the parties, the rising cost of bringing cases to arbitration,
the changes in balance of power between the unions and employers and the shrinking role that
unions have struggled to maintain in the...

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Le Monde

Is Capitalism Doomed?

October 14, 2019

“The contradiction between capitalism and democracy is at a point of no return.”
by Isabelle Ferreras

If capitalism has a future, democracy may not. Nationalist populists, bolstered by transnational firms whose algorithms prioritize expressions of fear and antagonism, are stoking citizens’ legitimate anger. Faced with the unbridled power of the very private entities they seek to woo, political leaders are attempting to conceal how powerless they are to reduce inequalities and save the planet. But people are no fools: the contradiction between democracy and capitalism is...

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Democratic presidential candidates come under pressure to release Supreme Court picks

Democratic presidential candidates come under pressure to release Supreme Court picks

October 15, 2019

By Seung Min Kim 
Washington Post

Demand Justice, a group founded to counteract the conservative wing’s decades-long advantage over liberals in judicial fights, will release a list of 32 suggested Supreme Court nominees for any future Democratic president as they ramp up their push for the 2020 contenders to do the same. 

The slate of potential high court picks includes current and former members of Congress, top litigators battling the Trump administration’s initiatives in court, professors at the nation’s top law schools and public defenders. Eight are sitting judges. They have established track records in liberal causes that Demand Justice hopes will energize the liberal base. 

Included in the list from Demand Justice is Sharon Block, the executive director of the labor and worklife program at Harvard Law School and former member of the National Labor Relations Board.

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