Clean Slate Convening on Building Worker Power through Benefits Provision and Enforcement


Thursday, April 4, 2019 (All day) to Friday, April 5, 2019 (All day)


Harvard Law School

What’s at stake? The transformation of work has produced two well-known problems: one, many workers can no longer rely on stable employment to provide them with benefits like retirement, vacation, or insurance, and, two, it is increasingly difficult to enforce basic laws like minimum wage and overtime pay. Although there are many ways to address these problems, putting workers in charge of the organizations that deliver benefits and conduct enforcement could ensure efficient delivery of services while building economic and political voice for working people.

At this convening, we will consider:

1) How benefits can be provided to workers in a manner that builds worker power, including an examination of whether to adapt a Ghent-type system for the U.S.; how to facilitate the use of worker owned/controlled capital to augment workers’ economic and political voice; and

2) Whether there is a role for workers and their organizations in regimes to enforce labor standards and collective action rights that can build worker power, through co-enforcement, other public-private partnership models or new roles for private actors.

Day 1 – Thursday, April 4, 2019


Registration with Coffee and Snacks


Opening Remarks


40’, Discussion

20’, Audience Q&A LWP staff runs mic and takes questions


The discussion around benefits often centers on how much and for what. While that is an important discussion, it misses the opportunity that the administration of benefits provides to build worker power. This conversation will explore whether the provision of benefits can build worker power. We will focus on the questions of whether: (1) worker-run organizations created to administer benefits systems can amass power that can be exercised in other ways and (2) how the accumulation of capital that funds benefits systems can support the exercise of collective power.


40’, Discussion

20’, Audience Q&A LWP staff runs mic and takes questions


Workers rely on effective enforcement regimes to make their rights in the workplace effective, including the right to collective action. There is also a question, however, about whether the process – and not just the outcome – of enforcement can be empowering. This discussion will explore whether the involvement of worker organizations, through co-enforcement or other partnerships with enforcement agencies, can accomplish effective enforcement and empowerment at the same time and where to draw the line in balancing these dual objectives.

  • Jose Garza, Workers Defense Project
  • Lorelei Salas, Commissioner, Department of Consumer Affairs, New York City
  • Elizabeth Wagoner, Coalition of Immokalee Workers & Worker-driven Social Responsibility Network




Small Group Work Sessions

Making the Case for Change/Identifying Gaps



  • Group B1, Facilitator: David Madland, Center for American Progress
  • Group B2, Facilitator: Amanda Y. Perez, National Domestic Workers Alliance
  • Group B3, Facilitator: Matthew Dimick, University at Buffalo School of Law
  • Group B4, Facilitator: Richard Resnick, Sherman Dunn, P.C., IBEW and North America’s Building Trades Unions


  • Group E1, Facilitator: Jose Garza, Workers Defense Project
  • Group E2, Facilitator: Gregory R. Wagner, Harvard School of Public Health
  • Group E3, Facilitator: Terri Gerstein, Harvard Law School
  • Group E4, Facilitator: Emily Spieler, Northeastern University School of Law


Readouts - 3' per group

Day 2 – Friday, April 5, 2019


Registration & Breakfast


Small Group Work Sessions


  • Ghent System Variations, Co-Facilitators: David MadlandCenter for American Progress & Mia Rönnmar, Lund University
  • Portable benefits administered by worker organizations, Co-facilitators: Palak Shah, National Domestic Workers Alliance & Ben Geyerhahn, Workers Benefit Fund
  • Worker-owned/worker-controlled capital models, Co-facilitators: Matthew Dimick, University of Buffalo School of Law & Robert Hockett, Cornell Law School
  • Worker organizations as healthcare/regulatory programs navigators, Co-facilitators: Richard Resnick, Sherman Dunn, P.C, IBEW and North America’s Building Trades Unions & Jamil Poonja, Stride


  • Develop worker administered adjudication system for labor standards enforcement, Co-facilitators: J. Garza, Workers Defense Project & Chris Williams, National Legal Advocacy Network
  • Establish private right of action (incl. qui tam laws), Co-facilitators: Richard Griffin, Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC & David Lopez, Co-Dean, Rutgers Law School
  • Explore co-enforcement models (incl. Humane Society model), Co-facilitators: Terri Gerstein, Harvard Law School & Jane Flanagan, Open Society Foundations and Chicago-Kent College of Law. 
  • Mandate joint labor-management committees (incl. state workers’ compensation mandated committees, European works councils, and provisions in collective bargaining agreements), Co-facilitators: Emily Spieler, Northeastern University School of Law & Marcy Goldstein Gelb, National COSH


Round One


Round Two


Coffee Break and Ideas Exchange


Round Three


Readouts - 5' per group


Closing Remarks

  • Sharon Block, Executive Director, Labor & Worklife Program, Harvard Law School




Closed Working Groups IV.A. and IV.B. sessions