Clean Slate convening on Empowering Labor Law Reform by Updating other Legal Regimes


Thursday, May 9, 2019 (All day)


Harvard Law School

What’s at stake? Labor law does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it is deeply interconnected with other systems of law. A fundamental rewrite of labor law accordingly calls for us to think carefully about those interconnections. For example, if we believe that certain workers currently classified as independent contractors ought to have collective bargaining rights, that move might necessitate amendments to the antitrust laws, which currently prohibit independent contractors from acting concertedly. If workers are to secure representation rights on corporate boards, that could require changes to corporate law. And expanding political representation for workers might invite us to rethink certain aspects of voting and campaign finance law. Thus, building a policy agenda that will restore balance to our economy and our politics requires us to look beyond labor law.


Registration and Breakfast


Opening Remarks

  • Sharon Block, Executive Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School
  • Lynn Rhinehart, Senior Fellow, Economic Policy Institute and Former General Counsel, AFL-CIO


Keynote – The Democracy Fix: How to Win the Fight for Fair Rules, Fair Courts, and Fair Elections


45’, Discussion

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


Corporate Governance and Anti-Trust Law Reforms

The labor market is currently marked by extreme asymmetries of power between corporations and workers. Corporate law contributes to the problem by (1) driving corporations to be principally responsive to management and shareholder interests; (2) excluding worker voice from corporate decision-making; and (3) failing to ensure that corporations have incentives to invest in labor. Meanwhile, the antitrust laws have served as an insufficient counterweight to corporate power within the labor market, and in some cases have even stifled efforts to build power among workers. This panel will discuss how U.S. corporate governance and anti-trust laws can be amended to build worker power. How do we improve the antitrust laws to allow workers to combat abuses of corporate power at the expense of workers?

Moderator: David Seligman, Attorney, Towards Justice 

  • Lenore Palladino, Senior Economist and Policy Counsel, Roosevelt Institute
  • Kent Greenfield, Professor, Law School, Boston College
  • Ioana Marinescu, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice
  • P. Casey Pitts, Partner, Altshuler Berzon, LLP


45’, Discussion

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


Structural Barriers to Worker Collective Participation in Democracy

One legal regime that clearly impacts workers’ voice and power is the laws governing voting and elections. The United States has among the lowest levels of voting of all OECD countries, and who votes (and doesn’t vote) is skewed by class, race, income, and age. Our laws often make it discouragingly hard for people to vote, particularly so in communities of color. In addition, laws governing campaign finance enable corporations and the wealthy to gain outsized influence, while also preventing working people from effectively exercising their collective financial power. An increasingly robust democracy movement is working toward a broad agenda of reforms in registration, voting, the role of money in politics, and other structural democracy reforms. Some of the questions we are asking here thus are: Which of these reforms will have the most impact on workers’ power? Which should be priorities for collective action?

Moderator: Miles Rapoport, Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy, Harvard Kennedy School

  • Naila Awan, Senior Counsel, Demos
  • Justin Levitt, Associate Dean for Research & Professor of Law, Loyola Law School
  • Renata Strause, Associate General Counsel, AFL-CIO
  • Tova Wang, Director of Policy and Research, Center for Secure and Modern Elections


Lunch Break


45’, Discussion

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


The First Amendment as Obstacle and Opportunity

Recent First Amendment jurisprudence poses obstacles both to mandating corporate behavior that would better support workers’ rights and to constraining coercive employer conduct in the workplace.  Clean Slate proposals may include recommendations in both areas:  (1) required corporate disclosures, participation in sectoral bargaining regimes, establishment of works councils, access for unions to employees in the workplace for organizing purposes; and  (2) prohibitions on corporate speech and conduct during organizing campaigns; limitations on employee exposure to employer political activity. This panel will explore the contours of these obstacles, strategies for best overcoming the obstacles, and whether it is possible to use the Court’s more extreme First Amendment doctrine to support workers’ rights.

Moderator: Ruben Garcia, Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Research, UNLV, Boyd School of Law

  • Charlotte Garden, Professor, Seattle University School of Law
  • Stephen Berzon, Managing Partner, Altshuler Berzon
  • Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • Amy Kapczynski, Professor of Law and Co-Director, Law and Political Economy Project, Yale Law School


Closing Remarks

  • Benjamin Sachs,Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry and Faculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School


Closed Clean Slate Working Group V. Session