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With strikes and a ‘sick out,’ some grocery and delivery workers take defiant stance: One-time bonuses, temporary pay hikes aren’t enough

March 31, 2020

Melissa Repko and Annie Palmer
CNBC

In recent weeks, tensions are on the rise between grocery workers and their employers, spurring many to take public action. Employees at Amazon-owned Whole Foods planned a “sick out” Tuesday, while some drivers who deliver Whole Foods groceries are calling for more protections. Thousands of people have signed an online petition circulated by Trader Joe’s employees. On Monday, some Instacart workers held a nationwide strike. And a major grocery union, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, is advocating for workers to have access to coronavirus testing and protective gear.

Grocers don’t have the depths of experience dealing with dangerous work, said Sharon Block, executive director of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program and a former Obama advisor.

“Whether the law requires it or not, this is just a moment that it’s incredibly important for employers to listen to their workers,” she said. “It’s very concerning that there are a lot of really life-and-death decisions being made and so few workers have the ability to be part of the decision that drives those answers.”... Read more about With strikes and a ‘sick out,’ some grocery and delivery workers take defiant stance: One-time bonuses, temporary pay hikes aren’t enough

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Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block: When Did Labor Law Stop Working?

March 30, 2020

Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block
Ask a Professor Podcast
Harvard Magazine 

WHY WOULD IT TAKE AN AMAZON WORKER, employed full time, more than a million years to earn what its CEO, Jeff Bezos now possesses? Why do the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than all African-American households combined? And how are these examples of extreme income inequality linked to the political disenfranchisement of the lower- and middle-income classes? The established “solutions” for restoring balance to economic and political power in the United States have...

Read more about Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block: When Did Labor Law Stop Working?
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Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block: When Did Labor Law Stop Working?

March 30, 2020

Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block
Ask a Professor Podcast
Harvard Magazine 

WHY WOULD IT TAKE AN AMAZON WORKER, employed full time, more than a million years to earn what its CEO, Jeff Bezos now possesses? Why do the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than all African-American households combined? And how are these examples of extreme income inequality linked to the political disenfranchisement of the lower- and middle-income classes? The established “solutions” for restoring balance to economic and political power in the United States have...

Read more about Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block: When Did Labor Law Stop Working?
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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?

Ben Sachs and Sharon Block at Clean Slate Launch

Harvard Law’s Labor and Worklife Program releases major report aimed at reforming American labor law

January 23, 2020

By Liz Mineo/Harvard Staff Writer
Labor Law Today

Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program released a set of sweeping recommendations to fundamentally rewrite U.S. labor laws and help shift the balance of power in this country back into the hands of working people. Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program, and ...

Read more about Harvard Law’s Labor and Worklife Program releases major report aimed at reforming American labor law
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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.

...

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