News

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Opinion: Why Coloradans should be skeptical about gig companies’ promises

January 21, 2021

By Terri Gerstein
The Colorado Sun

In December, Uber’s CEO asked the governors of all 50 states to give the ride-hailing company’s workers priority for the coronavirus vaccine. The company sent a similar letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

It’s a profoundly cynical move. Uber and friends just spent over $200 million on California’s Proposition 22, a successful ballot initiative to exempt themselves from basic employment laws (paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, workplace safety requirements), in exchange for a seriously slender benefits package. 

Uber’s advocacy for vaccine priority reads more than anything like a company seeking replacement parts for its machinery, not caring for its people.... Read more about Opinion: Why Coloradans should be skeptical about gig companies’ promises

Boston Globe Logo

Gig workers deserve employment protections

December 18, 2020

Mark Erlich
Boston Globe 

The misclassification of employees as independent contractors predates the emergence of the gig economy and has been a method of skirting the cost of standard worker protections.

In the midst of all the presidential transition drama, one of the most overlooked but consequential outcomes of the November election was the victory of Proposition 22 in California. Funded by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates to the tune of a record-breaking $200 million, the ballot measure exempted ride-hailing and delivery drivers from a 2019 law, Assembly Bill 5, which brings California’s gig economy into compliance with conventional employment laws.

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Brookings logo

Preparing U.S. workers for the post-COVID economy: Higher education, workforce training and labor unions

December 16, 2020

Kristen E. Broady, Moriah Macklin, and Jimmy O’Donnell
Brookings Institute Report

The pandemic has exacerbated the need for improvements in how we train and protect our workforce.

For policymakers working to reverse the direction of labor law in this country, there are two paths available. The first, acknowledging the original sins and subsequent weakening of labor, involves a fundamental rethinking of labor-management relations in the United States. This approach is embodied by the innovative work being done by the Clean Slate for Worker Power Project, a project of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program headed by Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs. The project puts forward a plan for rewriting the rules that underpin labor law. For example, they suggest moving away from fundamental system establishment-level bargaining and instead moving toward a sectoral bargaining system, as already exists in Europe.

Bloomberg Logo

How Covid-19 Is Helping Robots Take Your Job (Podcast)

December 16, 2020

Stephanie Flanders
Stephanomics Podcast
Bloomberg

Adding robots to factories, retail stores or mines was historically seen as a job killer by workers and the unions that support them. But this year, automation has allowed sectors of the economy to continue producing with fewer people, minimizing the coronavirus risk for workers. U.S. economy reporter Olivia Rockeman explains what that might mean in the long term and what needs to happen to help the displaced. 

Host Stephanie Flanders talks with Harvard Economist Richard Freeman about how 2020 has changed the world of work and what the future will hold. 

ILR Review Logo

Misclassification in Construction: The Original Gig Economy

November 26, 2020

by Mark Erlich
ILR Review

The misclassification of employees as independent contractors has been the focus of recent attention as a result of the implementation of that employment model by ride-share and other gig employers. But the practice long predates the emergence of the gig economy, particularly in the construction industry. This article traces the history of misclassification in construction and the subsequent emergence of a cash-based underground system of compensation, which have lowered standards and been among the major causes of the decline of union density in the industry. In addition, the author examines the regulatory environment at the federal level, which has largely enabled misclassification as well as attempts by state agencies to adopt more aggressive enforcement policies. Downloand Article 

Bloomberg Logo

Biden Seen Reining In Mergers and Cracking Down on Big Tech

November 11, 2020

David McLaughlin
Bloomberg News

The new consensus in the antitrust establishment that a tougher approach is needed sets the stage for Biden to take a harder line than Obama did, said Michael Kades, the director of markets and competition policy at the left-leaning Washington Center for Equitable Growth and a former lawyer at the Federal Trade Commission.

“The question isn’t whether a Biden administration will be more aggressive, but how much more aggressive,” said Kades.

Biden economic adviser Ben Harris also has an interest in antitrust and how it can help workers. He is writing a book with Harvard Law School’s Sharon Block titled “Inequality and the Labor Market: the Case for Greater Competition.” It will propose reforms to labor and antitrust laws with the goal of pushing wages higher, making workplaces safer and increasing mobility.... Read more about Biden Seen Reining In Mergers and Cracking Down on Big Tech

Pittsburgh Post Gazette Logo

Uber won its prized contractor status for drivers. Now what?

November 5, 2020

Joel Rosenblatt, Robert Wilkens-Iafolla and Erin Mulvane
Bloomberg

Uber and Lyft on Tuesday fended off labor protections that were decades in the making, allowing the companies to keep compensating their drivers as independent contractors. While Proposition 22 requires these app-based transportation services to offer some modest new perks for drivers, it keeps them from having to provide benefits that full-time employees get. 

“Prop 22 creates these rights, but as slender and grossly insufficient as they may be, there’s real questions whether workers can access them,” said Terri Gerstein, director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at Harvard University’s Labor and Worklife Program.... Read more about Uber won its prized contractor status for drivers. Now what?

CNN Business Perspectives logo

Prop 22 passes in California, exempting Uber and Lyft from classifying drivers as employees

November 4, 2020

Sara Ashley O'Brien 
CNN Business

In a major win for gig economy companies, CNN projects California voters have passed a costly and controversial ballot measure to exempt firms like Uber and Lyft from having to classify their gig workers in the state as employees rather than as independent contractors.

Terri Gerstein of the Harvard Labor and Worklife Program and Economic Policy Institute said in an email to CNN Business that the result will "leave thousands of California workers in a precarious and perilous position, without basic rights...

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Bloomberg Logo

Uber, Lyft Shares Jump as Companies Win Vote Over Drivers

November 4, 2020

Lizette Chapman
Bloomberg News

Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. jumped in U.S. premarket trading Wednesday after California voters approved a measure (Proposition 22) to protect the companies’ business models from efforts to reclassify their drivers in the state as employees.

“This could be seen as a shot across the bow,” said Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. “Everybody’s looking at California.”Under the new law, gig companies have agreed to provide some new protections to California workers, including a guaranteed wage for time spent driving and a health insurance stipend, but does not include paid sick leave, unemployment insurance and other standard protections afforded under California labor laws.... Read more about Uber, Lyft Shares Jump as Companies Win Vote Over Drivers

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Inside Scalia’s Pro-Industry Revamp of Labor Agency Enforcement

November 2, 2020

Ben Penn
Bloomberg News

Scalia’s primary objective as U.S. Labor Secretary has been to solidify an enforcement philosophy at DOL that’s predictable for employers. Businesses had railed against the Obama administration for what they viewed as its overly punitive, “gotcha"-style tactics. Their frustration mounted when President Donald Trump‘s first labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, was slow to rebalance the enforcement landscape.

Opponents say Scalia has failed to leverage the department’s enforcement functions to defend workers at a time when their lives and...

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