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Why the Gig Economy Matters — Even If It’s Small

September 18, 2019

By Sarah Kessler
OneZero

When I started reporting on gig workers in 2014, I was surprised to find some of the people who represented labor organizations would respond to my inquiries with mild irritation. But is this really a harmful distraction from the wider workforce? In my book, Gigged, I argued that the gig economy was like a Trojan horse — that problems faced by Uber and Lyft drivers are shared by other types of workers, and that...

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What California should do next to help Uber drivers

September 13, 2019

By Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs
Washington Post

Recognizing them as employees was a fine first step. Letting them unionize is crucial.

The struggle for gig workers’ rights took a big step forward this week when the California legislature passed a law classifying many such workers — including Uber and Lyft drivers — as “employees.” Once it is signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), the law...

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Bernie Sanders Sets a Goal: Double Union Membership in 4 Years

Bernie Sanders Sets a Goal: Double Union Membership in 4 Years

August 23, 2019

By Thomas Kaplan and Noam Scheiber
New York Times

Mr. Sanders called his new labor plan “the strongest pro-union platform in the history of American politics.” The plan “is an important recognition of the fact that tinkering around the edges isn’t going to be enough to return power to American workers in our economy,” said Sharon Block, a former National Labor Relations Board member appointed by President Barack Obama, who is executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

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Assessing Trade–Labor Linkages: A Big Step Forward

January 2, 2019

by Kimberly Ann Elliott
Global Policy

Labor Provisions in Preferential Trade Agreements (LABPTA) are an important and necessary step forward in being able to better assess the role of these trade‐labor linkages in improving workers’ lives. A Response to ‘Labor Provisions in Trade Agreements (LABPTA): Introducing a New Dataset’, Damian Raess and Dora Sari, LWP Fellow

There are a great number of research questions that this new dataset allows us to explore, and that work has just begun. LABPTA is thus an important and necessary step forward in being able to better assess the role of these trade‐labor linkages in improving workers’ lives.... Read more about Assessing Trade–Labor Linkages: A Big Step Forward

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Fox in the henhouse? Why Trump’s latest appointment has labor advocates so alarmed

July 26, 2019

BY RICK WARTZMAN
Fast Company

The central question revolving around Scalia is whether he will be willing to act, first and foremost, as a proponent of workers.

Critics note that, as a corporate attorney, he has helped to wipe out a rule meant to safeguard those seeking retirement-planning services, killed off a Maryland law mandating that certain large employers spend a prescribed dollar amount each year on health coverage for their employees, sought to raise the burden of proof needed for whistle-blowers to be protected, and vociferously opposed requirements meant to help workers avoid repetitive stress injuries.

Time and again in the current administration, “the impact of proposed rules on business is what shapes the agenda—not the benefit to workers,” says Sharon Block, who served as a senior aide in the Obama Labor Department and is now executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

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Labor Board Repeatedly Topples Precedent Without Public Input

July 12, 2019

Robert Iafolla
Bloomberg Law

The National Labor Relations Board’s ruling last week that made it easier for employers to oust unions marked at least the 10th time during the Trump administration that the NLRB settled case law without giving prior notice or an opportunity for public input, according to a review of decisions.

The NLRB has invited briefing in at least four cases since Republicans took control of the board in 2017. The Obama board more frequently sought outside views. It called for public briefing a dozen times from 2014 to 2016, for example.

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Press Conference to release “Confronting Misclassification and Payroll Fraud” report

June 26, 2019

Massachusetts Atorney General Maura Healey held a press conference at the State House to highlight the LWP report  “Confronting Misclassification and Payroll Fraud,” by Mark Erlich and Terri Gerstein. The report details the increasing role of state agencies in enforcing misclassification laws and providing worker protections, crucial in an era of lax federal enforcement. 

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Link to Press Release

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“Confronting Misclassification and Payroll Fraud”

June 25, 2019

Report details increasing role of state agencies in enforcing misclassification laws and providing worker protections, crucial in era of lax federal enforcement

by Mark Erlich and Terri Gerstein 

BOSTON, MA – Researchers from the Harvard Labor & Worklife Program, a program of Harvard Law School, released on Wednesday a report detailing the expanding and increasingly inventive role of state-level agencies regarding enforcement of worker misclassification laws and upholding workers protections. The report, “Confronting Misclassification and Payroll Fraud: A Survey of State Labor Standards Enforcement Agencies” is published in the midst of a decades-long trend of employers increasingly misclassifying workers as independent contractors. More urgently, within the past two years, the federal government, through the United States Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board, has been increasingly rolling back worker protections and enforcement.

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What the Gig Economy Can Teach Us About Worker Dissatisfaction

June 10, 2019

By Robby Macdonell, CEO, RescueTime
Thrive Global

Uber drivers launched a worldwide strike days before the ride sharing giant’s IPO. Drivers went on strike to demand transparency and a living wage. All workers want a living wage, but there is something more that organizations can learn from these drivers and other gig economy workers. The Uber drivers choose to remain in the gig economy, even though a traditional job might offer better pay and benefits, because they have control over their time. In fact, they value the ability to pick up a kid from school, be there for a sick...

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How Science Works in the U.S.

June 5, 2019

by Linda Wang
Share America

For science to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges in improving human health, protecting the environment and ensuring national security, scientific research should be transparent and collaborative.

In the U.S., the openness in which scientists conduct their work mirrors the openness of the American society. This transparent environment attracts top talent from around the world.

Furthermore, the talent of diverse scientists working in the U.S. fosters meaningful collaboration.

“It’s a great thing when people from overseas want to come and work with Americans because they feel we have an extremely positive scientific culture,” said Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard University who has studied the impact of collaboration on research. “You have people from so many different backgrounds and from so many countries — I think that has contributed to the strength of American science.”... Read more about How Science Works in the U.S.

The economy isn't getting better for most Americans. But there is a fix

The economy isn't getting better for most Americans. But there is a fix

May 1, 2019

by Heather Boushey
The Guardian

The decline of those labor market institutions is one big reason why growth is no longer broadly shared. The institutional infrastructure of equality is in disrepair. It has to be rebuilt or created anew.

The good news is that there are plenty of good ideas about what that infrastructure needs to be. One of these is to allow workers to organize across an industry, rather than firm-by-firm. Employees in different firms could then come together to bargain with their employers, without disadvantaging any one firm vis-a-vis its competitors. This is just one of many proposals from a team of scholars, advocates and policymakers working on a new project at Harvard law school: Rebalancing Economic and Political Power: A Clean Slate for the Future of Labor Law. This way to think about collective bargaining – so-called “sectoral bargaining” – is new in the US but works in other countries such as Germany.... Read more about The economy isn't getting better for most Americans. But there is a fix

Labor’s Hard Choice in Amazon Age: Play Along or Get Tough

Labor’s Hard Choice in Amazon Age: Play Along or Get Tough

February 22, 2019

By Noam Scheiber
New York Times

It’s one of the most vexing challenges facing the labor movement: how to wield influence in an era increasingly dominated by technology giants that are often resistant to unions.

Are workers best served when unions take an adversarial stance toward such companies? Or should labor groups seek cooperation with employers, even if the resulting deals do little to advance labor’s broader goals?

In 2016, Uber reached a five-year agreement with a regional branch of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to create a drivers’ guild, which would advocate on behalf of drivers but not challenge their status as independent contractors. But Sharon Block, a senior Labor Department official under President Barack Obama, pointed out that the guild had taken something of a hybrid approach between cooperation and antagonism, lobbying for policies such as a minimum earnings standard for drivers and allowing passengers to tip, both of which have been enacted in New York.

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The Resurrection of American Labor

February 7, 2019

by Jane Paskin
Bloomberg Businessweek

According to the official records, U.S. workers went on strike seven times during 2017. Aggrieved workers, however, took matters into their own hands, using social media and other tech tools to enhance their campaigns. From industry walkouts to wildcat teachers’ strikes, they made very public demands of their employers. The official number of major work stoppages recorded by the BLS in 2018 nearly tripled, to 20. 

“I think there’s a real desire for working people to not segment their lives so much,” says Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. Companies know that, too. That’s why places such as Comcast, Facebook, and Google gave workers time off to join political protests in 2016. The problem, Block says, is that political issues are often workplace issues, too. “Immigration, racial justice, gender equality—people are seeing these things as interconnected, and that’s giving rise to movements that aren’t so easy to characterize but are very powerful.”

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A Call for a Kinder Capitalism

February 5, 2019

Brett Milano
Harvard Correspondent
Harvard Gazette

Speaking at Harvard Law School, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D., Mass.) called Monday for a new national economic agenda based on “moral capitalism” that addresses the needs of embattled workers.

In recent months, Kennedy has been pushing for a fresh economic sensibility. Speaking at the John T. Dunlop Forum on the topic of “Building a Moral Capitalism,” he argued that the recent federal government shutdown represented capitalism at its least moral.

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The Return of the Strike

January 3, 2019

By Steven Greenhouse
American Prospect

This year, thousands of teachers, hotel workers, Google employees, and others walked off the job and won major gains. Which raises two questions: Why now? And will this continue?

Some labor experts say the recent surge of strikes could portend a new wave of labor activism, as more and more workers see that collective action can pay off. Others argue that the recent surge is more likely a one-time blip of militancy that will fade away as organized labor’s long-term decline continues.

Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, says labor’s renewed militancy reflects a broader shift in the zeitgeist. “When there’s a lot of collective action happening more generally—the Women’s March, immigration advocates, gun rights—people are thinking more about acting collectively, which is something that people hadn’t been thinking about for a long time in this country in a significant way.”... Read more about The Return of the Strike

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