Block, Sharon

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Clean Slate Update

December 12, 2018

by Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs
OnLabor.org

 

Last spring, we promised to share information about the project we’ve launched at Harvard Law School, “Rebalancing Economic and Political Power: A Clean Slate for the Future of Labor Law Reform.”

On Labor Day,  we laid out our vision for this ambitious project:  (1) reimagining collective bargaining; (2) expanding the range of available worker organizations; (3) ensuring that collective action leverages power; (4) using benefits and enforcement to strengthen worker organizations; (5) updating other legal regimes to empower workers; and (6) addressing persistent, historical inequities that have plagued the labor movement.... Read more about Clean Slate Update

Trump May Soon Deal Yet Another Blow to Union Rights

Trump May Soon Deal Yet Another Blow to Union Rights

November 9, 2018

By Michelle Chen
The Nation

"Rolling back so-called “joint-employer” protections could undermine the Fight for 15 and other vital campaigns."

At stake is the joint-employer standard, where workers are technically employed by a subcontractor, but their working conditions are essentially controlled by the parent company to which they are assigned (in many cases today, so-called “permatemps” do virtually the same job as regular workers, with less pay and job security).

The Trump administration’s Labor Department and the Republican-dominated NLRB...

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The Kavanaugh Tilt: Conservative Justices Could Revamp Workplace Law

October 18, 2018

By Robert Iafolla
Bloomber Law

Epic Systems may have also laid some of the groundwork for the court’s new conservative majority to continue narrowing the scope of federal labor law, scholars said. The court said in that ruling that ling or joining a class action doesn’t qualify as a joint action protected by the National Labor Relations Act.

But the Trump administration led a brief in Epic Systems suggesting that the NLRA’s safeguards for collective worker action only covers group conduct related to self-organization or collective bargaining. “That to me is the most serious and real area to think about an even more conservative Supreme Court changing the law,” Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, told Bloomberg Law. “In a world where 94 percent of the private sector isn’t engaged in activities related to collective bargaining, that would be a devastating development.”... Read more about The Kavanaugh Tilt: Conservative Justices Could Revamp Workplace Law

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State and Local Enforcement: Stepping Up and Filling In on Workers’ Rights

October 25, 2018

by Sharon Block
OnLabor.org

Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program has launched the Project on State and Local Enforcement. The Project will partner with enforcement agencies, lawmakers, worker advocates, and others to fill a critical need in examining and strengthening innovative state and local actions and initiatives.  Specifically, the project will:... Read more about State and Local Enforcement: Stepping Up and Filling In on Workers’ Rights

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'This Road Just Got a Lot Harder': Teachers' Unions Hit With New Round of Lawsuits

October 15, 2018

By Madeline Will
Education Week

Months after the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a hefty blow to teachers’ unions, a rash of new lawsuits has emerged that could further damage these labor groups. 

There are two main strands to this new wave of anti-union lawsuits: 1) challenges to time-limited windows during which teachers can opt out of membership payroll deductions, and 2) pushes for teachers to be reimbursed for the agency fees they paid before the Janus decision.

“Everybody knows where the end of this litigation road is, which is the Supreme Court,” said Sharon Block, the executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. “Janus is sadly not the end of the road. This road just got a lot harder.”... Read more about 'This Road Just Got a Lot Harder': Teachers' Unions Hit With New Round of Lawsuits

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Under Trump, Labor Protections Stripped Away

September 3, 2018

By Katie Johnston
Boston Globe 

“This has been a terrible 18 months-plus for working people in this country,” said Celine McNicholas, director of labor law and policy at the Economic Policy Institute. “It’s an unprecedented attack on workers.”

Several worker advocacy groups have seized the moment to propose major overhauls to labor law, including the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, which is exploring policy proposals to reimagine collective bargaining by sector instead of by employer, and to give workers seats on corporate boards, among other recommendations. 

It’s not just a reaction to Trump, said Sharon Block, who runs the center with labor professor Benjamin Sachs, though she added he’s certainly making matters worse. 9/3/2018 Under Trump, labor protections stripped away “The little power that workers have, this administration seems to be bound and determined to diminish even more,” said Block, who served on the NLRB board and was a labor adviser to President Obama. “The time for tinkering around the edges has past. What we really need is fundamental change.”

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This Labor Day, A Clean Slate for Reform

September 3, 2018

 SHARON BLOCK AND BENJAMIN SACHS
OnLabor.org

The question on this Labor Day therefore must be how, in 2018, can we create a new labor movement, one that can unite the interests of a sufficient number of lower and middle income Americans so that they have the power to restore balance to our economy and politics.

So we need to rebuild labor law from a clean slate to meet the challenges of the new economy. To provide a blueprint for that kind of reform, we have launched a new project at Harvard Law School: Rebalancing Economic and Political Power: A Clean Slate for the Future of Labor Law.  This summer, we kicked off the Clean Slate project with a convening aimed at identifying the core elements of a successful 21st Century labor law.... Read more about This Labor Day, A Clean Slate for Reform

Trump’s Power to Fire Federal Workers Curtailed by Judge

Trump’s Power to Fire Federal Workers Curtailed by Judge

August 25, 2018

By Noam Scheiber
New York Times

A federal district judge in Washington struck down most of the key provisions of three executive orders that President Trump signed in late May that would have made it easier to fire federal employees.

The ruling is the latest in a series of legal setbacks for the administration, which has suffered losses in court in its efforts to wield executive authority to press its agenda on immigration, voting and the environment.

Sharon Block of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, who is a former senior Labor Department official and National Labor Relations Board member during the Obama administration, called the decision a “stinging rebuke.”... Read more about Trump’s Power to Fire Federal Workers Curtailed by Judge

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Trump Overtime Pay Rule Slow Out of Gate

August 20, 2018

Jaclyn Diaz and Ben Penn
Bloomberg Law

The Labor Department has shown scant signs of progress on revising an Obama-era rule to expand overtime pay eligibility, more than a year after embarking on its mission.

The Trump DOL’s latest soft target for a proposed rule is January 2019, after initially aiming for a fall 2018 release. A federal judge shot down the 2016 rule, which would have qualified an additional 4 million workers for time-and-a-half pay. An appeal of that decision is on hold to allow time for Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to develop what’s expected to be a more narrow update.

“When you do it right, this kind of rulemaking is hard,” said Sharon Block, who coordinated the 2016 overtime rulemaking as head of the Obama DOL’s policy shop. “I don’t think this Department of Labor has shown themselves to be able to do this kind of complex difficult rulemaking. I have no idea if they have the capacity to do it in the time they have left.”... Read more about Trump Overtime Pay Rule Slow Out of Gate

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A ‘Clean Slate’ for the future of labor law

August 1, 2018

Harvard Labor and Worklife conference starts up a journey toward systemic reform, economic equality

By BRETT MILANO
Harvard law Today

Last month, Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program began an ambitious effort to fix a broken system of labor laws. The program, “Rebalancing Economic and Political Power: A Clean Slate for the Future of Labor Law,” began with a daylong seminar at Wasserstein Hall. It will continue with a series of followup meetings over the next eighteen months, with the goal of producing major recommendations to reform labor law.

Attendees came from across the country, including law professors, labor activists, and union and online organizers. Because Chatham House rules were invoked for the event, none of the panelists will be identified or quoted; Block explained that this allowed for a freer exchange of ideas.

Co-organizers Sharon Block, executive director of HLS’s Labor and Worklife Program, and Benjamin Sachs, Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry and faculty co-director of the Labor and Worklife Program, said that some significant work was begun.... Read more about A ‘Clean Slate’ for the future of labor law

Trump Nominee Is Mastermind of Anti-Union Legal Campaign

Trump Nominee Is Mastermind of Anti-Union Legal Campaign

July 18, 2018

By Noam Scheiber
NY Times

Jonathan F. Mitchell, a conservative lawyer, is the lead counsel in several lawsuits against public-employee unions.

After the 2016 election, he served as a volunteer attorney on the Trump transition team, where he helped review future executive orders. In September, the president nominated him to head the Administrative Conference of the United States, a small federal agency that advises the government on improving its inner workings. His nomination awaits action by the Senate after the Judiciary Committee approved him on a party-line vote in March.

Ms. Block said the court’s decision last month indicated that the conservative majority might rule that the fees should be refunded retroactively. The decision referred to the fees as a “considerable windfall that unions have received,” adding, “It is hard to estimate how many billions of dollars have been taken from nonmembers.”

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Ending the Dead-End-Job Trap

July 12, 2018

By Terri Gerstein and Sharon Block
NY Times Op Ed

It’s the American dream: We’re supposed to improve ourselves, get a better job, move on and up. But in too many instances, secret agreements between employers are stifling workers’ ability to parlay their hard work and experience into better-paying jobs and a chance to climb the career ladder.

On Thursday, the attorney general of Washington State, Bob Ferguson, announced that he had obtained agreements from seven fast-food chains, including Arby’s, Carl’s Jr. and McDonald’s, not to use or enforce “no poach” or “no hire” agreements. Under these arrangements, franchisees pledge not to hire job applicants who are current or recent employees of the company or any of its franchisees, without the approval of the applicants’ employers.... Read more about Ending the Dead-End-Job Trap

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The Kavanaugh Nomination and Labor

July 10, 2018

[Sharon Block] provides an overview of [Kavanaugh's] record and attempt to make the case that his record reflects a sustained and, at times, aggressive hostility to the role of the law in protecting the vulnerable and less powerful.

The Agri Processor dissent is significant for a number of reasons.  First, it reflects a broader trend in Kavanaugh’s record of being unsympathetic to the plight of immigrants. His dissent reflects a willingness to write groups of workers completely out of basic labor standards – here all undocumented workers...

Read more about The Kavanaugh Nomination and Labor
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Brett Kavanaugh Ruled Against Workers When No One Else Did

July 10, 2018

By Dave Jamieson
Huffpost

His dissents involving undocumented meatpacking workers and a death at SeaWorld tell us a lot about the worldview of Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

The Agri Processor case provides a window into Kavanaugh’s thinking when it comes to workers’ rights. Like the conservative justices he would join at the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh has tended to side with employers in workplace disputes. If confirmed, he would almost certainly continue the Supreme Court’s run of business-friendly rulings in contentious, precedent-setting cases that have weakened labor unions and class-action lawsuits in recent years.

In his dissent, Kavanaugh argued that undocumented workers were no longer employees under the law due to the 1986 law passed by Congress. In Block’s view, Kavanaugh’s opinion sidestepped Supreme Court precedent and denied workers safeguards they deserved regardless of their legal status.

“It shows a willingness to go out of his way to write a whole group of people out of the protection of the [law],” said Block. “And I find that to be troubling.”... Read more about Brett Kavanaugh Ruled Against Workers When No One Else Did

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