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 ...
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.
You may worry about getting into trouble if you share your salary on a public spreadsheet. But discussing wages is allowed and protected in the U.S. for people who are employees protected under The National Labor Relations Act. The NLRA allows employees “to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”
“People who are employees, treated as employees, have been able to assert their right as employees. In circulating this spreadsheet, they are acting concertedly, they are joining with their co-workers to say we think pay transparency is important,” said Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. “They cannot be fired for that. The law says they have a right to act concertedly.”
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.
Noncompete agreements — which typically prohibit an employee from working for a competitor within a certain field and geographic locale, often for 1 to 2 years — were once reserved for high-ranking executives and people who knew highly guarded trade secrets. But in recent years, they began to be imposed willy-nilly on all kinds of workers: medical technicians and dog walkers, journalists and janitors. With little fanfare, modern-day employers have been reinstating an expectation of servitude that should have disappeared long ago.
All of us should be concerned about the rampant growth of noncompetes and how they are hampering the freedom of workers and the economy. Why? For one thing, basic fairness: Just because you work for a company now doesn’t mean it should be able to lock you into that job; people should be able to advance in their lives and careers.