Gerstein, Terri

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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

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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?

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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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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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Gig companies want to change the rules about who qualifies as an employee. Here's why they're wrong

October 15, 2020

Opinion by Terri Gerstein
for CNN Business Perspectives

Gig companies are urging Congress and state lawmakers to create a new category of worker, without the full protections that employees receive. But like all other businesses, gig companies should be required to treat their workers as employees, not as independent contractors or any other designation.

Policy decisions should not be made on the basis of a few large companies' self-interest. Rather, we should act based on what's best for society, which includes ensuring decent, dignified treatment for the people whose work makes our country run. That necessarily involves placing some obligations on companies.

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McDonald’s Legal Boss Jerry Krulewitch Retires

October 15, 2020

Ruiqi Chen
Bloomberg Law

McDonald’s in recent years has become one of the highest profile corporations battling over the question of joint employment, or whether a franchise company is legally responsible as an employer of workers at restaurants owned by franchisees.

“The whole concept of trying to impute a perceived wrong on the part of a franchise to the main entity, or vice versa, is really problematic,” said Jonathan Segal, a partner at Duane Morris in the employment, labor, benefits and immigration practice group. He said that efforts to classify McDonald’s as a joint employer eliminated the nature of a franchise system, which gives franchisees day-to-day control of operations.

“To me, it’s clear that in many instances, they should be found a joint employer,” Gerstein said. “But certain courts have allowed the franchise model to be a way for companies to evade the responsibility for ensuring a franchisee complies with the law.”... Read more about McDonald’s Legal Boss Jerry Krulewitch Retires

From tackling payroll fraud to suing Trump: Nessel recognized as leading AG on workers’ rights

September 7, 2020

By Laina G. Stebbins
Michigan Advance

Attorney General Dana Nessel is one of the leading state AGs in protecting workers’ rights, according to a new report published by the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute (EPI) prior to Labor Day.

The economic justice think tank details the more prominent role state attorneys general have taken in labor rights issues since mid-2018 and lists specific ways each has advanced workers’ protections, both on the state and federal level.

“While there are variations in state attorney general office resources and jurisdiction, these offices often have a range of powers that can enable them to advance and defend workplace protections and ensure that employers comply with the law,” EPI Senior Fellow Terri Gerstein writes in the report.... Read more about From tackling payroll fraud to suing Trump: Nessel recognized as leading AG on workers’ rights

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Labor Day is a time to recognize all unions do — to help health care, education, even marriage

September 7, 2020

By Terri Gerstein
NBC News

On this Labor Day of 2020, remember the full picture of what unions do. They serve their members, yes, but they bring many other benefits, and they’re essential for a healthy, thriving democracy for all of us. In addition to helping the workers who are their members, unions bring many other benefits to the general public, like increasing voter turnout, decreased racial resentment among white union members, better patient outcomes in hospitals with unionized nurses, and reduced income inequality. 

 

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State Attorneys General Are Helping Workers in Hard Times

September 7, 2020

BY  Terri Gerstein
American Prospect

Trump’s administration is AWOL in the fight for worker safety, but a growing number of state attorneys general are focusing on worker rights and protections.

Within the past five years, six of these AG offices—in D.C., Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—have created dedicated units devoted to labor issues (they joined California, Massachusetts, and New York, which have long had such units). Dedicated sections within the agency allow the assigned lawyers to develop specialized expertise and long-...

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American Job Losses and Recovery by State

August 28, 2020

Deb Gordon
Money Geek

COVID-19 has led to stunning economic disruption. As infection hotspots pop up around the country, states have grappled with excruciating choices between protecting public health and bolstering the economy. Optimizing for both has proven difficult, if not impossible.

Is there anything else you see in the state employment/unemployment data that offers insight into what may lie ahead?

Gerstein: I am concerned that continuing high unemployment rates will lead to higher rates of labor violations, including safety and health, because it will make it harder for workers to speak up. Although it's illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for reporting violations, studies show high rates of such retaliation, even before the pandemic. In a high unemployment situation, the consequences of employer retaliation are even worse because it's more difficult for workers to find a new job. Pre-COVID, there was already a great disparity of bargaining power between employers and workers; that disparity is exacerbated by high unemployment, which may lead to further degraded working conditions. At the same time, the seriousness of COVID-related health risks has also led to an increase in worker organizing and activism. I anticipate and hope that this trend will continue.

Freeman: I always look at the insured unemployment rate, which is the number of people getting unemployment insurance. It has been dropping a bit in the past few months, but largely because some folks are being rehired. The only way to get unemployment down to healthy levels is by creating new jobs, and we see very little there.