Sachs, Benjamin I.

Logo for In These Times

What’s at Stake for the Labor Movement on Election Day? Everything.

September 22, 2020

By Hamilton Nolan
In These Times
Unions hope a Biden presidency will reverse decades of anti-worker policies.

Amer­i­ca is in cri­sis. There can be no doubt about that. All of our imme­di­ate crises — the pan­dem­ic and the unem­ploy­ment and the eco­nom­ic col­lapse and the death spi­ral of var­i­ous pub­lic insti­tu­tions — have lent the upcom­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion an air of emer­gency. For work­ing peo­ple in Amer­i­ca, though, the emer­gency is noth­ing new at all. What is at stake for labor in this elec­tion is every­thing. 

“It’s critical that in the new administration, labor doesn’t just get siloed: ‘What’s the thing we can do to make the unions happy?’ It’s got to be an approach to looking across everything, especially in light of the economic situation.” —Sharon Block, former Labor Department official in the Obama administration.
... Read more about What’s at Stake for the Labor Movement on Election Day? Everything.

Harvard Law Today logo

How COVID-19 has changed the workplace in 2020

September 8, 2020

Kim Wright
Harvard Law Today

Labor Day looked different this year. COVID-19 has changed how we work and, for some of us, where we work from. It has also highlighted the importance of workplace rights and the longstanding problem of childcare for working families.

Harvard Law Today recently corresponded with 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, about COVID-19’s continued impact on the workplace, worker’s rights to a safe and healthy work environment, and the importance of unions in the time of social distancing and telework. The Labor and Worklife Program has addressed many of these issues and offered recommendations for empowering workers in two recent reports—Clean Slate for Worker Power: Building a Just Economy and Democracy and Worker Power and Voice in the Pandemic Response.

The Atlantic logo

Workers Need at Least the Power to Protect Themselves

June 24, 2020

Annie Lowrey
The Atlantic

Decades of economic trends and legal shifts have tilted the balance of power in the employer-employee relationship toward corporations and away from workers. This means that, months into the pandemic, millions of low-wage workers are still facing an impossible choice: their lives or their livelihood. 

“Economic issues are life-and-death issues,” says Sharon Block, the executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. “What COVID has done is illustrate the life-or-death nature of those economic issues in a very accelerated time frame.”

Clean Slate for Worker Power, an advocacy group led by Block and Benjamin Sachs of Harvard Law School, is pushing for new rules  to require open businesses to have a worker-elected “safety steward,” who would make sure a given workplace is complying with local and federal laws. They also propose that the government set up commissions to negotiate workplace-safety standards, business sector by business sector rather than one burger joint or nursing home at a time, and to help workers organize online. 

harvard gazette logo

How COVID turned a spotlight on weak worker rights

June 23, 2020

 Liz Mineo
Harvard Gazette

Block and Sachs point to flaws in the social safety net, an indifferent OSHA, and a system that favors employers over employees.

As the economy reopens after the COVID-19 shutdowns, businesses are taking a varied, often patchwork approach to ensuring health and safety for their workers, and much uncertainty persists regarding employers’ obligations and employees’ rights. The Gazette spoke with labor law experts Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program, and Benjamin Sachs, the Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry at Harvard Law School (HLS), about how the pandemic has turned a spotlight on the lack of clear workplace protections in general, and in particular for women and people of color, who were disproportionately represented among those deemed essential. Block and Sachs recently co-authored a report urging that U.S. labor law be rebuilt from the ground up. On June 24, they will release the report “Worker Power and Voice in the Pandemic Response.”

fast company logo

New proposal to steer nation through COVID-19 crisis would give a voice to frontline workers

April 24, 2020

BY Rick Wartzman
Fast Company

Today, scholars from Harvard Law School’s Clean Slate for Worker Power project and the Roosevelt Institute unveil a plan that channels the indignation—and expertise—of those who are underpaid while taking on the risks during this perilous time.

“The medical folks need to take care of stopping the virus, but policymakers need to get the structural problems with the economy under control,” says Sharon Block, the executive director of Harvard’s Labor and Worklife Program, which runs the Clean Slate project. “Maybe what we’re going through now will open up some imaginations.”

logo Harvard Magazine

Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block: When Did Labor Law Stop Working?

March 30, 2020

Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block
Ask a Professor Podcast
Harvard Magazine 

WHY WOULD IT TAKE AN AMAZON WORKER, employed full time, more than a million years to earn what its CEO, Jeff Bezos now possesses? Why do the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than all African-American households combined? And how are these examples of extreme income inequality linked to the political disenfranchisement of the lower- and middle-income classes? The established “solutions” for restoring balance to economic and political power in the United States have...

Read more about Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block: When Did Labor Law Stop Working?
Ben Sachs and Sharon Block at Clean Slate Launch

Harvard Law’s Labor and Worklife Program releases major report aimed at reforming American labor law

January 23, 2020

By Liz Mineo/Harvard Staff Writer
Labor Law Today

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 ...

Read more about Harvard Law’s Labor and Worklife Program releases major report aimed at reforming American labor law
Respecting the Right to Strike at Harvard

Respecting the Right to Strike at Harvard

December 16, 2019

by Sharon Block, Benjamin Sachs and Laura Weinrib
OnLabor Blog

According to the Crimson, Harvard has circulated an email advising departments seeking to hire spring teaching fellows (and other student workers) to include certain language in job postings and offer letters. The Crimson reports that the email “recommends departments include a provision in postings and offer letters that conditions teaching fellow positions on whether candidates can commit to a start...

Read more about Respecting the Right to Strike at Harvard

Announcing Uber Works, the Ride-Hailing Giant Changes Lanes into Temporary Work

October 3, 2019

By Lisa Marie Segarra

While Uber faces legal battles over whether its drivers should be classified as employees or contractors, the tech company unveiled an unexpected new service on Wednesday: Uber Works.

An extension of the gig economy model that Uber arguably popularized with its original ride-hailing service, Uber Works will be an app that matches temporary workers with potential jobs and employers. The move seems provocative for Uber, which is currently pushing back against a pending California law that could reclassify on-demand workers like Uber's drivers as employees.

Despite Uber's new take on temporary employment, Benjamin Sachs, Kestnbaum professor of labor and industry at Harvard Law School, says it's more of the same.

"The connection between Uber Works and the ride-hailing side that I see is this massive company with intense tech resources fueling the degradation of work, rather than to make work meaningful," Sachs told Fortune.... Read more about Announcing Uber Works, the Ride-Hailing Giant Changes Lanes into Temporary Work

One Zero Medium logo

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

September 18, 2019

By Sarah Kessler

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...

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