Clean Slate

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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.”

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Foundations and Donors Step Up Grants to Help Workers Hurt by the Pandemic

April 14, 2020

By Alex Daniels
Chronicle of Philanthropy

In the coronavirus era, the heroes drive delivery trucks, bag groceries, and clean hospital floors. As those employees have stayed on the job, risking their lives to ensure others can stay comfortable in seclusion, a new movement is underway to help those workers.

Foundations that have long supported labor groups are stepping up their funding and recruiting others to join a movement that some experts think could lead to sweeping policy changes.

The Clean Slate for Worker Power at Harvard University Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, for instance, used grants from the Ford, Hewlett, Kellogg, and Public Welfare foundations to produce a 130-page set of policy recommendations that would help worker groups generate revenue, provide better or portable health coverage for workers, and require that 40 percent of corporate board seats are chosen by workers, among other things.

Sharon Block, the program’s executive director, says the project will continue to flesh out a labor agenda.

"We are not going to alleviate the pain that so many workers are in tomorrow," she says. "What we want to do is provide source material for groups that are trying to make systemic change. We want to provide some of the answers."... Read more about Foundations and Donors Step Up Grants to Help Workers Hurt by the Pandemic

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With strikes and a ‘sick out,’ some grocery and delivery workers take defiant stance: One-time bonuses, temporary pay hikes aren’t enough

March 31, 2020

Melissa Repko and Annie Palmer
CNBC

In recent weeks, tensions are on the rise between grocery workers and their employers, spurring many to take public action. Employees at Amazon-owned Whole Foods planned a “sick out” Tuesday, while some drivers who deliver Whole Foods groceries are calling for more protections. Thousands of people have signed an online petition circulated by Trader Joe’s employees. On Monday, some Instacart workers held a nationwide strike. And a major grocery union, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, is advocating for workers to have access to coronavirus testing and protective gear.

Grocers don’t have the depths of experience dealing with dangerous work, said Sharon Block, executive director of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program and a former Obama advisor.

“Whether the law requires it or not, this is just a moment that it’s incredibly important for employers to listen to their workers,” she said. “It’s very concerning that there are a lot of really life-and-death decisions being made and so few workers have the ability to be part of the decision that drives those answers.”... Read more about With strikes and a ‘sick out,’ some grocery and delivery workers take defiant stance: One-time bonuses, temporary pay hikes aren’t enough

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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...

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Why American Workers Have Been Left Out of Our Life-and-Death Decision-Making

March 30, 2020

By Sharon Block
The American Prospect

For too many American workers, this crisis is happening to them, not with them. With only approximately 6 percent of the American private-sector workforce in unions, the vast majority of workers have no voice in the decisions that businesses are making in response to the pandemic.

Our laws fail to ensure that workers have an adequate voice in important decisions that affect their lives. The current crisis highlights the ways that our labor law leaves workers out of these critical conversations.... Read more about Why American Workers Have Been Left Out of Our Life-and-Death Decision-Making

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DO DEMOCRACY AND CAPITALISM REALLY NEED EACH OTHER?

March 11, 2020

By Laura Amico
Harvard Business Review

Isabelle Ferreras, Tenured fellow of the Belgian National Science Foundation, professor at the University of Louvain, and a senior research associate of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, answers, "Clearly not: Capitalism, as we can see across the globe, is compatible with all different kinds of political regimes: liberal democratic, communist, autocratic — and now illiberal democracies, too....We have a clear choice before us: either expand our democratic commitment to include corporations, through democratizing them internally (by including the representation of labor investors along the current representation of capital investors), or forfeit our democratic rights to those who own capital — a possibility looming on the horizon, particularly in the United States."... Read more about DO DEMOCRACY AND CAPITALISM REALLY NEED EACH OTHER?

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 ...

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Grant Makers Face Uphill Battle as They Push for a Kinder Form of Capitalism

December 4, 2019

By Alex Daniels
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Some of the country’s largest foundations and billionaire philanthropists want to upend the very system that allowed them to build massive endowments and personal fortunes. Among wealthy donors and foundation heads there is a growing belief that capitalism, the financial engine that put Ford cars in driveways and Hewlett-Packard printers on office desktops nationwide needs to be rewired. The relentless pressure on companies to serve up quarterly profits to shareholders has widened the gap between the superrich and the rest of the...

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One year after the Google walkout, key organizers reflect on the risk to their careers

November 1, 2019

Story by Sara Ashley O'Brien, CNN Business
Video by Richa Naik and Natalia Osipova, CNN Business
Photo illustrations by Ken Fowler

One year ago on November 1, tens of thousands of Google workers spilled out of their offices around the world, protesting sexual harassment, misconduct and a lack of transparency at one of the most powerful tech companies in the world.

In the year since then, at least four of the core group of walkout organizers have...

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Candidates Grow Bolder on Labor, and Not Just Bernie Sanders

Candidates Grow Bolder on Labor, and Not Just Bernie Sanders

October 11, 2019

By Noam Scheiber
New York Times

Perhaps the most ambitious proposal is an idea known as sectoral bargaining, in which workers would bargain with employers on an industrywide basis rather than employer by employer. Sectoral bargaining, which is common in Europe, would make it possible to increase wages and benefits for millions of workers in relatively short order, even for those who aren’t union members. It would also give employers an incentive to create better-paying jobs because doing so would no longer bestow a major cost advantage on competitors.

An effort...

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