Enforcement Project

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Will Starbucks Bargain With Its Baristas, or Just Pretend To?

December 16, 2021

by Terri Gerstein
American Prospect

Many newly unionized employers go discreetly AWOL (or worse) when it comes to negotiating a first contract. Coffee drinkers shouldn’t let Starbucks get away with that.

But even in Buffalo, the battle is far from over. Thursday’s union victory marked perhaps the end of the beginning. Serious challenges remain, including bargaining a first contract. Unfortunately, there are too many ways employers can try to destroy a union even after an election. We need better laws to stop these subtler forms of thwarting...

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Starbucks: Purveyor of Fresh Coffee and Stale Union-Busting

November 23, 2021

The American Prospect

Management’s old-school battle against its Buffalo baristas’ organizing campaign reveals a failure to recognize how unionization can align the company with its consumers.

Starbucks, like any company whose workers are unionizing, could take a genuinely innovative path. It has the opportunity to become a visionary leader; its executives could use their imagination to move toward a different corporate future. Imagine a Starbucks in 2030 or 2035 that’s known nationally as the unionized coffee chain, with the most stable workforce among all quick-serve restaurants, amazing service, amazing coffee, beloved by a generation of customers, shareholders, and workers.

Can Progress on Diversity Be Union-Made?

Can Progress on Diversity Be Union-Made?

November 6, 2021

By Eduardo Porter
NY Times

In Boston, setting a goal for a racially diverse construction work force is one thing. Meeting it has proved more difficult.

“There is a legacy of racism, which by no means has been eliminated,” Mr. Erlich said. “I respect folks in the community that complain that things are not changing fast enough. And they are not changing fast enough.” Still, he argues, unions realize that “they need to become less homogeneous and reflect the demographics of the city.”

And he warns that the nonunion contractors that will...

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Is 'Striketober' the moment construction unions have been waiting for?

October 28, 2021

, Senior Reporter
Construction Dive

The convergence of worker shortages, supply chain snarls and vaccine mandates could give labor the upper hand at the bargaining table, experts say.

But the broader trend of American workers demanding higher wages and better working conditions almost two years into the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic raises the question: Could more strikes be ahead for construction, too?

"What we're facing now gives unions leverage at the bargaining table, whether they strike or not," said Mark Erlich, a fellow in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, and former executive secretary-treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. "It at least will help them get better agreements."

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How Corporations Keep Their Own Workers in Debt

October 21, 2021


We typically think of debt that ordinary people and families owe to corporations as a consumer problem, but in today’s marketplace, it causes distinct harm to workers as workers. Very often, employer-driven debt holds workers hostage in their jobs and undermines their bargaining power to get a better deal.

President Joe Biden has vowed to be the most pro-worker leader this country has seen in years, and fortunately, he can use the authority of the federal government to address these abuses even without action from a gridlocked Congress.

One simple, yet powerful solution is to direct certain key agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Transportation, to create dedicated offices for worker protection. Such a move would ensure that abusive worker-consumer situations are systematically and routinely addressed — not just through one-off cases — and would serve as a major acknowledgment that worker protection must look different in today’s economy.... Read more about How Corporations Keep Their Own Workers in Debt

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Some States Could Stymie Enforcement of OSHA’s Shot-or-Test Rule

October 19, 2021

Bruce Rolfsen
Bloomberg Law

If and when federal OSHA enacts its national Covid-19 shot-or-test requirement, some state governments opposing that mandate could stave off for months the enforcement of its requirements.

That’s because the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration allows the governments of 26 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to adopt and enforce their own workplace safety and health rules for private-industry or state and local government workers.

No release date for it has been announced. But, when federal OSHA enacts a new rule, state workplace safety agencies are required by federal law to adopt the U.S. rule or enact a measure of their own that is “at least as effective” as the federal mandate.

“States can do more, but they can’t do less,” said Terri Gerstein, director of the Harvard University Labor and Worklife Program’s State and Local Enforcement Project.... Read more about Some States Could Stymie Enforcement of OSHA’s Shot-or-Test Rule

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Retail Jobs Are Treated As A Temporary Bridge To Something Better. But Why?

September 27, 2021

Alina Selyukh
NPR News

For a long time, for a lot of people, jobs in retail were a career. Now, though, those jobs are largely seen as temporary. What exactly happened?

Nobody is in retail because they really want to be (laughter). It's a bridge to another place. And it would be really nice if we could make that environment so that that's not necessarily the case because some people don't have that choice.

SELYUKH: The corporate pitch for free college tuition is to help workers grow within the company. But it can also be seen as an acknowledgement that...

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A Growing Trend: Treating Wage Theft As A Criminal Offense

September 23, 2021

By Daniela Porat
Law 360

The need for criminal prosecution of wage theft and other employment law violations has become all the more imperative, said Terri Gerstein, the director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program.

"I think that the situation of working people in our country has become dire," she said. "One of the benefits of criminal prosecution is it just sort of changes the calculus … there's a whole other set of consequences other than just, 'OK, I'm going to pay...

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Comment: Unions not against vax mandate; they just want a say

Comment: Unions not against vax mandate; they just want a say

September 16, 2021

Terri Gerstein
Washington Post

Most unions have strongly supported vaccination efforts, often including mandates. But they also want a place at the table in relation to implementation.

“Labor unions are a microcosm of the society we live in,” Patricia Campos-Medina, executive director of Cornell University’s Worker Institute, told Yahoo News. “The same political divide we have right now exists within the rank and file of unions.” Unions represent and give voice to their members — of course they want ...

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Other People’s Rotten Jobs Are Bad for Them. And for You.

Other People’s Rotten Jobs Are Bad for Them. And for You.

September 6, 2021

Terri Gerstein
NY Times

I enforced workplace laws in New York State for the better part of two decades, and this case stands out to me, because it so clearly exemplifies why all of us should care about workers’ rights. When people have bad working conditions and no voice on the job, it’s obviously bad for them. But the impact of rotten jobs — those with low pay, long hours, bad treatment, or no worker voice — radiates far beyond the workers themselves. Other people’s rotten jobs affect our collective health, safety and well-being.

We should care about...

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