Faculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program Professor, Economics, Harvard University
Richard B. Freeman holds the Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University. He is currently serving as Faculty co-Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at the Harvard Law School, and is Senior Research Fellow in Labour Markets at the London School of Economics' Centre for Economic Performance. He directs the National Bureau of Economic Research / Science Engineering Workforce Projects, and is Co-Director of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities.
Faculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program Professor, Harvard Law School
Benjamin Sachs is the Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry at Harvard Law School and a leading expert in the field of labor law and labor relations. Professor Sachs teaches courses in labor law, employment law, and law and social change, and his writing focuses on union organizing and unions in American politics.
Sharon Block was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor and Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Labor.
For twenty years, Block has held key labor policy positions across the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. Early in her career she worked as an attorney at the National Labor Relations Board, and returned to the NLRB in 2012 when she was appointed to serve as a member of the Board by President Obama. She was senior counsel to the Senate HELP committee under Senator Edward Kennedy, playing a central role in the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act. She has held senior positions in the U.S. Department of Labor throughout her career. Recently, as head of the policy office at the Department of Labor, Block hosted - with Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil and Open Societies Foundation's Ken Zimmerman - the Department's three-day symposium on the Future of Work. The symposium brought together a wide array of thought leaders to address how changes in labor markets and business models have impacts on key issues such as enforcement, labor standards, workforce development, employee benefits, and data in the U.S. and around the world.... Read more about Sharon Block
"Manufacturing is changing dramatically," said Emily DeRocco, the education and workforce director of Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, or LIFT. "We want young people to understand that there are actually exciting jobs available."
Her group is one of 14 "innovation institutes" aiming to bring government, industry, and academia together to support technology-related research and education in advanced-manufacturing fields such as clean energy, lightweight materials, and robotics. The groups all fall under the umbrella of Manufacturing USA, a national network of public-private research institutes created under the Obama administration.
A distinguished panel of labor experts and new economy thought leaders will discuss how the global economy, technology, and the fissured workplace are eroding the legal regime Frances Perkins designed for 20th century workplaces: minimum wages and overtime pay, the 40-hour work week, unemployment insurance, safety standards, and retirement security. And, in the bold and action-oriented tradition of Frances Perkins, panelists will explore innovative solutions to the immediate challenges facing 21st century workers.
Sharon Block, former Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Labor and head of the policy office at the Department of Labor, will discuss how the decline of the labor movement in the U.S. has led to a crisis for the American middle class and offer insights into the worker organizations that may fill the economic and political void.
Business advocates who have been pressing the federal government for years to increase its regulation of worker centers like Fight for $15 are more hopeful than ever that they'll get their way after a string of reversals of Obama-era National Labor Relations Board precedent.
"There's been a continuity to this issue across different administrations,” said Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program Executive Director Sharon Block, who was a DOL policy official in the Obama administration. "[Acosta] injected this uncertainty into what I think had no uncertainty."
In November, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta said ominously that he was “looking at” the possibility of imposing new regulations on worker centers that could hobble their ability to get funding and operate freely. This would be the regulatory equivalent of a sniper taking pot shots at the medic who has rushed onto the battlefield to tend to a dying soldier. It is a remarkably bold threat. To see what is at stake, I traveled to frozen Minneapolis, home to one of the most effective worker centers anywhere in America.
[Sharon Block, who served as a Labor Department official in the Obama administration and is now the director Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program] points out that the George W. Bush administration already scrutinized worker centers on the same basis—and the Bush Labor Department sided with the worker centers, twice. “Who am I to argue with the Bush administration?” she laughs.
The National Labor Relations Board has overturned a 2015 law that made it easier for contractors and workers at franchised businesses to form unions and collectively bargain with big corporations.
The 2015 NLRB ruling said contract workers at a recycling center were jointly employed by a third party staffing firm and the business they worked for. Sharon Block was a member of President Obama's NLRB. She's now executive director of the labor and worklife program at Harvard Law School.
“What the Obama board did was try to apply the proper legal standard, but in a way that fit the way that our economy and our business relationships work today,” she said.
The newly conservative National Labor Relations Board may scrap worker-friendly reforms made under Obama.
Sharon Block, a former Democratic member of the labor board, tweeted Tuesday that the “predictions of catastrophe” hadn’t materialized and that the only good reason to revisit the rules is “a political one.”