Faculty Directors

Benjamin I Sachs

Benjamin I. Sachs

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.

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Ashley Nunes, Laurena Huh, Nicole Kagan, and Richard B. Freeman. 8/9/2021. “Estimating the energy impact of electric, autonomous taxis: Evidence from a select market”. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Electric, autonomous vehicles promise to address technical consumption inefficiencies associated with gasoline use and reduce emissions. Potential realization of this prospect has prompted considerable interest and investment in the technology. Using publicly available data from a select market, we examine the magnitude of the envisioned benefits and the determinants of the financial payoff of investing in a tripartite innovation in motor vehicle transportation: vehicle electrification, vehicle automation, and vehicle sharing. In contrast to previous work, we document that 1) the technology's envisioned cost effectiveness may be impeded by previously unconsidered parameters, 2) the inability to achieve cost parity with the status quo does not necessarily preclude net increases in energy consumption and emissions, 3) these increases are driven primarily by induced demand and mode switches away from pooled personal vehicles, and 4) the aforementioned externalities may be mitigated by leveraging a specific set of technological, behavioral and logistical pathways. We quantify – for the first time – the thresholds required for each of these pathways to be effective and demonstrate that pathway stringency is largely influenced by heterogeneity in trip timing behavior. We conclude that enacting these pathways is crucial to fostering environmental stewardship absent impediments in economic mobility.
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Robocabs could make climate change worse, say researchers at Harvard, MIT

August 24, 2021

By HLS News Staff
Harvard Law Today

A new study shows that electric, autonomous cabs could increase greenhouse gas emissions — not reduce them

 

A new study led by Dr. Ashley Nunes, a fellow at the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, concluded that, counterintuitively, fleets of electric, autonomous taxis could dramatically increase energy consumption and emissions that contribute to climate change — not reduce them.

“While electric vehicles themselves have lower emissions than traditional gasoline-powered...

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In Memoriam Paul C. Weiler LL.M. ’65: 1939-2021: North America’s foremost labor law scholar and the founder of ‘sports and the law

July 22, 2021

By Christine Perkins
HLS News

Paul C. Weiler LL.M. ’65, the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School, renowned as North America’s foremost labor law scholar and the founder of sports and the law, died July 7 after a long illness.

Weiler left a multifaceted intellectual legacy. An expert in labor law, he pioneered protections for workers and constitutional reform in his native Canada. He produced seminal scholarship that framed the debate about U.S. labor law in ways that endure to this day. He also founded the field of...

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Paul Weiler, 1939-2021: Faculty Co-Director Emeritus of the Labor and Worklife Program

July 7, 2021

With sadness, we report the death of Paul C. Weiler, the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School as well as the Faculty Co-Director Emeritus of the Labor and Worklife Program (LWP) at Harvard Law School (HLS).

Paul Weiler stood as one of the preeminent figures in several fields of legal scholarship: labor law, entertainment law, and sports law, as well as in constitutional reform and labor dispute resolution in his native land of Canada. He also made significant contributions on legal remedies for medical malpractice and worker disability.

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After Amazon: Labor tries to regroup in wake of Alabama loss

April 10, 2021

By PAUL WISEMAN and
ANNE D'INNOCENZIO
AP News

Despite the strongest public support and the most sympathetic president in years, the American labor movement just suffered a stinging defeat -- again.

Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, overwhelmingly voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in much-anticipated election results announced Friday.

Amazon and business groups celebrated the decision, saying warehouse workers got a chance to weigh the pros and cons of union membership -- and voted to reject it....

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Faculty Director Emeritus receives Order of Canada

March 19, 2021

Paul Weiler, our faculty co-director emeritus received the Order of Canada on March 19, 2021. It is the second highest honour for merit in the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, after the Order of Merit. The order recognizes the achievement of outstanding merit or distinguished service by Canadians who made a major difference to Canada through lifelong contributions in every field of endeavour, as well as the efforts made by non-Canadians who have made the world better by their actions.

The Office of the Governor-General of Canada noted the...

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Preparing U.S. workers for the post-COVID economy: Higher education, workforce training and labor unions

December 16, 2020

Kristen E. Broady, Moriah Macklin, and Jimmy O’Donnell
Brookings Institute Report

The pandemic has exacerbated the need for improvements in how we train and protect our workforce.

For policymakers working to reverse the direction of labor law in this country, there are two paths available. The first, acknowledging the original sins and subsequent weakening of labor, involves a fundamental rethinking of labor-management relations in the United States. This approach is embodied by the innovative work being done by the Clean Slate for Worker Power Project, a project of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program headed by Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs. The project puts forward a plan for rewriting the rules that underpin labor law. For example, they suggest moving away from fundamental system establishment-level bargaining and instead moving toward a sectoral bargaining system, as already exists in Europe.

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How Covid-19 Is Helping Robots Take Your Job (Podcast)

December 16, 2020

Stephanie Flanders
Stephanomics Podcast
Bloomberg

Adding robots to factories, retail stores or mines was historically seen as a job killer by workers and the unions that support them. But this year, automation has allowed sectors of the economy to continue producing with fewer people, minimizing the coronavirus risk for workers. U.S. economy reporter Olivia Rockeman explains what that might mean in the long term and what needs to happen to help the displaced. 

Host Stephanie Flanders talks with Harvard Economist Richard Freeman about how 2020 has changed the world of work and what the future will hold. 

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Labor Law Must Include All Workers

September 22, 2020

Sharon Block & Benjamin Sachs
American Compass

Inclusion is a necessary first step toward fixing America’s broken labor law system.

In January of this year, we published a comprehensive set of recommendations for reforming U.S. labor law. Although the recommendations were extensive, the theory that lay behind them was straightforward: our country is facing dual crises of political and economic inequality, and we can help address those crises by giving working people greater collective power in the economy and in politics. Although progressives and conservatives disagree on many things, we all ought to agree that the stark inequalities that now pervade American life constitute grave threats. Politically, the viability of our democracy is threatened by a government that responds to the views of the wealthy but not to those of the poor and middle class. Economically, the viability of our community life is threatened by the fact that that we live in a country where it would take an Amazon worker 3.8 million years, working full time, to earn what Jeff Bezos alone now possesses.

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Like many US workers, Trump staff has little recourse if asked to work alongside sick colleagues

October 7, 2020

Matthew Rozsa
Salon

What do workers do when the person responsible for enforcing worker safety laws turns a blind eye to his own staff?

The case of meatpacking employees may end up being comparable to the situation in the White House. Sharon Block, the Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, explained that workers at meatpacking plants "were told to continue to show up for work even as their coworkers were testing positive in high numbers and even dying." "As different as these workplaces may seem, the dynamic is similar — especially for the non-partisan staff in the White House, many of whom are people of color who are not highly paid. Because of the failures of the Trump Administration and their political objectives, workers' health and lives are needlessly being put at risk."... Read more about Like many US workers, Trump staff has little recourse if asked to work alongside sick colleagues

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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.
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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.

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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.

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