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How Washington state brokered a truce between Uber and its drivers

April 5, 2022

By Camille Squires
Quartz

On March 31, Washington became the first state in the US to guarantee rideshare drivers receive a minimum wage. But, crucially for the rideshare companies, workers will remain classified as independent contractors, not employees. Uber and Lyft insist that this independent contractor status is what gives rideshare drivers the flexibility they seek in the job, but it also frees the companies from other responsibilities of employers, like providing overtime pay and health insurance.

...

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Is Washington State About to Deprive Its Gig Drivers of Basic Rights?

March 2, 2022

BY TERRI GERSTEIN
The American Prospect

When Proposition 22, the (sadly, successful) initiative to strip gig workers of rights, was on the California ballot in 2020, there was immense news coverage and analysis. As gig companies like Uber and Lyft prepare similar attempts across the country, with the goal of ensuring their workers remain non-employees, a similarly high-profile fight is brewing in Massachusetts, where worker, environmental, and racial justice advocates have formed a coalition to gear up for a major battle as a similar measure comes before voters in November...

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After five years of #MeToo movement, a modest win for women's workplace rights

February 16, 2022

By 
Justice Matters
Reuters

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Feb. 10 enacted one of the most momentous workplace rights reforms in more than a decade, and Congress’ most significant legislation against sexual harassment and abuse since the #MeToo women’s movement began five years ago.

The U.S. Senate approved a bill to ban companies from making employees sign away their rights to file a lawsuit over sexual assault or harassment, and to force them to take their claims to confidential arbitration instead. The House of Representatives had passed its version of the bill earlier.

Terri Gerstein, a fellow at the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program, told me the legislation is an “important first step,” and a major accomplishment, especially given the stark partisan divide in Congress and businesses’ strong interest in keeping disputes out of court.

“I would not understate what a real accomplishment this is, and how meaningful it is to women who have faced harassment and assault,” Gerstein said. “It demonstrates a bipartisan recognition that forced arbitration is unfair to workers and that the secrecy is a problem.”

But Gerstein said she also wouldn't understate the importance of ending forced arbitration in wage, race discrimination and other types of workplace disputes.... Read more about After five years of #MeToo movement, a modest win for women's workplace rights

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Infrastructure bills are kicking off billions in construction projects. Will workers of color get the jobs?

February 7, 2022

By Chris Burrell
WGBH News

Workers of color now make up almost a quarter of the state’s workforce in the building trades, their numbers climbing 30 percent from a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But those trends aren’t clear in the state’s track record for hiring workers of color on public construction jobs. And with an infrastructure boom on the horizon fueled by federal funding, labor experts say the state has an opportunity to do better.

Despite a 2016 state mandate requiring all state agencies to track minority workers’ hours on...

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Starbucks: Purveyor of Fresh Coffee and Stale Union-Busting

November 23, 2021

BY TERRI GERSTEIN
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.

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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

Opinion by TERRI GERSTEIN

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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The Daily Climate Show: Deforestation in the most precious parts of the Brazilian Amazon reaches record levels

September 28, 2021

Daily Climate Show
Sky News

On the Daily Climate Show, we investigate who's behind industrial-scale deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and why. Plus, the latest from the pre-COP26 youth event and our guests debate how Greta Thunberg has had such an impact on the world.

Dr. Xi (Sisi) HuLWP Program Fellow, discuss Greta and Amazon deforestation at 13:10 for about 7 mins.

Listen to interview... Read more about The Daily Climate Show: Deforestation in the most precious parts of the Brazilian Amazon reaches record levels

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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
Opinoin
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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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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