Staff

Sharon Block

Sharon Block

Executive Director, Labor and Worklife Program

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

p: 617.495.9265
New York Times logo

Supreme Court Deals a Blow to Workers

May 21, 2018

By Terri Gerstein and Sharon Block
New York Times Opinion

Federal labor law protects the right of workers to join together to improve their conditions, whether through a union or other means. But the court has now carved out a big exception to that longstanding principle. In a 5-4 decision on Monday, the court said that companies can use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to bar workers from joining forces in legal actions over problems in the workplace. In other words, workers who are underpaid, harassed or discriminated against will have to press their cases alone in arbitration, rather than with their colleagues in a class-action case, or even with their own lawsuit.

bloomberg law logo

Regulate With Prejudice? Joint Employer Issue Tests Board Process

May 14, 2018

by Chris Opfer
Bloomberg Law

The board announced last week that it will issue a regulation to resolve the ongoing debate over when one business is a joint employer of another’s workers for unionization purposes. That question has been clouded by conflicting decisions—the board briefly reverted to a more restrictive approach to joint employment and then dropped the ruling—and conflict-of-interest concerns.

“We know where they want to get to now because of the decision in Hy-Brand,” former NLRB Member Sharon Block (D) told Bloomberg Law. “They appear to be using the rulemaking process to do an end run around conflict-of-interest problems.”

bloomberg law logo

Inside the Labor Department’s Legal Brain Drain

May 11, 2018

by Ben Penn
Bloomberg Law

A century-plus of combined legal expertise is leaving the Labor Department, setting up four key vacancies in an office with unheralded influence on the administration’s workplace agenda.

The DOL’s associate solicitors for employment and training (Jeffrey Nesvet), occupational safety and health (Ann Rosenthal), and administrative law and ethics (Robert Shapiro), along with the New England regional solicitor (Michael Felsen), are either about to retire or recently did so—all after lengthy careers in the senior civil service....

“Those are four people who have been involved in every important decision in their areas for decades. It’s a tremendous loss,” Sharon Block, who was a senior counselor to Obama’s Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, told Bloomberg Law. “All of us who were there as politicals relied so heavily on the career leadership to provide just that straight up advice on what the law is and what the history of these issues has been, without being outcome-determined in how that information was presented.”... Read more about Inside the Labor Department’s Legal Brain Drain

Breached Podcast Logo

Breached Podcast on Employment

April 25, 2018

This episode explores what a social contract of employment looks like, given the changing nature of work in the 21st century economy. We hear from Tom Kochan, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management; Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute; Steven Pedigo, an assistant professor at the NYU School of Professional Studies; and Sharon Block, Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

[Listen to Podcast]
More information on Podcast Series at  OnLabor logo

New York Times logo

Senate Bill to Curtail Labor Rights on Tribal Land Falls Short

April 16, 2018

By Noam Scheiber
New York TImes

Organized labor managed an increasingly rare feat on Monday — a political victory — when its allies turned back a Senate measure aimed at rolling back labor rights on tribal lands.

The legislation, called the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, would have exempted enterprises owned and operated by Native American tribes from federal labor standards, even for employees who were not tribal citizens.

“It’s a very, very troubling step at a moment when we should be doing everything we can to try to protect people’s collective rights and when there are so many people who feel so disempowered in this economy,” said Sharon Block, a former member of the National Labor Relations Board who is executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

logo marketplace

For some minor league baseball players, wages can seem like peanuts

April 5, 2018

By Mitchell Hartman
Marketplace

In 2014, Broshuis brought a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco against the baseball owners. The goal was to force the teams to follow the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and pay players as hourly workers, including for all hours of play and practice.

 

Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and an Obama administration appointee to the National Labor Relations Board, said that because many minor league players are paid such a low salary — in some cases working out to less than minimum wage for all the hours worked — their lawsuit should proceed.

“We are talking about paying people $7.25 per hour, and time-and-a half when they work over forty hours. These are just bedrock principles of minimum standards,” Block said. And she said that not paying players during spring training flies in the face of other labor law precedent. “Generally, if you are in training and it is for the employer’s benefit, meaning you’re learning to do your job better, you have to be compensated.”... Read more about For some minor league baseball players, wages can seem like peanuts

bloomberg law logo

Punching In: Confirmation Process Picks Up Steam

April 9, 2018

By Chris Opfer and Ben Penn

 

 When news of the proposed settlement in the McDonald’s joint employment case broke last week, some folks might have assumed we accidentally dropped a zero from the $170,000 that Mickey D’s is offering a group of workers to resolve their unfair labor practice complaints. Surely, the chance to resolve one of the biggest cases in the labor and employment space without risking a ruling that McDonald’s is a joint employer with its franchisees of franchise restaurant workers could fetch a bigger price tag?

“It sounds like they’re getting off awfully cheap,” former NLRB member Sharon Block (D) told me of the settlement.... Read more about Punching In: Confirmation Process Picks Up Steam

forbes.com logo

Equal Pay For Women: Why The U.S. Needs To Catch Up On Data Disclosure And Transparency

April 10, 2018

Alison Omens , Contributor
co-authored by Sharon Block
Forbes

The United States has fallen behind on equal pay. According to JUST Capital’s 2017 Rankings, 78 of the 875 largest publicly-traded U.S. companies have conducted pay equity analyses, while only 54 have established a policy, as well as targets, for diversity and equal opportunity – that’s 9% and 6% of these corporations, respectively. When it comes to pay equity, corporations in the U.S. are not beholden to the same rules as those in other nations, and are lagging when it comes to equal pay for women.

bloomberg law logo

Labor Board Official Parries Criticism on ‘No-Plan’ Plan

April 4, 2018

Hassan A. Kanu
Bloomberg Law

 

The National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel is standing firm on a series of proposals to restructure the agency starting next year even as concern within the NLRB about the plans is said to have reached a boiling point.

Peter Robb refused to withdraw the proposals per a request from the union representing agency staffers at headquarters in Washington, D.C., according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg Law. Although Congress kept the board’s funding steady this year, Robb noted that the White House budget request for next year is “well below” the current allotment.

 

“He seems to be doubling down on the budget rationale, but it just doesn’t ring true that the president’s budget would drive these kinds of changes in a practical sense,” Block said. “If he’s got other reasons, then he should tell people what those reasons are.”

usa today logo

Minor League Baseball players are latest victims of anti-worker Trump and GOP

March 29, 2018

Sharon Block, Opinion contributor
USA Today

Congress just killed workplace protections for underpaid minor league baseball players. Notch another win for the 1% under Republicans and Donald Trump. 

The team owners who make up Major League Baseball had spent more than two years and more than $1 million lobbying Congress and the White House to exempt themselves from having to pay minor league players minimum wage and overtime.

2018 Mar 29

The Politics of Labor in the Trump Era with Gil Cedillo

12:30pm to 1:30pm

Location: 

L-166, IOP Conference Room, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

You are invited to a lunch conversation with Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo to discuss the politics of labor in the Trump era. In May, 2013, Cedillo was elected to the Los Angeles Council, representing the city's first council district. He previously served in the California State Assembly and State Senate, where he authored a number of major laws, including bills strengthening workers' right to organize, the California Dream Act, and legislation to granting drivers' licenses to undocumented immigrants. Before holding elective office, Cedillo worked for the Service Employees...

Read more about The Politics of Labor in the Trump Era with Gil Cedillo

Pages