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

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Under Trump, Labor Protections Stripped Away

September 3, 2018

By Katie Johnston
Boston Globe 

“This has been a terrible 18 months-plus for working people in this country,” said Celine McNicholas, director of labor law and policy at the Economic Policy Institute. “It’s an unprecedented attack on workers.”

Several worker advocacy groups have seized the moment to propose major overhauls to labor law, including the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, which is exploring policy proposals to reimagine collective bargaining by sector instead of by employer, and to give workers seats on corporate boards, among other recommendations. 

It’s not just a reaction to Trump, said Sharon Block, who runs the center with labor professor Benjamin Sachs, though she added he’s certainly making matters worse. 9/3/2018 Under Trump, labor protections stripped away “The little power that workers have, this administration seems to be bound and determined to diminish even more,” said Block, who served on the NLRB board and was a labor adviser to President Obama. “The time for tinkering around the edges has past. What we really need is fundamental change.”

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This Labor Day, A Clean Slate for Reform

September 3, 2018

 SHARON BLOCK AND BENJAMIN SACHS
OnLabor.org

The question on this Labor Day therefore must be how, in 2018, can we create a new labor movement, one that can unite the interests of a sufficient number of lower and middle income Americans so that they have the power to restore balance to our economy and politics.

So we need to rebuild labor law from a clean slate to meet the challenges of the new economy. To provide a blueprint for that kind of reform, we have launched a new project at Harvard Law School: Rebalancing Economic and Political Power: A Clean Slate for the Future of Labor Law.  This summer, we kicked off the Clean Slate project with a convening aimed at identifying the core elements of a successful 21st Century labor law.... Read more about This Labor Day, A Clean Slate for Reform

Trump’s Power to Fire Federal Workers Curtailed by Judge

Trump’s Power to Fire Federal Workers Curtailed by Judge

August 25, 2018

By Noam Scheiber
New York Times

A federal district judge in Washington struck down most of the key provisions of three executive orders that President Trump signed in late May that would have made it easier to fire federal employees.

The ruling is the latest in a series of legal setbacks for the administration, which has suffered losses in court in its efforts to wield executive authority to press its agenda on immigration, voting and the environment.

Sharon Block of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, who is a former senior Labor Department official and National Labor Relations Board member during the Obama administration, called the decision a “stinging rebuke.”... Read more about Trump’s Power to Fire Federal Workers Curtailed by Judge

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Trump Overtime Pay Rule Slow Out of Gate

August 20, 2018

Jaclyn Diaz and Ben Penn
Bloomberg Law

The Labor Department has shown scant signs of progress on revising an Obama-era rule to expand overtime pay eligibility, more than a year after embarking on its mission.

The Trump DOL’s latest soft target for a proposed rule is January 2019, after initially aiming for a fall 2018 release. A federal judge shot down the 2016 rule, which would have qualified an additional 4 million workers for time-and-a-half pay. An appeal of that decision is on hold to allow time for Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to develop what’s expected to be a more narrow update.

“When you do it right, this kind of rulemaking is hard,” said Sharon Block, who coordinated the 2016 overtime rulemaking as head of the Obama DOL’s policy shop. “I don’t think this Department of Labor has shown themselves to be able to do this kind of complex difficult rulemaking. I have no idea if they have the capacity to do it in the time they have left.”... Read more about Trump Overtime Pay Rule Slow Out of Gate

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A ‘Clean Slate’ for the future of labor law

August 1, 2018

Harvard Labor and Worklife conference starts up a journey toward systemic reform, economic equality

By BRETT MILANO
Harvard law Today

Last month, Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program began an ambitious effort to fix a broken system of labor laws. The program, “Rebalancing Economic and Political Power: A Clean Slate for the Future of Labor Law,” began with a daylong seminar at Wasserstein Hall. It will continue with a series of followup meetings over the next eighteen months, with the goal of producing major recommendations to reform labor law.

Attendees came from across the country, including law professors, labor activists, and union and online organizers. Because Chatham House rules were invoked for the event, none of the panelists will be identified or quoted; Block explained that this allowed for a freer exchange of ideas.

Co-organizers 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, said that some significant work was begun.... Read more about A ‘Clean Slate’ for the future of labor law

Christine Blumauer

Christine Blumauer

Clean Slate Project Manager

Christine Blumauer is the Clean Slate Project Manager at the Labor and Worklife Program. The Clean Slate Project intends to rebuild American labor law from a clean slate by bringing together a diverse group of project participants who are experts in and representative of today’s new economy and the United States’ diverse workforce. It aims at proposing new ways for ordinary Americans to organize and mobilize for economic and political justice and, as Project Manager, Christine is determined to help steer that process into the direction of bold and new ideas.... Read more about Christine Blumauer

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Jenny Lau

Jenny Lau

Director of Programs & Outreach

Jenny Lau is the Director of Programs and Outreach at the Labor and Worklife Program, where she advances creative problem solving related to the world of work through program administration and strategic communications. Prior to joining the Labor and Worklife Program in 2018, Jenny advanced women in national and local politics through strategic grant-making and directive research at the Barbara Lee Family Foundation/Political Office and then as the Director of Scheduling and Special Projects at the Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Jenny began her career in politics and labor at the Chinese Progressive Association, where she engaged voters through targeted campaigns and organized immigrant workers around workplace issues as the Civic Action and Worker Center Organizer.... Read more about Jenny Lau

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Trump Nominee Is Mastermind of Anti-Union Legal Campaign

Trump Nominee Is Mastermind of Anti-Union Legal Campaign

July 18, 2018

By Noam Scheiber
NY Times

Jonathan F. Mitchell, a conservative lawyer, is the lead counsel in several lawsuits against public-employee unions.

After the 2016 election, he served as a volunteer attorney on the Trump transition team, where he helped review future executive orders. In September, the president nominated him to head the Administrative Conference of the United States, a small federal agency that advises the government on improving its inner workings. His nomination awaits action by the Senate after the Judiciary Committee approved him on a party-line vote in March.

Ms. Block said the court’s decision last month indicated that the conservative majority might rule that the fees should be refunded retroactively. The decision referred to the fees as a “considerable windfall that unions have received,” adding, “It is hard to estimate how many billions of dollars have been taken from nonmembers.”

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Ending the Dead-End-Job Trap

July 12, 2018

By Terri Gerstein and Sharon Block
NY Times Op Ed

It’s the American dream: We’re supposed to improve ourselves, get a better job, move on and up. But in too many instances, secret agreements between employers are stifling workers’ ability to parlay their hard work and experience into better-paying jobs and a chance to climb the career ladder.

On Thursday, the attorney general of Washington State, Bob Ferguson, announced that he had obtained agreements from seven fast-food chains, including Arby’s, Carl’s Jr. and McDonald’s, not to use or enforce “no poach” or “no hire” agreements. Under these arrangements, franchisees pledge not to hire job applicants who are current or recent employees of the company or any of its franchisees, without the approval of the applicants’ employers.... Read more about Ending the Dead-End-Job Trap

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The Kavanaugh Nomination and Labor

July 10, 2018

[Sharon Block] provides an overview of [Kavanaugh's] record and attempt to make the case that his record reflects a sustained and, at times, aggressive hostility to the role of the law in protecting the vulnerable and less powerful.

The Agri Processor dissent is significant for a number of reasons.  First, it reflects a broader trend in Kavanaugh’s record of being unsympathetic to the plight of immigrants. His dissent reflects a willingness to write groups of workers completely out of basic labor standards – here all undocumented workers...

Read more about The Kavanaugh Nomination and Labor

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