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Headshot of Prof Sharon Block

Sharon Block

Executive Director, Labor and Worklife Program
Professor of Practice, Harvard Law School
Former Executive Director, Labor and Worklife Program 2017-2021

Sharon Block is a Professor of Practice and Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. Piror to returning to Harvard, she served as the Acting Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in President Joe Biden’s White House.

From 2017 to 2021, Block led the Labor and Worklife Program. During this time, she launched the Clean Slate for Worker Power project, which is a comprehensive policy initiative focused on fundamental redesign of labor law with the aspiration to enable all working people to create the collective economic and political power necessary to build an equitable economy and politics.... Read more about Sharon Block

Union Density and the Post-Roe Crisis

Union Density and the Post-Roe Crisis

June 28, 2022

Sharon Block
OnLabor Blog

The states with the lowest union density generally have the lowest possible minimum wage, no state-mandated paid sick or family leave and have poverty rates above the national average. Conversely, states with the highest union density generally have among the highest minimum wage levels in the country, ensure access to paid sick or family leave and have lower-than-average poverty rates. 

Put simply, the presence of unions in a state correlates with low-wage workers being economically better able to care for themselves and their...

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Starbucks CEO’s Anti-Union Comments Straddle Line of Legality

June 14, 2022

Robert Iafolla
Bloomberg Law

Starbucks Corp. CEO Howard Schultz’s disparaging comments about workers’ organizing efforts escalated a lengthy battle with employees who have unionized at 150 stores nationwide.

Workers United alleges Schultz’s recent interview with New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin demonstrates the company won’t bargain in good faith with unionized employees. It’s the fourth time the union has filed a charge with labor regulators over the Starbucks chief’s statements....

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Amazon and Starbucks Aren’t Listening to Their Workers

May 26, 2022

Sharon Block
Bloomberg Law

Unionization efforts at Amazon and Starbucks have been regarded with hostility by their CEOs, but Harvard Law School professor Sharon Block suggests the companies should view it differently. She writes that organizing efforts can be seen as a positive sign that workers value their companies enough to try to improve their working conditions rather than job hop, and suggests leaders work with employees to come up with a win-win solution.

Ask Help Desk: If I take a remote job, can I be forced into an office?

Ask Help Desk: If I take a remote job, can I be forced into an office?

May 13, 2022

By Danielle Abril
Washington Post

In this new era of work, employees who work at an office are finding that return-to-work policies can be tricky. We’ve heard stories from workers about companies that have changed work arrangements from remote, part-time remote to full time in-office. We’ve heard about fears over whether an employer can promise one working arrangement, only to change it weeks or months later. And we’ve heard questions about what protections unions may or may not offer workers when it comes to returning to the office. ... But employees should beware....

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Emboldened labor movement seeks to expand on successes

Emboldened labor movement seeks to expand on successes

May 10, 2022

BY KARL EVERS-HILLSTROM 
The Hill

The uptick in organizing comes as record numbers of job openings give workers more leverage than they had in previous years. Workers are often pushing for better pay, hours and working conditions, citing pandemic-induced burnout and safety concerns. 

“To have these successes is really significant to send a message that nobody should just accept that where they work is unorganizable,” said Sharon Block, a Harvard Law School...

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Workers at a second Amazon facility on Staten Island just voted against unionizing. But that doesn’t mean the movement is slowing down

May 2, 2022

BY COLIN LODEWICK
Fortune

Though a win would have inevitably injected more momentum into the current labor organizing push, today’s loss still has the potential, according to labor experts, to further mobilize workers by laying bare the lengths to which corporations will go to defeat unionization drives.  

 

Regardless of today’s loss, the unprecedented nature of the first victory will likely keep the movement energized. “[Workers] were told that Amazon was too big, that the...

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Starbucks Store Unionizing Surge Tests Cash-Strapped Labor Board

April 27, 2022

Ian Kullgren and Robert Iafolla
Bloomberg Law

 

The recent deluge of union elections at Starbucks Corp. stores is pushing the federal labor board to its limit, reflecting a broader influx in labor action as the pandemic winds down.

Flat funding and a restless labor force have created a near perfect storm for the National Labor Relations Board, charged with overseeing every private-sector union election. Election petitions have already swelled by 57% in the first half of the 2021 fiscal year as unfair labor practice charges rose by 14%. At the...

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Inequality and the Labor Market The Case for Greater Competition
Sharon Block and Benjamin H. Harris. 4/6/2021. Inequality and the Labor Market The Case for Greater Competition, Pp. 261. Brookings Institution Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

As the United States continues to struggle with the impact of the devastating COVID-19 recession, policymakers have an opportunity to redress the competition problems in our labor markets. Making the right policy choices, however, requires a deep understanding of long-term, multidimensional problems. That will be solved only by looking to the failures and unrealized opportunities in anti-trust and labor law.

For decades, competition in the U.S. labor market has declined, with the result that American workers have experienced slow wage growth and diminishing job quality. While sluggish productivity growth, rising globalization, and declining union representation are traditionally cited as factors for this historic imbalance in economic power, weak competition in the labor market is increasingly being recognized as a factor as well.

This book by noted experts frames the legal and economic consequences of this imbalance and presents a series of urgently needed reforms of both labor and anti-trust laws to improve outcomes for American workers. These include higher wages, safer workplaces, increased ability to report labor violations, greater mobility, more opportunities for workers to build power, and overall better labor protections.

Inequality and the Labor Market will interest anyone who cares about building a progressive economic agenda or who has a marked interest in labor policy. It also will appeal to anyone hoping to influence or anticipate the much-needed progressive agenda for the United States. The book’s unusual scope provides prescriptions that, as Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz notes in the introduction, map a path for rebalancing power, not just in our economy but in our democracy.

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The Amazon Labor Union’s Fight With Amazon Is Far From Over

April 13, 2022

BY JOSEFA VELASQUEZ
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CLAUDIA IRIZARRY APONTE
The City, NYC

The retail giant is challenging NLRB certification, and a second vote at a nearby warehouse looms ahead. That’s all before anyone sits down at the bargaining table to discuss a contract.

Aside from Amazon’s objections to the vote, it could be a long road to getting the company and the ALU to agree on a contract. While the NLRB requires employers to bargain in good faith once the...

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Amazon workers won the company's first US union — here's what happens next

April 4, 2022

Max Zahn 
Yahoo Finance

In the coming days, the Amazon Labor Union may face a challenge from Amazon over the legitimacy of the election results that, if successful, could overturn the outcome. If the union survives that potential challenge, it will enter negotiations with the company over the contours of a union contract at the facility that will likely stretch on for months.

If Amazon foregoes a challenge of the results or the...

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Amazon Warehouse Workers Just Redefined What’s Possible for U.S. Labor

April 2, 2022

 By 
Bloomberg

Overall U.S. unionization declined last year, despite 2021’s wave of prominent strike authorizations, mass resignations, and other organizing efforts. But Smalls’s win signals that there’s an opening for workers, one that many others are now more likely to explore. “The psychological and symbolic importance of a win can’t be overstated,” says Sharon Block, a former Obama Labor Department policy chief who now directs Harvard Law School...

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Labor law expert Sharon Block appointed professor of practice

March 15, 2022

By HLS News Staff
Harvard Law Today

Sharon Block, a labor policy expert who most recently served as acting administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Biden administration, has been appointed professor of practice at Harvard Law School, effective July 1.

Block, who currently serves as the executive director of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, first joined HLS in 2017, where, with Professor ...

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The State of Labor in the State of the Union

The State of Labor in the State of the Union

March 3, 2022

Sharon Block
OnLabor Blog

I think it is fair to say that based on President Biden’s first State of the Union (SOTU) address, the state of labor’s interests in the Biden Administration is strong. Even before President Biden entered the House Chamber Tuesday night, Biden sent a signal about how central the labor movement is to his presidency. Starting with President Reagan, presidents have used invitations to sit with the First Lady during SOTU as symbols of their values. ...

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