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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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Fortune.com

Economists Sound Off on Elizabeth Warren’s Plan to Reform Labor Laws

October 8, 2019

By Andrew Hirschfeld
Fortune.com

Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has released a comprehensive plan to reform America’s labor laws. While the Democratic presidential hopeful’s campaign says her proposal will empower American workers and raise wages, it has economists from across the political spectrum sounding off.

“What really struck me the most is the framing of it around the issue of power—the fact that workers collective power is at a historic low,” said Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.... Read more about Economists Sound Off on Elizabeth Warren’s Plan to Reform Labor Laws

Why conservatives must take principled action for workers

Why conservatives must take principled action for workers

September 17, 2019

BY TERRI GERSTEIN
The Hill

When conservative British lawmakers bucked their leader on Brexit, many of us in the United States were left wondering, where are our principled conservatives willing to take on the president? Maybe our conservatives have lost the muscle memory of how to do something like this. It seems unlikely any will take on the president any time soon. But maybe they can begin with smaller steps to start rebuilding that muscle.

A great opportunity for taking principled action is happening this month. A bill that prohibits forced...

Read more about Why conservatives must take principled action for workers
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What California should do next to help Uber drivers

September 13, 2019

By Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs
Washington Post

Recognizing them as employees was a fine first step. Letting them unionize is crucial.

The struggle for gig workers’ rights took a big step forward this week when the California legislature passed a law classifying many such workers — including Uber and Lyft drivers — as “employees.” Once it is signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), the law...

Read more about What California should do next to help Uber drivers
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No More Corporate Lawyers on the Federal Bench

August 21, 2019

Brian Fallon and Christopher Kang
The Atlantic

In response to President Donald Trump’s historic transformation of the federal judiciary, several Democratic candidates for president have promised to prioritize the swift appointment of a new wave of federal judges if they enter the White House.

But if Democrats hope to reverse Trump’s success in seeding the federal judiciary with extreme ideologues, they need to do more than nominate and confirm judges swiftly. They need to start nominating a whole different kind of judge. The next Democratic president should try nominating judges who haven’t been partners at big law firms.

Instead of someone like Katyal, Democrats ought to nominate judges whose day jobs involve working for ordinary Americans. That means, for example, choosing lawyers who represent workers, consumers, or civil-rights plaintiffs, or who have studied the law from that vantage point. Many outstanding lawyers have dedicated their career to advancing the interests of workers. For example, Deepak Gupta has represented the employees’ side in multiple arbitration cases before the Court, and Jenny Yang is a former plaintiffs’ lawyer and former chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Sharon Block is a former National Labor Relations Board member who now runs an employment-law program at Harvard Law School,... Read more about No More Corporate Lawyers on the Federal Bench

Bernie Sanders Sets a Goal: Double Union Membership in 4 Years

Bernie Sanders Sets a Goal: Double Union Membership in 4 Years

August 23, 2019

By Thomas Kaplan and Noam Scheiber
New York Times

Mr. Sanders called his new labor plan “the strongest pro-union platform in the history of American politics.” The plan “is an important recognition of the fact that tinkering around the edges isn’t going to be enough to return power to American workers in our economy,” said Sharon Block, a former National Labor Relations Board member appointed by President Barack Obama, who is executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

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Fox in the henhouse? Why Trump’s latest appointment has labor advocates so alarmed

July 26, 2019

BY RICK WARTZMAN
Fast Company

The central question revolving around Scalia is whether he will be willing to act, first and foremost, as a proponent of workers.

Critics note that, as a corporate attorney, he has helped to wipe out a rule meant to safeguard those seeking retirement-planning services, killed off a Maryland law mandating that certain large employers spend a prescribed dollar amount each year on health coverage for their employees, sought to raise the burden of proof needed for whistle-blowers to be protected, and vociferously opposed requirements meant to help workers avoid repetitive stress injuries.

Time and again in the current administration, “the impact of proposed rules on business is what shapes the agenda—not the benefit to workers,” says Sharon Block, who served as a senior aide in the Obama Labor Department and is now executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

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Labor Board Repeatedly Topples Precedent Without Public Input

July 12, 2019

Robert Iafolla'
Reporter
Bloomberg Law

The National Labor Relations Board’s ruling last week that made it easier for employers to oust unions marked at least the 10th time during the Trump administration that the NLRB settled case law without giving prior notice or an opportunity for public input, according to a review of decisions.

 

The NLRB has invited briefing in at least four cases since Republicans took control of the board in 2017. The Obama board more frequently sought outside views. It called for public briefing a dozen times from 2014...

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2019 Jun 13

Strategies for Building Worker Power

9:30am to 12:30pm

Location: 

The Economic Policy Institute 1225 Eye St. NW, Suite 600 Washington, D.C. 20005

A growing body of research shows the systematic erosion of workers’ bargaining power over the past 40-plus years is at the root of wage stagnation for working people and rising inequality. If policymakers wish to address these issues, they must look to policies that build up worker power.

The Economic Policy Institute, National Employment Law Project, and Jobs with Justice invite you to a June 13 symposium to discuss how to proactively reclaim worker power, featuring panels and speakers discussing the range of policies and practices workers and advocates are pursuing to give people a greater say over their own workplaces.

Keynote by Sharon Block, Executive Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School

More Information... Read more about Strategies for Building Worker Power

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NLRB Case Hinders Workers' Path To Justice

June 3, 2019

By Sharon Block
Law 360

Recently, 23 McDonald’s workers told the company that “Time’s Up” — they stood together and filed sexual harassment claims[3] with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and lawsuits against the company. Another group of workers filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,[4] asking the federal agency to hold McDonald’s accountable for failing to take reasonable steps to protect them from on-the-job violence. 

In a little-noticed National Labor Relations Board filing, the Trump administration recently has opened a new front in its war on American workers aimed squarely at efforts like those taken by these brave McDonald’s workers. The Trump-appointed general counsel of the NLRB is arguing[5] in a case on remand from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Tarlton and Son Inc., that workers have no protection under federal labor law if they are fired for filing a lawsuit or a claim with a federal agency to protect their rights. If successful, the general counsel’s position would mean that your employer can refuse to pay you and your coworkers the wages that you are owed and then fire you when you complain to the U.S. Department of Labor or file a lawsuit to get your money. 

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1 year after Janus, unions are flush

May 17, 2019

By REBECCA RAINEY and IAN KULLGREN
Politico

As Janus’ one-year anniversary approaches, a POLITICO review of 10 large public-employee unions indicates they lost a combined 309,612 fee payers in 2018. But paradoxically, all but one reported more money at the end of 2018. And collectively, the 10 unions reported a gain of 132,312members.

How did public employee unions end up with more money and in most cases with more members after a Supreme Court ruling that was expected to eviscerate both?

The answer appears to be preemptive organizing. “Unions were really prepared because, sadly, the outcome was really predictable,” Block said.... Read more about 1 year after Janus, unions are flush

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