Staff

Sharon Block photo

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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Google Salary-Sharing Spreadsheets Are All The Rage. Here's What You Should Know.

January 17, 2020

By Monica Torres
Huffpost

Workers across a number of industries are creating their own widely shared salary databases, with employees anonymously entering their earnings for all to see. Adding salary info to these lists usually works like this: Through a Google Form, individuals enter information anonymously about their salary and organization, usually with the option to include years of experience, geographic location, race, gender and sexual orientation, as well as industry-specific information such as awards, worker injuries incurred or billable hours.

...

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Can California rein in tech’s gig platforms? A primer on the bold state law that will try.

Can California rein in tech’s gig platforms? A primer on the bold state law that will try.

January 14, 2020

By Eli Rosenberg 
Washington Post

A new law in California seeks to rewrite the rules of work and what it means to be an employee.

Known informally as the gig-economy bill, or AB5, the legislation went into effect on Jan. 1, seeking to compel all companies ― but notably those like Lyft and Uber ― to treat more of their workforce like employees. 

Tech companies like Uber, Lyft, Postmates, DoorDash and Instacart have joined forces — and pocketbooks — to sponsor a $110 million ballot initiative that would formally exempt them from the law. 

“States should hold off in the face of all these challenges that have emerged in California,” said Maria Figueroa, director of labor and policy research at the Worker Institute at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations. “The ideal situation would be for other states to come up with legislation that would be narrow enough in terms of its parameters to cover platform workers …[but] would enable these states to avoid these challenges."

Others see the opposition in the terms of greed.

“We are in this place because we have these really big companies that will put tens of millions up for the right to deny basic protections for workers,” said Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

Respecting the Right to Strike at Harvard

Respecting the Right to Strike at Harvard

December 16, 2019

by Sharon Block, Benjamin Sachs and Laura Weinrib
OnLabor Blog

According to the Crimson, Harvard has circulated an email advising departments seeking to hire spring teaching fellows (and other student workers) to include certain language in job postings and offer letters. The Crimson reports that the email “recommends departments include a provision in postings and offer letters that conditions teaching fellow positions on whether candidates can commit to a start...

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Reddy, Rukmini

Rukmini Reddy

Coordinator, Labor Organization Innovation Initiative

Rukmini Reddy manages the Labor Organization Innovation Initiative’s strategic planning, pilots, partnerships, and day-to-day operations.

Prior to joining the Labor and Worklife team, Rukmini was Manager of New Profit’s Early Learning Fund, where she built community among early education practitioners and leaders, oversaw investment selection processes, and provided strategic support to the rapidly scaling organizations within the fund. Before joining New Profit, Rukmini engaged in research, data analysis, and project management to produce actionable recommendations for mission-driven organizations as a Consulting Research Associate at Root Cause, a nonprofit research and consulting firm. She also supported strategic initiatives at Root Cause, including the Campaign for Black Male Achievement and the Youth Violence Prevention Funder Learning Collaborative. Rukmini started her career as a Site Coordinator for LIFT in Chicago, where she managed a community resource center where undergraduate and graduate student volunteers worked one-on-one with individuals from low-income communities to find employment, secure housing, access public benefits, and obtain referrals for services like childcare and healthcare.... Read more about Rukmini Reddy

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More and more workers are taking advantage of informal activism

November 8, 2019

Meghan McCarty Carino
Marketplace

According to Michelle Miller, co-founder of Coworker.org — a non-profit that helps workers organize online — this trend of informal worker activism is spreading.

Coworker has helped workers from baristas to grocery clerks demand change on matters as varied as family leave policies and workplace tattoo or beard bans.

 

According to Sharon Block, executive director of the labor and worklife program at Harvard Law School, informal actions like WeWork’s have the potential to address issues...

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Walmart’s Strategy When Wading Into Culture Wars: Offend Few

Walmart’s Strategy When Wading Into Culture Wars: Offend Few

November 4, 2019

By Michael Corkery
New York Times 

When navigating the nation’s culture wars, Walmart follows a strategy it has honed for years: Alienate as few customers as possible, and do no harm to its core business. In many cases, it appears to be working.

Many in the administration, which was also pushing for a higher federal minimum wage, appreciated Mr. McMillon’s support on the overtime rule. But some of the officials did not overlook that Walmart, which employs about 1.5 million people in the United States, remained resistant to unionizing its American stores....

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One year after the Google walkout, key organizers reflect on the risk to their careers

November 1, 2019

Story by Sara Ashley O'Brien, CNN Business
Video by Richa Naik and Natalia Osipova, CNN Business
Photo illustrations by Ken Fowler

One year ago on November 1, tens of thousands of Google workers spilled out of their offices around the world, protesting sexual harassment, misconduct and a lack of transparency at one of the most powerful tech companies in the world.

In the year since then, at least four of the core group of walkout organizers have...

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Democratic presidential candidates come under pressure to release Supreme Court picks

Democratic presidential candidates come under pressure to release Supreme Court picks

October 15, 2019

By Seung Min Kim 
Washington Post

Demand Justice, a group founded to counteract the conservative wing’s decades-long advantage over liberals in judicial fights, will release a list of 32 suggested Supreme Court nominees for any future Democratic president as they ramp up their push for the 2020 contenders to do the same. 

The slate of potential high court picks includes current and former members of Congress, top litigators battling the Trump administration’s initiatives in court, professors at the nation’s top law schools and public defenders. Eight are sitting judges. They have established track records in liberal causes that Demand Justice hopes will energize the liberal base. 

Included in the list from Demand Justice is Sharon Block, the executive director of the labor and worklife program at Harvard Law School and former member of the National Labor Relations Board.

Candidates Grow Bolder on Labor, and Not Just Bernie Sanders

Candidates Grow Bolder on Labor, and Not Just Bernie Sanders

October 11, 2019

By Noam Scheiber
New York Times

Perhaps the most ambitious proposal is an idea known as sectoral bargaining, in which workers would bargain with employers on an industrywide basis rather than employer by employer. Sectoral bargaining, which is common in Europe, would make it possible to increase wages and benefits for millions of workers in relatively short order, even for those who aren’t union members. It would also give employers an incentive to create better-paying jobs because doing so would no longer bestow a major cost advantage on competitors.

An effort...

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Candidates Grow Bolder on Labor, and Not Just Bernie Sanders

Candidates Grow Bolder on Labor, and Not Just Bernie Sanders

October 11, 2019

By Noam Scheiber
New York Times

Perhaps the most ambitious proposal is an idea known as sectoral bargaining, in which workers would bargain with employers on an industrywide basis rather than employer by employer. Sectoral bargaining, which is common in Europe, would make it possible to increase wages and benefits for millions of workers in relatively short order, even for those who aren’t union members. It would also give employers an incentive to create better-paying jobs because doing so would no longer bestow a major cost advantage on competitors.

An effort...

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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...

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