Clean Slate

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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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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Preparing U.S. workers for the post-COVID economy: Higher education, workforce training and labor unions

December 16, 2020

Kristen E. Broady, Moriah Macklin, and Jimmy O’Donnell
Brookings Institute Report

The pandemic has exacerbated the need for improvements in how we train and protect our workforce.

For policymakers working to reverse the direction of labor law in this country, there are two paths available. The first, acknowledging the original sins and subsequent weakening of labor, involves a fundamental rethinking of labor-management relations in the United States. This approach is embodied by the innovative work being done by the Clean Slate for Worker Power Project, a project of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program headed by Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs. The project puts forward a plan for rewriting the rules that underpin labor law. For example, they suggest moving away from fundamental system establishment-level bargaining and instead moving toward a sectoral bargaining system, as already exists in Europe.

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Biden Seen Reining In Mergers and Cracking Down on Big Tech

November 11, 2020

David McLaughlin
Bloomberg News

The new consensus in the antitrust establishment that a tougher approach is needed sets the stage for Biden to take a harder line than Obama did, said Michael Kades, the director of markets and competition policy at the left-leaning Washington Center for Equitable Growth and a former lawyer at the Federal Trade Commission.

“The question isn’t whether a Biden administration will be more aggressive, but how much more aggressive,” said Kades.

Biden economic adviser Ben Harris also has an interest in antitrust and how it can help workers. He is writing a book with Harvard Law School’s Sharon Block titled “Inequality and the Labor Market: the Case for Greater Competition.” It will propose reforms to labor and antitrust laws with the goal of pushing wages higher, making workplaces safer and increasing mobility.... Read more about Biden Seen Reining In Mergers and Cracking Down on Big Tech

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Uber, Lyft Shares Jump as Companies Win Vote Over Drivers

November 4, 2020

Lizette Chapman
Bloomberg News

Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. jumped in U.S. premarket trading Wednesday after California voters approved a measure (Proposition 22) to protect the companies’ business models from efforts to reclassify their drivers in the state as employees.

“This could be seen as a shot across the bow,” said Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. “Everybody’s looking at California.”Under the new law, gig companies have agreed to provide some new protections to California workers, including a guaranteed wage for time spent driving and a health insurance stipend, but does not include paid sick leave, unemployment insurance and other standard protections afforded under California labor laws.... Read more about Uber, Lyft Shares Jump as Companies Win Vote Over Drivers

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It’s Women’s Work

October 15, 2020

By Sharon Block
Moyers on Democracy

The September unemployment numbers provided a lot of bad news for the economy overall: decreasing rate of new jobs being created, rising number of permanent layoffs and a persistently high unemployment rate. The most shocking number from September’s report, however, was the number of women who left the labor market. More than 800,000 women have given up trying to find a job. During the pandemic recession, women’s labor force participation – the percentage of women holding jobs or looking for jobs – is lower than at any point since the late 1980’s. That marks a generation of progress lost in just six months.... Read more about It’s Women’s Work

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Labor Law Must Include All Workers

September 22, 2020

Sharon Block & Benjamin Sachs
American Compass

Inclusion is a necessary first step toward fixing America’s broken labor law system.

In January of this year, we published a comprehensive set of recommendations for reforming U.S. labor law. Although the recommendations were extensive, the theory that lay behind them was straightforward: our country is facing dual crises of political and economic inequality, and we can help address those crises by giving working people greater collective power in the economy and in politics. Although progressives and conservatives disagree on many things, we all ought to agree that the stark inequalities that now pervade American life constitute grave threats. Politically, the viability of our democracy is threatened by a government that responds to the views of the wealthy but not to those of the poor and middle class. Economically, the viability of our community life is threatened by the fact that that we live in a country where it would take an Amazon worker 3.8 million years, working full time, to earn what Jeff Bezos alone now possesses.

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Like many US workers, Trump staff has little recourse if asked to work alongside sick colleagues

October 7, 2020

Matthew Rozsa
Salon

What do workers do when the person responsible for enforcing worker safety laws turns a blind eye to his own staff?

The case of meatpacking employees may end up being comparable to the situation in the White House. Sharon Block, the Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, explained that workers at meatpacking plants "were told to continue to show up for work even as their coworkers were testing positive in high numbers and even dying." "As different as these workplaces may seem, the dynamic is similar — especially for the non-partisan staff in the White House, many of whom are people of color who are not highly paid. Because of the failures of the Trump Administration and their political objectives, workers' health and lives are needlessly being put at risk."... Read more about Like many US workers, Trump staff has little recourse if asked to work alongside sick colleagues

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