According to the official records, U.S. workers went on strike seven times during 2017. Aggrieved workers, however, took matters into their own hands, using social media and other tech tools to enhance their campaigns. From industry walkouts to wildcat teachers’ strikes, they made very public demands of their employers. The official number of major work stoppages recorded by the BLS in 2018 nearly tripled, to 20.
“I think there’s a real desire for working people to not segment their lives so much,” says Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. Companies know that, too. That’s why places such as Comcast, Facebook, and Google gave workers time off to join political protests in 2016. The problem, Block says, is that political issues are often workplace issues, too. “Immigration, racial justice, gender equality—people are seeing these things as interconnected, and that’s giving rise to movements that aren’t so easy to characterize but are very powerful.”
This year, thousands of teachers, hotel workers, Google employees, and others walked off the job and won major gains. Which raises two questions: Why now? And will this continue?
Some labor experts say the recent surge of strikes could portend a new wave of labor activism, as more and more workers see that collective action can pay off. Others argue that the recent surge is more likely a one-time blip of militancy that will fade away as organized labor’s long-term decline continues.
Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, says labor’s renewed militancy reflects a broader shift in the zeitgeist. “When there’s a lot of collective action happening more generally—the Women’s March, immigration advocates, gun rights—people are thinking more about acting collectively, which is something that people hadn’t been thinking about for a long time in this country in a significant way.”... Read more about The Return of the Strike
The NLRB acted properly in 2015 when it adopted a more expansive test for determining when companies in franchise, staffing, and other relationships should be considered joint employers for liability and collective bargaining purposes, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held Dec. 28. The board broke new ground with that test by saying that a company that has the authority to exert control over another company’s workforce could be required to bargain with or be held liable for unfair labor practices against the workers, even if it doesn’t exercise that ability.
The NLRB’s test, crafted by a Democratic majority, has been the subject of heated debate in the business community, courts, and Congress, highlighted by litigation involving McDonald’s and allegations against Microsoft. The now Republican-majority board is working on a regulation that would limit joint employment and allow businesses more leeway to outsource labor and other components.... Read more about Joint Employer Labor Regulation Clouded by Court Decision
“[Trump] was running around saying the auto industry was building more plants and creating more jobs,” said Sharon Block, director of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program. “This would suggest, again, that he wasn’t being truthful with the American people.”
"Rolling back so-called “joint-employer” protections could undermine the Fight for 15 and other vital campaigns."
At stake is the joint-employer standard, where workers are technically employed by a subcontractor, but their working conditions are essentially controlled by the parent company to which they are assigned (in many cases today, so-called “permatemps” do virtually the same job as regular workers, with less pay and job security).
The Trump administration’s Labor Department and the Republican-dominated NLRB...
LWP Fellow Research on the impact of technological advances on workplace productivity
Dr. Ashley Nunes work explores how innovation affects markets. He is particularly interested in the ways technological innovation has impacts on economic outcomes among low-income households. Dr. Nunes was previously a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his work has been covered by The Economist, The Guardian and The Financial Times among others. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign where his research examined the scientific merit of raising retirement ages.
LWP Fellow Research on job misclassification and payroll fraud
Lisa Xu received a PhD in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School in November 2018. Her dissertation research focused on the transition away from agriculture and the rise of wage employment and industrialization in developing countries.... Read more about Lisa Xu
Alida has been the webmaster for the past 10 years. In 2017, she overhauled the website to its current state on the OpenScholar platform. In the past year, she has expanded her responsibilities at the LWP becoming the director of the Harvard Trade Union Program. She is also the resident techie on staff and is moving the LWP to a more efficient system with Salesforce.... Read more about Alida J. Castillo
LWP Fellow Research on Labor unions and inequality: Do unions promote more equal societies?
Phillippe Scrimger joined Harvard Law School's Labor and Worklife Program as a postdoctoral fellow in October 2018, after finishing his doctoral dissertation at the University of Montreal’s School of Industrial Relations.... Read more about Phillippe Scrimger
Epic Systems may have also laid some of the groundwork for the court’s new conservative majority to continue narrowing the scope of federal labor law, scholars said. The court said in that ruling that ling or joining a class action doesn’t qualify as a joint action protected by the National Labor Relations Act.
But the Trump administration led a brief in Epic Systems suggesting that the NLRA’s safeguards for collective worker action only covers group conduct related to self-organization or collective bargaining. “That to me is the most serious and real area to think about an even more conservative Supreme Court changing the law,” Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, told Bloomberg Law. “In a world where 94 percent of the private sector isn’t engaged in activities related to collective bargaining, that would be a devastating development.”... Read more about The Kavanaugh Tilt: Conservative Justices Could Revamp Workplace Law
Months after the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a hefty blow to teachers’ unions, a rash of new lawsuits has emerged that could further damage these labor groups.
There are two main strands to this new wave of anti-union lawsuits: 1) challenges to time-limited windows during which teachers can opt out of membership payroll deductions, and 2) pushes for teachers to be reimbursed for the agency fees they paid before the Janus decision.