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A Response to “Rethinking Wage Theft Criminalization”

April 20, 2018

by TERRI GERSTEIN AND DAVID SELIGMAN
OnLabor Blog

 

In his recent post, “Rethinking Wage Theft Criminalization,” Ben Levin argues that “the impulse to use criminal law for ‘progressive’ ends”—like combatting wage theft—“is dangerous; it serves to bolster the carceral state and all of its deep structural flaws.”

In his recent post, “Rethinking Wage Theft Criminalization,” Ben Levin argues that “the impulse to use criminal law for ‘progressive’ ends”—like combatting wage theft—“is dangerous; it serves to bolster the carceral state and all of its deep structural flaws.” We write from the perspectives of lawyers who have had extensive experience protecting workers’ rights, one as a former government enforcer and the other as an attorney at an advocacy organization. While we of course appreciate the deep structural flaws of […]
We write from the perspectives of lawyers who have had extensive experience protecting workers’ rights, one as a former government enforcer and the other as an attorney at an advocacy organization. While we of course appreciate the deep structural flaws of our criminal justice system, we’ve seen how important a tool the criminal law can be in protecting workers from wage theft, and we don’t think that bringing the criminal law to bear on predatory employers who take advantage of vulnerable workers exacerbates the injustices of our criminal justice system. If anything, doing so expresses to the most vulnerable members of society that the criminal law can work for them, not just against them. Progressive policymakers and enforcers would be misguided to eschew the tools of criminal law in combating the scourge of wage theft.

The most important reason to employ criminal law tools in certain wage theft cases is that the civil law, while critically important, also has its limits in deterring illegal conduct, responding promptly to abuses, and in punishing chronic wrongdoers.... Read more about A Response to “Rethinking Wage Theft Criminalization”

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These U.S. Workers Are Being Paid Like It’s the 1980s

May 25, 2018

By Josh Eidelson
in Bloomberg

Thanks to a web of loopholes and limits, the federal government has been green-lighting hourly pay of just $7.25 for some construction workers laboring on taxpayer-funded projects, despite decades-old laws that promise them the “prevailing wage.”

The failure of government to keep up with what’s going on in the labor market, [Erlich] said “is a large piece” of why construction has faded as “a pathway to the middle class.”

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Reviving the Manufacturing Sector, Starting in Middle School

May 22, 2018

By Benjamin Herold
Education Week

"Manufacturing is changing dramatically," said Emily DeRocco, the education and workforce director of Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, or LIFT. "We want young people to understand that there are actually exciting jobs available."

Her group is one of 14 "innovation institutes" aiming to bring government, industry, and academia together to support technology-related research and education in advanced-manufacturing fields such as clean energy, lightweight materials, and robotics. The groups all fall under the umbrella of Manufacturing USA, a national network of public-private research institutes created under the Obama administration.

 "There is a lot to like about this kind of data-driven approach to connecting educational activities with the world of current and future careers," said Michael S. Teitelbaum, a senior research associate at the labor and worklife program at Harvard University.... Read more about Reviving the Manufacturing Sector, Starting in Middle School

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Supreme Court Deals a Blow to Workers

May 21, 2018

By Terri Gerstein and Sharon Block
New York Times Opinion

Federal labor law protects the right of workers to join together to improve their conditions, whether through a union or other means. But the court has now carved out a big exception to that longstanding principle. In a 5-4 decision on Monday, the court said that companies can use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to bar workers from joining forces in legal actions over problems in the workplace. In other words, workers who are underpaid, harassed or discriminated against will have to press their cases alone in arbitration, rather than with their colleagues in a class-action case, or even with their own lawsuit.

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Regulate With Prejudice? Joint Employer Issue Tests Board Process

May 14, 2018

by Chris Opfer
Bloomberg Law

The board announced last week that it will issue a regulation to resolve the ongoing debate over when one business is a joint employer of another’s workers for unionization purposes. That question has been clouded by conflicting decisions—the board briefly reverted to a more restrictive approach to joint employment and then dropped the ruling—and conflict-of-interest concerns.

“We know where they want to get to now because of the decision in Hy-Brand,” former NLRB Member Sharon Block (D) told Bloomberg Law. “They appear to be using the rulemaking process to do an end run around conflict-of-interest problems.”

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I worked for Eric Schneiderman. And I still believe in government.

May 11, 2018

By Terri Gerstein
Washington Post

Most public servants are true believers. We choose to work for modest pay and little glory. When I used to send my mother news stories about our cases, she would get indignant: “Why doesn’t it mention your name? You did the case!”

After the initial shock wears off, aides try to understand, trying to make sense of the incomprehensible contrast between the person we knew and the person he turned out to be. Were there signs I missed? Is this just something that happens when people have power? Is it that the wrong kind of people are...

Read more about I worked for Eric Schneiderman. And I still believe in government.
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Inside the Labor Department’s Legal Brain Drain

May 11, 2018

by Ben Penn
Bloomberg Law

A century-plus of combined legal expertise is leaving the Labor Department, setting up four key vacancies in an office with unheralded influence on the administration’s workplace agenda.

The DOL’s associate solicitors for employment and training (Jeffrey Nesvet), occupational safety and health (Ann Rosenthal), and administrative law and ethics (Robert Shapiro), along with the New England regional solicitor (Michael Felsen), are either about to retire or recently did so—all after lengthy careers in the senior civil service....

“Those are four people who have been involved in every important decision in their areas for decades. It’s a tremendous loss,” Sharon Block, who was a senior counselor to Obama’s Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, told Bloomberg Law. “All of us who were there as politicals relied so heavily on the career leadership to provide just that straight up advice on what the law is and what the history of these issues has been, without being outcome-determined in how that information was presented.”... Read more about Inside the Labor Department’s Legal Brain Drain

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Breached Podcast on Employment

April 25, 2018

This episode explores what a social contract of employment looks like, given the changing nature of work in the 21st century economy. We hear from Tom Kochan, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management; Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute; Steven Pedigo, an assistant professor at the NYU School of Professional Studies; and Sharon Block, Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

[Listen to Podcast]
More information on Podcast Series at  OnLabor logo

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