Clean Slate for Worker Power is continuing to make an impact across the country. Read about Clean Slate in the news.
People who haven’t intentionally sought out news on the recent union election by Amazon warehouse workers, might have no idea about what’s going on at Amazon—information that might influence their buying decisions. Since people can’t protest at an e-commerce site, some labor reform advocates have floated the idea of a virtual picket line. This comes up in the Clean Slate Agenda, a report from Harvard Law School.
American workers do not have the rights and protections they need and deserve in the workplace or in the U.S. democratic system. Despite public support for policies that promote good jobs, the COVID-19 pandemic has repeatedly underscored how decent pay, health insurance, paid family and medical leave, and safety on the job are still far from guaranteed—even for workers deemed essential to their communities and the nation’s economy. Moreover, pandemic-induced economic trends have only served to deepen existing inequalities, including long-standing racial disparities.1 Confronting these challenges will take more than simply raising minimum standards. Policymakers must also work to reestablish worker power in the economy, including by strengthening unions.
Sharon Block is executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and co-author of the Clean Slate report which provides pandemic recommendations for employers and employees. She joins host Robin Young to discuss the issue.
We agree that our current labor law fails by, as we put it in the Clean Slate report, “limit[ing] workers to a stark, binary choice about collective representation: They can choose to be represented by an exclusive collective bargaining union, or they can have nothing.” Given the inadequacy of choice in current labor law, we recommend providing workers with “a menu of representational choices—workplace monitors, works councils, members-only unions, and exclusive representative collective bargaining unions— . . . and making it far easier for them to embrace all of these choices.”
All employees have a right to a safe and healthful workplace and a right to insist that those conditions be provided to them without fear of retaliation. They also have a right to form and join unions to collectively make demands about safety and health. Shamefully, these rights, like so many workplace rights, have gone largely unenforced in recent years. Because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has only issued voluntary guidance, there is effectively no federal government enforcement of protections from workplace COVID exposure.
Many worker advocates believe that rather than try to shore up the old model of collective bargaining, it would be smarter to start fresh. Some of the most compelling ideas being touted are to place worker representatives on corporate boards and to mandate that agreements be negotiated with entire industry sectors, as is the practice in Europe, rather than on a firm-by-firm basis. This kind of bold agenda makes terrific sense to me. Indeed, at this point, it seems to be the only way to restore a better balance between corporate power and worker power in America.
Reforming labor laws to make it easier for workers to organize and join unions is a crucial step to not only increasing wages or reducing inequality but building a society more resilient to crises. Recent decades have shown that societies become more unequal when workers have less power. The travails of this year suggest that empowering workers will also strengthen a country’s ability to weather the ravages of a pandemic.
Workers have a key role to play in designing and implementing new, on-the-job health practices—and even more so in the absence of enforceable federal standards. If they aren’t able to speak up when they spot a problem, we risk prolonging this crisis, deepening the economic pain, and ultimately losing more lives.
A True New Deal: Building an Inclusive Economy in the COVID-19 Era makes the compelling case for an actualized New Deal—a structural policy agenda that, by leading with inclusion, will not only tide us through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis but build a more resilient, equitable, and moral 21st century economy.
In January, Harvard Law School’s Labor & Worklife Program, following a year of discussions among working groups of activists and scholars, released a sweeping proposal to reboot labor law from a “clean slate,” including by ending at-will employment, installing elected “workplace monitors” in every U.S. workplace, and establishing a “sectoral bargaining” process à la Europe.
Economic issues are life-and-death issues,” says Sharon Block, the executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. “What COVID has done is illustrate the life-or-death nature of those economic issues in a very accelerated time frame.
Block and Sachs point to flaws in the social safety net, an indifferent OSHA, and a system that favors employers over employees
Our nation can and should do better by its workers. They are at the heart of the pandemic’s disastrous impact; they must be at the heart of how we successfully address it.
COVID-19 exposes injustice in the workforce. Frances Perkins offers a model to fix it.
As a leader on Clean Slate for Worker Power, a project at Harvard Law School, [Benjamin Sachs] recently called for a change in labor law that would allow people who do similar types of work to band together and demand industrywide changes, either as a union or an official collective of workers. “You don’t fix cross-sectoral health and safety problems with just a group of workers at Whole Foods,” he says.
In “How and Why to Empower Workers in the COVID-19 Response,” Sharon Block, Suzanne Kahn, Brishen Rogers, and Benjamin I. Sachs propose structural reforms to give workers a formal role in the shaping of workplace safety and health protocols, ensuring that the workforce can remain healthy and secure both in the immediate crisis and in the economic recession that will almost certainly outlast it.
Scholars from Harvard Law School’s Clean Slate for Worker Power project and the Roosevelt Institute have unveiled a plan that channels the indignation—and expertise—of those who are underpaid while taking on the risks during this perilous time.
Income inequality in America is as stark now as during the Gilded Age.Simply, something’s gotta give. Perhaps the Clean Slate proposal—and, at very least, its ideals—is the big fight worth having.
In the scramble to contain the coronavirus financial fallout, U.S. policy makers have embraced an ambitious big-government agenda—from new worker protections to a guaranteed minimum income—that could redefine Washington’s role in the economy.
On Tuesday, a group of eight grant makers and individual donors committed $7.1 million to the Families and Workers Fund, which will make grants for emergencies and for advocacy efforts to push for long-term policy efforts to reshape labor regulation.
The established “solutions” for restoring balance to economic and political power in the United States have been tax increases on the rich, on the one hand, and campaign-finance reform on the other. But in this episode, we’ll explore the idea that retooling labor laws for the modern economy may be the most effective way to address both these issues.
In much of the world, collective bargaining happens at the sectoral level, instead of on a workplace-by-workplace basis, which is what we have in the United States. Under sectoral bargaining, companies can come together and negotiate basic terms with workers across their whole industry.
No wonder that workers and their unions avoid bringing cases to an agency stacked against them. And no wonder that proposals to dramatically reform American labor law are gaining currency.
In January, Clean Slate for Worker Power, a coalition of more than 70 participants from labor, academia and nonprofit organizations brought together by Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, released proposed reforms that would extend the N.L.R.A.’s protections to agricultural and domestic workers as well as independent contractors and also give all workers a say in how companies are run.
“There is a crisis in our country regarding income inequality and workers’ ability to exercise their countervailing power,” said Sharon Block, the co-director of Clean Slate for Worker Power, an initiative of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program.
The legislation shares a lot in common with a new labor reform plan being passed around progressive circles called Clean Slate for Worker Power, spearheaded by Harvard University law professors Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs.
Are Democratic 2020 hopefuls talking enough about labor issues? Harvard Law School's Sharon Block discusses with Reuters in Des Moines ahead of the Iowa caucuses.
There has never been a more critical time to support our workers and demand stronger protections.
Labor law makes it too hard to start unions. Workers deserve a bigger voice
Harvard University’s Labor and Worklife Program, led by Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs of Harvard Law School, recently launched its “clean slate for worker power” agenda addressing the dual crises of economic and political inequality in the United States.
The success of the Culinary Union in Nevada is well documented and gushingly praised. It’s also difficult to replicate.
We’re in the midst of a twenty-first-century Gilded Age. To end it, we can turn to some of the radical policies designed to democratize the world of work, empower a multiracial working class, and reel in the worst excesses of robber barons nearly a century ago.
More than 70 scholars, activists, and leaders urge lawmakers to expand workers’ digital rights to rebuild the union movement.
A race and gender conscious economic bill of rights is the answer to reverse extreme inequality
To effectively combat economic inequality and even the playing field between corporations and the people they employ, a new report argues, the U.S. must entirely overhaul labor laws to provide a “clean slate” for all workers.
An initiative of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program — called Clean Slate for Worker Power — released its final report Thursday calling to overhaul American labor laws and increase workers’ collective bargaining power.
Two Harvard Law School faculty members unveiled a sweeping proposal to rewrite US labor law, aimed not at updating what’s on the books but at starting over.
More than 70 scholars, union leaders, economists and activists says unions are key to tackling the crisis of economic inequality
Running throughout the Democratic presidential debates has been a consistent theme: We are living in an era of deep economic and political inequality, and these dual crises now threaten to undermine our democracy.
Report says corporate America wields too much power over the economy and politics at the expense of workers
Right now, too many rideshare drivers are teetering on the edge of the road. Nearly 80% of American workers report living paycheck to paycheck, but we live ride to ride.
If you’re a lawmaker who wants to dramatically improve the lives of US workers, there's one reform that should be at the top of your to-do list.
To effectively combat economic inequality and even the playing field between corporations and the people they employ, a new report argues, the U.S. must entirely overhaul labor laws to provide a "clean slate" for all workers.
American Labor Law is broken, argues a report released today by Clean Slate for Worker Power, a project of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program
The new Clean Slate report alerts the public and policymakers about the dismal state of worker power and worker voice.
The basic facts about inequality in the United States — that for most of the last 40 years, pay has stagnated for all but the highest-paid workers and inequality has risen dramatically — are widely understood.
Stay up to date on news, ideas, and actions as we work to make Clean Slate for Worker Power’s bold recommendations a reality.