Sharon Block

Lecturer on Law

Spring 2021

Biography

Sharon Block is the Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. The Labor and Worklife Program is Harvard’s forum for research and teaching on critical labor issues and their implications for society. Prior to coming to Harvard Law School in 2016, she was the head of the Policy Office at the U.S. Department of Labor and Senior Counselor to Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.

For twenty years, Block has held key labor policy positions across the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. In 2012, she was appointed to serve as a member of the National Labor Relations Board by President Obama. She was senior labor and employment counsel to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee under Senator Edward Kennedy. While serving in the Obama White House as Senior Public Engagement Advisor for Labor and Working Families, Block led the historic White House Summit on Worker Voice, which explored ways for workers to fully participate in their economic future.

Block serves on a number of labor-related board and advisory committees, including as a board member of the National Employment Labor Project, the Roosevelt Institute, and JUST Capital; member of the Economic Policy Institute Perkins Project Advisory Committee, Massachusetts Attorney General Labor Advisory Committee, member of the Higher Quality Jobs Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and member of the advisory board for the Institute for the Future’s Equitable Futures Lab and advisory council member for the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy. In addition, she writes frequently on labor and employment issues and is a senior contributor to OnLabor.org.

Block received her B.A. from Columbia University and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where she received the John F. Kennedy Labor Law Award.

Areas of Interest

Sharon Block & Benjamin Sachs, Worker Power and Voice in the Pandemic Response (Clean Slate for Worker Power, Labor & Worklife Program, Harv. L. Sch., June 24, 2020).
Categories:
Discrimination & Civil Rights
,
Health Care
,
Labor & Employment
Sub-Categories:
Discrimination
,
Race & Ethnicity
,
Health Law & Policy
,
Labor Law
,
Employment Practice
Type: Other
Abstract
Our country is wracked by two urgent crises – the COVID-19 pandemic and the plague of systemic racism. COVID-19 presents grave challenges to all of us, but it poses particular – and, in many cases, life-threatening – challenges to working people. Moreover, the costs of the pandemic are being borne disproportionately by low-wage workers, a population made up primarily of women and workers of color. As they work to keep the economy moving despite the pandemic, these workers are being asked to put their lives on the line in ways that are both unacceptable and unnecessary. ‍ Indeed, as the economy reopens, more and more workers will be put in harm’s way. Unless, that is, something fundamental changes about the way we approach worker voice and power. In this issue brief, we offer a set of recommendations designed to empower workers so that they are better positioned to cope with the ravages of COVID-19, keep themselves and their families safe, and build a more equitable economy than the one the pandemic shut down. ‍ There is strong bipartisan support for the recommendations we are suggesting. A large majority of likely voters support giving workers a formal voice in setting health and safety standards. Only 19% of likely voters said they opposed these reforms. View the full polling results here. ‍ As with the original Clean Slate report, the recommendations here are designed so that they apply to all workers regardless of whether the law classifies them as employees, independent contractors, or otherwise outside of traditional labor law’s protection. And a central premise of the Clean Slate for Worker Power project is that any attempt to empower workers must begin with the effort to make labor law, and the labor movement, fully inclusive of workers of color – workers who have faced exclusion from the start. ‍ When law empowers all workers to demand equitable treatment – including safe and healthy working conditions – workers can build the kind of nation we all deserve
Sharon Block & Benjamin Sachs, Clean Slate for Worker Power: Building a Just Economy and Politics (Lab. & Worklife Program, Harv. L. Sch., Jan. 23, 2020).
Categories:
Labor & Employment
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Elections & Voting
,
Politics & Political Theory
,
Labor Law
Type: Other
Sharon Block & Benjamin Sachs, The Trump Administration is Abandoning McDonald’s Workers — and Everyone Else, Wash. Post, Feb. 9, 2018.
Categories:
Labor & Employment
Sub-Categories:
Labor Law
Type: News

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