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Terri Gerstein

  • Companies Are Required to Report Their Union Busting, but Many Don’t

    September 12, 2022

    The American Prospect – $4.3 million in one year spent on anti-union activities at Amazon. $2,625 a day to stop UPS drivers from fighting for…

  • The Real Victims of Cancel Culture Are America’s Workers

    September 12, 2022

    The American Prospect – An article by Terri Gerstein: Cancel culture is a red-hot issue, in fields ranging from academia and the arts to journalism and…

  • How do gig workers fit into the rest of today’s labor force?

    September 12, 2022

    Marketplace – So-called gig workers are everywhere in the economy — Uber drivers, food delivery people, and others. In today’s workforce, they’re basically considered an…

  • Arbitration Use by Employers Up as High Court Affirms Validity

    August 29, 2022

    States’ attempts to ensure employees can take their workplace disputes to court are seeing their efforts chipped away by the US Supreme Court. Forty-three states…

  • Multnomah County district attorney moves to prosecute employers who intentionally cheat workers out of pay

    May 2, 2022

    The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office could begin bringing criminal charges against employers who repeatedly or intentionally deprive workers of pay as early as this summer under a new agreement with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. ... Terri Gerstein, director of the state and local enforcement project at the Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, said criminal prosecution is an important instrument for government entities to use because agencies tasked with civil enforcement of wage laws can be hamstrung by limited resources. And, she said, certain cases warrant not only civil but criminal penalties. Gerstein, the former labor bureau chief in the New York State Attorney General’s Office, said she worked on a case in 2015 where a Papa John’s franchise owner in New York failed to pay overtime to workers. When he learned that the U.S. Department of Labor had opened a civil investigation into his company, he devised a scheme to create fictitious names of employees to continue to avoid paying overtime, Gerstein said. Ultimately, the attorney general’s office sought criminal charges and the franchise owner was sentenced to 60 days in jail and ordered to pay $230,000 in restitution on top of $280,000 in civil damages and penalties.

  • Late Disclosures Concealed The Extent Of Amazon’s Anti-Union Campaign

    April 25, 2022

    While Amazon workers in Alabama and New York were trying to unionize their warehouses last year, the tech giant hired a large cast of anti-union consultants to undermine the organizing campaigns. Known as “persuaders,” these consultants led meetings in the warehouses and pulled workers aside for one-on-one conversations, all with the aim of turning workers against the idea of a union. ... Terri Gerstein, a senior fellow at the Economic Policy Institute think tank, recently argued in The American Prospect that employers like Amazon should have to reveal their persuaders sooner. She noted the murkiness surrounding the Rayla Group: The firm’s address appears to be a post office box at a UPS Store in Troy, Michigan. “​​When well-paid proxies are deployed to convince people not to unionize, those workers have a right to know the specifics,” Gerstein wrote.

  • Covid mask mandates for travel have been lifted. Where do we go from here?

    April 20, 2022

    An op-ed by Terri Gerstein: Last month, I boarded an airplane in New York to visit my mom and stepdad in Florida. We celebrated his 86th birthday as best we could; both have limitations common for people their age. I timed my visit carefully, traveling while Covid rates were down. I tested at home before departing. I was happy to strap on an N95 mask for the flight. (I’d gladly wear a neon hazmat suit and ski goggles to keep my family safe.) We spent a few lovely days outside in the sun, each with our signature drink: a seltzer for me, Diet Coke for my stepdad and, for my mom, “a decaf iced coffee with a lotta cream and two Splendas.” Every moment felt like borrowed time.

  • Amazon engaged anti-union consultants at a weekly rate of up to $20,000 each to work in its Staten Island warehouses, documents suggest

    April 20, 2022

    Amazon engaged anti-union consultants at a weekly rate of up to $20,000 each to work at its warehouses in Staten Island, New York, documents filed with the US Department of Labor suggest. The consultants were "engaged to represent the interests of Amazon relative to labor matters" at the company's  Staten Island facilities, according to an October 2021 letter from Amazon to Lev Labor, a consultancy that describes itself as specializing in "collective bargaining, union organizing campaigns and labor relations strategy and development." ... The publicly-available DOL documents were highlighted on Twitter by Terri Gerstein, a workers' rights specialist and director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at Harvard Law School. Gerstein said the documents probably provided a snapshot of the kind of money Amazon spends on anti-union consultants, as not all consultancy firms file forms with the DOL.

  • What Amazon and Starbucks Don’t Let Us Know

    April 14, 2022

    An article by Terri Gerstein: In the past two weeks, Amazon workers at a Staten Island warehouse and Starbucks baristas in four New York cities and beyond all voted to unionize. While these victories are remarkable and inspiring, there’s still a David-and-Goliath battle going on—and it’s still much too difficult to understand the full forces arrayed against these workers and those at other locations nationwide. When confronted by workers seeking to unionize, the vast majority of employers hire professional consultants—“persuaders”—to thwart workers’ efforts. These persuaders meet one-on-one with workers, train managers, and hold mandatory anti-union “captive audience” meetings that employees must attend. (Last Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel issued a memo arguing that these meetings violate the law. Until this is litigated, such meetings will likely continue apace, unfortunately.)

  • How Washington state brokered a truce between Uber and its drivers

    April 6, 2022

    On March 31, Washington became the first state in the US to guarantee rideshare drivers receive a minimum wage. The bill, signed into law by governor Jay Inslee, ensures all drivers in the state will earn at least $1.17 per mile and $0.34 per minute, including a minimum pay of $3.00 per trip with benefits such as paid sick leave and workers’ compensation insurance. The new law takes effect in January 2023. ... Terri Gerstein,  director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at Harvard Law’s Labor and Worklife Program, is concerned about the precedent that this could set for other state-level governments to thwart local attempts to enact labor protections, especially in the gig economy. “Seattle has been a leader nationally in regulating gig worker companies. And now, instead of celebrating the leadership and innovation of Seattle, the state is tamping down on them,” says Gerstein. “Maybe it will be limited to this one industry, but I think people are fooling themselves if they think other industries won’t come to state legislatures with similar proposals to preempt local regulatory power.”

  • How gig workers in Canada are fighting for employee rights

    March 9, 2022

    When the pandemic hit, many people hunkered down at home, hoping to stay put and ride out the storm until it passed. For others, as the scourge of the coronavirus was spreading fast and seeking new host organisms anywhere it could find them, those early days in the eye of the storm, so to speak, were an anxious race against time. ... As Terri Gerstein, a workers rights lawyer at the Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, argued in The American Prospect, the bill “would also exempt Uber and Lyft from many important laws that virtually every other employer in the state must follow by flat out enshrining the misclassification of these workers as independent contractors rather than employees. The Tacoma diner, the Seattle coffee shop, and the supermarket in Spokane all are legally required to provide a safe workplace, pay employees for all hours worked, and pay taxes to support the state’s unemployment compensation system.”

  • Washington State Advances Landmark Deal on Gig Drivers’ Job Status

    March 7, 2022

    The Washington State Senate on Friday passed a bill granting gig drivers certain benefits and protections while preventing them from being classified as employees — a longstanding priority of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. ... Worker advocates worried that other states would try to replicate the legislation. “I hope Governor Inslee seeks additional analysis of its potential impact,” said Terri Gerstein, a workers rights lawyer at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program. “I would urge other states not to use this bill or cursory public process as a model.”

  • WA bill would give raises to Uber/Lyft drivers. Some in labor are concerned.

    March 4, 2022

    When Don Creery punches in as a driver for Uber, he’s loath to cross the bridge from Seattle to Bellevue, because when he does, the minimum pay he’s guaranteed disappears. “If I get a ride request and it appears it’s going to the Eastside, I don’t take it,” he said.  ... “This is major legislation that would set a lot of precedence in the state that could have real unintended consequences, and it needs to be really carefully considered,” said Terri Gerstein, director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program.

  • Is Washington State About to Deprive Its Gig Drivers of Basic Rights?

    March 3, 2022

    An op-ed by Terri Gerstein: When Proposition 22, the (sadly, successful) initiative to strip gig workers of rights, was on the California ballot in 2020, there was immense news coverage and analysis. As gig companies like Uber and Lyft prepare similar attempts across the country, with the goal of ensuring their workers remain non-employees, a similarly high-profile fight is brewing in Massachusetts, where worker, environmental, and racial justice advocates have formed a coalition to gear up for a major battle as a similar measure comes before voters in November.

  • After five years of #MeToo movement, a modest win for women’s workplace rights

    February 17, 2022

    A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Feb. 10 enacted one of the most momentous workplace rights reforms in more than a decade, and Congress’ most significant legislation against sexual harassment and abuse since the #MeToo women’s movement began five years ago. ... Terri Gerstein, a fellow at the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program, told me the legislation is an “important first step,” and a major accomplishment, especially given the stark partisan divide in Congress and businesses’ strong interest in keeping disputes out of court. “I would not understate what a real accomplishment this is, and how meaningful it is to women who have faced harassment and assault,” Gerstein said. “It demonstrates a bipartisan recognition that forced arbitration is unfair to workers and that the secrecy is a problem.”

  • Forced arbitration in workplace sexual assault cases is ending. But what about other disputes?

    February 14, 2022

    An op-ed written by Terri Gerstein: Finally, some good news came from Congress. The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act passed in the Senate on Thursday and heads to President Joe Biden to be signed. The bill prevents employers from forcing their workers to bring sexual harassment or assault cases before secretive arbitrators paid by the boss, instead of before judges in open court.

  • Data Provided by Amazon Workers Offers Rare Glimpse into COVID Cases in California Warehouses

    February 14, 2022

    After the new year, when an Amazon warehouse worker showed up to the sprawling facility where he works in Rialto, Calif., he noticed a lot of colleagues seemed to be missing. Stations were empty, he said, and workers were constantly moved around to fill in for those gone. It seemed like everyone was working mandatory overtime. ... “It’s a very serious matter when you have a state attorney general suing a major international corporation for violating a law that is so clearly important and relevant to what is happening to workers on the ground right now,” said Terri Gerstein, fellow at both Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program and the Economic Policy Institute. “This isn’t a mom-and-pop. This is one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world.”

  • Mills administration cracking down on employer wage and hour violations

    February 7, 2022

    Since Gov. Janet Mills took office three years ago, the Maine Department of Labor has escalated its pursuit of illegal workplace practices including wage theft, child labor and false record keeping, a significant departure from past practices at the agency. ... "You leverage limited resources in ways that are going to have the greatest and longest-lasting impact leading toward employer compliance," [Terri] Gerstein said. "You could have a huge staff and collect penalties year after year from the same employers, but you are not moving the dial on compliance if they are still violating the law. You need both strategy and staffing."

  • Amazon and the Girl Scouts Are Unlikely — and Disturbing — New Partners

    February 4, 2022

    An op-ed by Terri Gerstein: Amazon and the Girl Scouts of America recently announced a partnership to “engage girls in STEM.” As part of the program, Amazon fulfillment centers in more than 20 U.S. cities will host “Girl Scout Amazon Tours.” There’s even a special cobranded Amazon-Girl Scouts patch participants will earn.

  • How Governments Can Boost Workplace Safety After Supreme Court Halts Vaccine Mandate

    January 24, 2022

    An op-ed by Terri Gerstein: Earlier this month, in a decision that surprised no one who was paying attention, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority blocked an emergency workplace safety rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requiring large employers to mandate either vaccines or indoor masks and weekly tests for employees.

  • Starbucks: Purveyor of Fresh Coffee and Stale Union-Busting

    November 23, 2021

    Op-ed by Terri Gerstein, Director, State and Local Enforcement Project: One of the most interesting union campaigns in recent years is happening right now in Buffalo, New York. Workers in three Starbucks outlets started a union organizing effort over their concerns about seniority pay, scheduling, staffing levels, and safety and health during COVID (plus, at one store an infestation of bees was left festering for months). Earlier this month, the National Labor Relations Board mailed ballots to the workers in these stores, who will have four weeks to vote on whether to unionize with Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. If they do, these stores would be the first unionized locations among the ubiquitous chain’s thousands of U.S. locations.