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Clean Slate: Our History

Our History

The project started from the premise that we face dual crises of inequality – economic and political – that spring from a single cause: the concentration of power in the hands of a small minority. In addition, we grounded the project in two related beliefs:

  1. that we cannot fix our crises of inequality, either economic or political, without a strong labor movement and
  2. that we cannot have a strong labor movement without reforming labor law.

Our final foundational belief was that our national labor laws were profoundly broken such that the time for tinkering with the law had long passed and that only by writing on a statutory clean slate could meet these challenges.

The Clean Slate for Worker Power recommendations rest on these core principles. We did not aim, however, to return to the labor movement of yesterday. This could not be our objective because even when the labor movement was at its historic peak, our society was profoundly exclusionary. Therefore, the first task in our project was to broaden the legal protections for workers’ collective power to counter systemic racial and gender oppression.

Even when the labor movement was at its historic peak, our society was profoundly exclusionary. Therefore, the first task in our project was to broaden the legal protections for workers’ collective power to counter systemic racial and gender oppression.

Upon that broader base, we have crafted recommendations that would bring a voice to all American workers. That voice would operate on every level at which corporations impact workers’ lives – in the workplace, across enterprises, across industries, in the boardroom, and in the political system. For the first time in our history, workers would have a right to exercise that voice at the sectoral level. Workers would be empowered to exercise their voice on the issues that are important to them, their families and communities without interference from employers. Finally, we empower state and local governments to find innovative ways of better protecting workers’ voice and power.

We engaged in this work at an auspicious time. When we started, the dominant public narrative was one of unmitigated bad news for the labor movement. But then something happened – during the course of the Clean Slate project, this narrative shifted. While the labor movement remains in deep crisis, workers grabbed the national headlines in a way we have not seen in decades – teachers took to the streets in the RedforEd movement; Google workers walked out by the tens of thousands around the world; Marriott workers engaged in a strike that crossed the nation and yielded innovative collective bargaining provisions; and the public told Gallup pollsters that they support unions at levels not recorded in decades. Everyone involved in Clean Slate has been moved, motivated and humbled by these acts of collective courage. It is our hope that one day, in the not too distant future, these workers will have the labor law they deserve.

Our Partners

The Clean Slate for Worker Power report would not have been possible without the leadership, collaboration, and dedication of the Clean Slate advisory and working group members and their Harvard Law School student research assistants.

The working group members are the heart of the project, and they contributed their valuable time, expertise, and insights. Even more importantly, they brought to this project the stories and experiences of the countless workers they have represented, who inspired and informed the ideas put forth in our recommendations.

Please note: The listing of the individuals below only conveys the fact of their participation; it is not an endorsement of the recommendations by them personally or by the institutions with which they are affiliated. Institutions are listed for identification purposes. The individuals are entitled to great credit for making the project possible but are not responsible for the resulting recommendations.

We’d like to thank:

  • Jennifer Abruzzo, Communications Workers of America
  • Kate Andrias, University of Michigan Law School
  • Cherine Badawi
  • Craig Becker, AFL-CIO
  • Savannah Behrent-Clark, Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program
  • Nicole Berner, SEIU
  • Heylee Bernstein
  • Stephen Berzon, Altshuler Berzon LLP
  • Christine Blumauer, formerly Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program
  • Pauline Bomball, Harvard Law School and Australian National University, Australia
  • Heather Boushey, Washington Center for Equitable Growth
  • Jenny Braun
  • Oliver Brown
  • Nate Butki, Roots Inc.
  • Mary Joyce Carlson, SEIU Fight for $15
  • Matthew Carrieri
  • Joey Cherney
  • Larry Cohen, Our Revolution
  • Jim Conigliaro, Jr., Independent Drivers Guild
  • Maurizio Del Conte, Bocconi University, Italy
  • Matt Dimick, University at Buffalo School of Law
  • Rebecca Dixon, National Employment Law Project
  • Will Dobbs-Allsopp
  • David Doorey, York University, Canada
  • Luke Dowling
  • Darcy du Toit, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
  • Benjamin Elga, Justice Catalyst
  • Cindy Estrada, UAW
  • Isabelle Ferreras, FNRS (National Fund for Scientific Research)/University of Louvain, Belgium
  • Matt Finkin, University of Illinois College of Law
  • Catherine Fisk, Berkeley Law
  • Jane Flanagan, Chicago-Kent College of Law and Open Society Foundations
  • Anthony Forsyth, RMIT University, Australia
  • Natalie Foster, Aspen Institute and Economic Security Project
  • Roberto Fragale Filho, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brasil
  • Archon Fung, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Ruben J. Garcia, University of Las Vegas, Boyd School of Law
  • Charlotte Garden, Seattle University School of Law
  • Jose Garza, Workers Defense Project
  • Terri Gerstein, Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program
  • Matt Ginsburg, AFL-CIO
  • Sean Goldhammer, Workers Defense Project
  • Emma Goold
  • Richard Griffin, Bredhoff & Kaiser
  • Sarita Gupta, formerly Jobs With Justice
  • Darrick Hamilton, Glenn College of Public Affairs and Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity (The Ohio State University)
  • Joey Hipolito, United Food and Commercial Workers
  • Gerry Hudson, SEIU
  • Alisha Jarwala
  • Julie Kashen, National Domestic Workers Alliance
  • Eugene Eric Kim, Faster Than 20
  • Bob King, UAW retired
  • Sarai King, United Food and Commercial Workers
  • Tom Kochan, MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Vail Kohnert-Yount
  • Rüdiger Krause, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany
  • Jenny Lau, Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program
  • Stephen Lerner, Georgetown University Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor
  • Eric Leveridge, Jobs With Justice and Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program
  • Rakeen Mabud, TIME’S UP
  • David Madland, Center for American Progress
  • Nicole Maggi-Germain, Université Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne, France
  • Mike Manley, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • César F. Rosado Marzán, Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Celine McNicholas, Economic Policy Institute
  • Michelle Miller,
  • Guy Mundlak, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  • Raj Nayak
  • Jared Odessky
  • Chris Owens, National Employment Law Project
  • Kabita Parajuli, Jobs With Justice and Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program
  • Amanda Perez, formerly National Domestic Workers Alliance
  • Ai-Jen Poo, National Domestic Workers Alliance
  • Jamil Poonja
  • Ben Pring, Cognizant
  • Ahmer Qadeer, SEIU
  • K. Sabeel Rahman, Demos and Brooklyn Law School
  • Miles Rapoport, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Nicholas Raskin
  • Richard Resnick
  • Lynn Rhinehart, formerly AFL-CIO
  • Brishen Rogers, Temple University Beasley School of Law and Roosevelt Institute
  • David Rolf
  • Kris Rondeau, AFSCME
  • Mia Rönnmar, Lund University, Sweden
  • Jake Rosenfeld, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Cathy Ruckelshaus, National Employment Law Project
  • Rachel Sandalow-Ash
  • Rio Scharf
  • Mark Schneider, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW)
  • Peter Ahrenfeldt Schrøder, FH – Danish Trade Union Confederation, Denmark
  • Judith Scott, James & Hoffman, P.C.
  • David Seligman, Towards Justice
  • Owen Senders
  • Adam Shah, Jobs With Justice
  • Palak Shah, National Domestic Workers Alliance
  • Heidi Shierholz, Economic Policy Institute
  • Sejal Singh
  • Erica Smiley, Jobs With Justice
  • Saket Soni, National Guestworker Alliance and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice
  • Emily Spieler, Northeastern University School of Law
  • Andrew Strom, SEIU Local 32BJ
  • Shayna Strom, ACLU
  • Alexandra Suh, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance
  • Luke Taylor
  • Karla Walter, Center for American Progress
  • Dorian Warren, Community Change
  • David Weil, Brandeis Heller School for Social Policy & Management
  • Gwynne Wilcox, Levy Ratner, P.C.
  • Micah Wissinger, Levy Ratner, P.C.
  • Ivy Yan