Coal export battle hinges on commerce clause

A pair of energy-producing states may face ideological challenges in their quest for a high court review of Washington state’s blockade against the last major coal export project on the West Coast. Wyoming and Montana argued in a Supreme Court petition yesterday that Washington regulators violated constitutional protections on interstate commerce when they denied a Clean Water Act permit for the Millennium Bulk Terminals project in Longview, Wash. … Justices for the Supreme Court will be more interested in evaluating Washington’s denial of the terminal’s Clean Water Act permit, rather than any alleged intent to further control global greenhouse gas emissions, said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School. He said the states’ claims of discrimination are weak because they compare support for different products: apples versus coal.

Harvard Law School clinician testifies in support of Massachusetts food and health pilot program

Food insecurity and hunger cost the Commonwealth of Massachusetts nearly $1.9 billion in avoidable health care costs every year. Today, a team of attorneys from the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI) and Community Servings, a nonprofit food and nutrition program, testified at a hearing on proposed legislation to establish a food and health pilot program in the state of Massachusetts. Harvard Law School Clinical Instructor and CHLPI staff attorney Katie Garfield ’11 and Jean Terranova, Community Servings’ director of food and health policy, testified before the Joint Committee on Public Health at the Massachusetts State House.

Overhaul US labor laws to boost workers’ power, new report urges

More than 70 scholars, union leaders, economists and activists called on Thursday for a far-reaching overhaul of American labor laws to vastly increase workers’ power on the job and in politics, recommending new laws to make unionizing easier and to elect worker representatives to corporate boards. … The Clean Slate report, nearly two years in the making, aims to rethink American labor law from scratch. “We firmly believe that we’re past the point of tinkering around the edges, that to really fix the problems in our economy and political system we need a fundamental rethinking of labor law,” said Sharon Block, one of the report’s main authors and executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. … “This is an attempt to lay out a comprehensive vision of what labor law reform ought to look like,” said Ben Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School and one of the report’s main authors. “We need this as a kind of North Star to know where we’re going when we have a chance to do reform of any kind.”

Rewriting labor law, circa 2020

American workers have had the right to unionize since 1935, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in his first term as president and the Great Depression was ravaging the economy. But the parameters haven’t changed much in 85 years. Not as the treatment of women and people of color became more equitable. Not as businesses employed more independent contractors who weren’t protected by labor laws. And not as the gulf between the haves and have-nots expanded. On Thursday, 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. … “ ‘Clean Slate’ is our vision for what labor law would look like if it were actually designed to enable workers to build an equitable economy,” said Benjamin Sachs, Harvard Law School professor and coauthor of the report. “It’s not a project designed to garner bipartisan support. It’s not a project designed to get the maximum amount of business endorsement.” … The project is not just about unions, said coauthor Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, who served in the US Labor Department under President Obama. It’s also intended to reform democracy, including proposals to promote workers’ civic engagement by mandating same-day voter registration and granting paid time off to vote and attend meetings.

Why U.S. labor laws need to be revamped

Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program, and Benjamin Sachs, the Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry at Harvard Law School (HLS) are calling for an overhaul of American labor law. The Gazette sat down with Block and Sachs to talk about their report “Clean Slate for Worker Power: Building a Just Democracy and Economy,” which was released today.

Uber and Lyft drivers deserve much better

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. Despite recent legislative actions in New York and California to bring some stability to the rideshare industry, companies like Uber and Lyft still have too much power over our lives. … A new blueprint released this week called Clean Slate for Worker Power” [a project of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program]  fundamentally rewrites our nation’s labor law and provides a roadmap for a fairer future that would give rideshare drivers like me a seat at the table with the app-based titans.

A Surprising Solution to Save American Democracy

An article by Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs: 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. What does economic inequality look like today? Well, it would take an average Amazon worker 3.8 million years, working full time, to earn what CEO Jeff Bezos now possesses. And the country’s wealthiest 20 people own more wealth than half of the nation combined—20 people with more wealth than 152 million others. On the political front, the facts are just as stark. Political scientists increasingly believe that our government no longer responds to the views of anyone but the wealthy. Of course, these forms of inequality are mutually reinforcing: As economic wealth gets more concentrated, the wealthy build greater and greater political power that they, in turn, translate into favorable policies that lead to even more profound concentrations of wealth. And on and on.

Maybe the Senate Isn’t Up to the Job of Trump’s Impeachment Trial

An article by Noah Feldman: President Donald Trump is on trial in the Senate. But the Senate is on trial, too — to see if it’s capable of fulfilling its constitutional duty to hold a credible impeachment trial. James Madison thought the Supreme Court, not the Senate, should try presidential impeachments. Until now, the other framers’ rejection of Madison’s idea seemed to have been wise. Yet the unprecedented degree of partisanship in Trump’s “trial,” and the possibility that for the first time there will be no witnesses, raises the possibility that the framers’ impeachment design has hit a dead end.

Lawyers say at least 10 Iranian students deported in last year

An Iranian student enrolled at Northeastern University who was deported from Logan Airport on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is hardly the first to end up sent home after arriving here. Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi was deported on Monday night despite a federal judge’s order that he remain in Customs and Border Protection custody and not be deported as his case was being considered…Reihana Emami Arandi, an incoming Harvard Divinity School student, was denied entry in September. She had spent almost four months getting her student visa vetted, with additional security checks. When she was pulled aside at Logan Airport, she was confused…Because she refused to sign the statement prepared by customs officials, Arandi said, she is barred from reentering the US for five years. Her paperwork says that customs agents concluded that she came to the US to stay, not to study…Arandi believes she was deported because she’s Iranian. Since her deportation, Cambridge immigration attorney Susan Church and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic have stepped in to represent her in a federal case, which is pending.