Almost four years ago, I came to the Labor and Worklife Program here at Harvard Law School, after eight years in the Obama-Biden Administration. Last week, I left LWP to join the Biden-Harris Administration.
In 2017, I thought I knew something of the magnitude of the challenges that were facing American workers. I could not have foreseen how much bigger those challenges would grow during these past four years both as a result of the relentless assault on the interests of workers perpetrated by the Trump Administration and the horror of the pandemic and resulting recession. I am energized and humbled to be joining the new administration, as the Associate Administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, as President Biden and Vice President Harris try to tackle the four concurrent crises facing the nation: COVID, climate, racial justice and the recession.
In my first post for OnLabor in 2017, I shared with you my commitment to continue the core mission of LWP: to take advantage of the unique Harvard University community to bring rigorous, creative and serious problem-solving efforts to meet today’s challenges and prepare for the opportunities of tomorrow for American workers. I am incredibly proud of the work that we’ve done during these four years to meet that mission.
The Clean Slate for Worker Power project epitomizes what I hoped to accomplish at LWP. We brought together a broad array of people who care about empowering workers so that they can demand for themselves a truly equitable American democracy and economy. I hope that we have contributed to fostering a more robust conversation about innovative ways to achieve this goal.
I leave LWP with an enormous sense of gratitude. To put it bluntly, I have loved my time with the program. I’m grateful to so many throughout Harvard – Martha Minow for hiring me before she stepped down as Dean, John Manning for unfailingly supporting LWP during my tenure, Catherine Claypoole who gave me the opportunity to teach a new seminar, Archon Fung and Marshall Ganz who treated me as part of the Ash Center family at the Kennedy School and the wonderful HLS administrative staff – too many to name – who always went above and beyond to help us keep our program running.
I am grateful to the LWP staff who has worked so hard alongside me during these four years. As part of the Clean Slate project alone, we held ten convenings in one year – and no one complained that it was too much. Instead, we rallied together. Even during the uncertainty of the pandemic, the LWP staff kept up our breakneck pace. Together, we unexpectedly put out another major report on Worker Power in the Pandemic Response just a couple of months into the emergency. And I am grateful to all the students who have enriched my HLS experience – both in the classroom and in Clean Slate. I look forward to seeing the next generation of change that you bring to the world.
I am grateful to the literally hundreds of people who have participated in Clean Slate so far and, especially to the approximately 70 who devoted so much time to the project by serving on our working and advisory groups. I can’t wait to see what else Clean Slate produces. I am grateful to the funders that have supported the Clean Slate and the LWP programs. Our program officers have been more than just conduits to the resources we needed. I counted every one of them as partners in our work. Their experience, contacts and ideas made Clean Slate and our other projects better.
I am grateful to my faculty co-director Richard Freeman, who has taught me so much while I’ve been at LWP. It has been a remarkable experience to get even a glimpse into his brilliant, creative and joyful way of tackling the most difficult problems in labor economics.
I don’t have words to express the enormity of my gratitude to my faculty co-director and LWP partner, Benjamin Sachs. I have been lucky throughout my career to have great colleagues. In Ben, I’ve found my definition of the best kind of collaborator – he has made me better at what I do because I’ve had the chance to work with him. He has that rare ability of only the best professors to make you feel both supported and challenged. In that safe space, I know that my own thinking has evolved. I am as proud of our Clean Slate work as anything I’ve done in my career.
And I’m grateful to my husband, who has been so patient with my frenetic work and long commute from DC to Cambridge, which became much longer when the pandemic hit. I look forward to us living in the same city again soon.
In that post four years ago, I shared that I am an optimist by nature and that I always keep a bottle of champagne in my refrigerator because I believe a reason to celebrate will always be right around the corner. Being an optimist has not been easy for much of the past four years. But I will continue to keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge, as I expect to toast successes to come at LWP, which I will watch closely from DC, and the Biden-Harris Administration. Please keep in touch. And when you are in DC, please let me know; we’ll find reasons to celebrate.