United Steelworkers and Peggy Browning Fund - A Close Relationship

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

United Steelworkers (USW) and the Peggy Browning Fund have had a close relationship since the early years of PBF’s existence with USW supporting PBF’s mission to educate and inspire the next generation of advocates for workplace justice. The dedication and excellence of USW’s Legal Department is well-known throughout the Labor Movement. Under the auspices of General Counsels Carl Frankel, Jim English, Paul Whitehead, and now Rich Brean, USW has been a mentor organization in our Summer Fellowship Program since 1999, providing 29 law students with a 10-week opportunity to learn that a career in labor law is a noble calling and a viable occupation.

In 2003, Rich joined PBF’s Advisory Board and subsequently became a member of the Governing Board serving on the Development Committee and Co-Chairing the Regional Workshop Committee. Rich brings real passion to mentoring USW’s Summer Fellows, commenting, “We try to give everyone a real sense of what it means to represent workers, and my greatest joy is helping our Fellows find jobs with union-side firms”. 

His dedication and leadership led to the first Regional Workshop in 2012 held at the University of Pittsburgh and moderated by Rich.  Intended to introduce law students to both the benefits of practicing labor law and PBF’s Summer Fellowship Program, the pilot was a success with 34 students in attendance.  Based on this success, Rich suggested that workshops should be coordinated nationally, leading PBF’s Board to approve 3 more workshops in 2013 and 10 in 2014 at law schools around the country.

In 2010, the Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization made a $100,000 grant to PBF to establish an annual fellowship in perpetuity.  The United Steelworkers’ Fellowship has funded a Peggy Browning Fellow at the CLEAN Car Wash Campaign in Los Angeles since 2011.  CLEAN stands for Community-Labor-Environmental Action Network, a diverse coalition of labor, immigrant rights, community, religious and student organizations that supports the organizing efforts of car wash workers who are fighting for better wages, better working conditions and dignity and respect on the job.  The PBF Fellow helps serve as a link between the campaign’s attorneys, car wash workers and union organizers.  This Fellow participates in both traditional legal work and organizing.  As part of the experience, the Fellow is on the picket line as a participant and legal observer.  The Fellow also represents car wash workers in enforcing the workers’ legal rights in cases of wage theft and filing other claims to enforce their rights.

Over the years, USW has supported PBF’s mission with leadership-level gifts.  Thanks to the remarkable dedication of USW International President Leo W. Gerard who further pledged his support by becoming a PBF Honorary Board member, USW became a member of PBF’s Leadership Circle at the highest level and has continued to maintain that status today.  Additionally, USW has been a loyal supporter of PBF’s National Law Students Workers’ Rights Conferences held in October at the Maritime Institute in Maryland.

Union lawyers are a strong arm of the labor movement.  USW recognizes the importance of molding the next generation of bright, passionate and progressive young lawyers to follow the great generation of union lawyers who now serve the labor movement.  United Steelworkers and PBF are working together to ensure the continuation of this necessary and honorable profession.

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