2014 National Conference Well-Received!

Friday, October 31st, 2014

The 16th annual National Law Students Workers’ Rights Conference, held on October 17th & 18th at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, MD, was well-received by students and facilitators alike. 159 students from 93 law schools, including this year’s Peggy Browning Fellows, traveled from around the country to attend.

Soon after their arrival on Friday morning, Peggy Browning Summer Fellows attended the Wrap-Up Luncheon and Workshop where they discussed their fellowship experiences in groups, then summarized some of the highlights and cautions in report-out fashion. Additionally, they provided valuable feedback and suggestions to PBF on how the Summer Fellowship Program could be improved in subsequent years.

 

While our Fellows attended the Wrap-Up Workshop, early-registered law students boarded a bus bound for Capitol Hill and participated in a Congressional Staff Briefing. This lively staff briefing focused on practicing labor law on Capitol Hill, as well as using one’s law degree when doing legislative work. Moderated by Chris Williamson, PBF’09, Labor Counsel for Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, panelists included Michael Kreps, Pension Counsel for the Senate HELP Committee; Joleen Rivera, Legislative Assistant to Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA); and Tony Zaffrini, Senior Legislative Officer in the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs.

 

After Friday’s dinner and networking session, USW General Counsel and PBF Board Member Rich Brean led the Evening Panel & Discussion, aptly titled “Organizing Low-Wage Workers – Innovation in the Face of Desperation.” The panel passionately shared the dilemma of low-wage food service and retail workers, and the efforts being made by union-driven campaigns such as OUR Walmart and the Fast Food Workers Campaign.

 

Saturday morning opened with a Keynote speech delivered by Nancy Schiffer, Member of the National Labor Relations Board. Schiffer talked with the students about how she became a Member of the NLRB, important issues currently being brought before the Board, and the need for committed, motivated lawyers in the labor movement.

 

In Saturday afternoon’s Plenary Session, “Adjunct Faculty Organizing as a Response to Precarious Work,” panelists discussed the decrease of long-term, secure jobs in higher education and how workers and activists are fighting back to secure their jobs in unpredictable work environments. Moderated by University of Maryland professor and PBF Advisory Board member Marley Weiss, the panel focused on their experiences as adjunct faculty, their own efforts and successes in campaigns to organize adjunct faculty, and how these experiences can relate to other fields of work attempting to organize.

 

Throughout Saturday morning and afternoon, students attended their choice of the many workshops the Conference had to offer. The workshops, ranging in topics from basic labor law and employment benefits law to organizing immigrant workers and the effects of globalization, presented students with the opportunity to learn from experts throughout the field.

 

We extend our thanks to the Conference Planning Committee, the many facilitators and panelists who volunteered their time and participation, and our many generous sponsors for helping us make this year’s Conference one of the best we’ve had to date.

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