At the Conference
Friday Evening Program
Details to be announced.
In interactive workshops, participants will discuss a variety of issues affecting workers' rights. We aim to offer encouragement to law students already committed to workers' rights and to inform students not currently committed to these interests. We hope that as they become leaders in their communities they will bring an appreciation of workers' rights issues to their work as lawyers and community leaders.
Workshops are designed and led by labor practitioners, law professors, government administrators, labor representatives, and organizers. They are structured to maximize student interaction and involvement.
Every attendee will be able to participate in three workshops during the conference. Students will be assigned to workshops according to their stated preferences to the extent possible. Two sessions of some of the morning workshops will be offered simultaneously and then repeated.
Saturday Morning Workshops
Employee Benefits Law: What Do I Need to Know and Why Do I Need to Know About It? - Employee benefits, including health care and retirement benefits, are of paramount importance to workers. Every day, issues regarding employee benefits are in the news, from “Obamacare” to the Pension Protection Act and beyond. Yet many law schools offer little to no coursework in employee benefits law and students committed to workers’ rights may not have the opportunity to learn about these issues and this area of law. In this workshop we will provide an overview of the basic concepts of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and related laws, the issues facing workers regarding employee benefits as well as a discussion regarding the types of careers a student could pursue in employee benefits law.
International Trade and Workers' Rights - TPP, TTIP, WTO, CSR, global value chains - jargon that turns into cannon fodder for presidential election candidates, but has meant devastation for many communities. So-called free trade agreements have allowed goods and, increasingly, services, to move freely across borders, leading to the creation of global supply chains. Free movement of capital has permitted multinational corporations to place workers into competition with each other around the world, and to pressure governments into a regulatory "race to the bottom." Investor protection provisions have allowed foreigh investors to challenge enhanced labor, environmental, and other social legislation by alleging the international trade equivalent of a "regulatory taking." This workshop will consider whether the intensified international trade and extensive multinational supply chains that are at the heart of globalization improve or undermine the economic, political and social position of working people, in the U.S. as well as in other developed, developing and least developed countries. it will examine the laws, treaties, and practices governing international trade, and the extent to which they incorporate or conflict with international and domestic workers' rights. it also will address the possibilities for international labor rights and labor movement mobilization to ameliorate some of the harsh disruptive effects of globalization.
Introduction to Basic Labor Law - In this workshop we will provide an overview of the basic concepts of labor law, focusing on the National Labor Relations Act, its primary purposes, its structure, and its administration by the National Labor Relations Board, with a little bit of labor law history thrown in for good measure. There is no way to cover all of labor law in an hour and a quarter, so this will only be a brief summary of the major concepts. Because this workshop covers some of the basics of Labor Law, it is not recommended for those students who have taken or are currently taking an introductory Labor Law course.
Immigrants' Rights Are Workers' Rights: Protecting and Organizing Immigrant Workers - The labor movement and the fight to protect workers' rights now more than ever revolve around immigrants' rights, while the success of protecting and sustaining immigrants' rights depends upon workplace and labor organizing. Wages continue to fall, work hours continue to rise, and workplace conditions continue to deteriorate into dangerous conditions while entire industries exploit the cultural barriers, language barriers, anonymity and fear inherent in an undocumented workforce. The globalization of world economies has inevitably sent world labor markets on the move, with immigration levels in the United States at record highs. Employers resist any changes or laws that will stop the system of maximizing profits by exploiting immigrant workers. They especially resist the efforts of immigrant workers to join unions or enforce existing workplace protection laws. Meanwhile, many American workers are fearful and angry about the economy and turn their rage on immigrant scapegoats. This workshop will give an overview of the challenges that immigrant workers face when they attempt to form a union or enforce other labor rights. The workshop will also discuss legal, policy, legislative and grass-roots strategies for overcoming those challenges.
Public Sector Labor Law - Public sector workers, employed by cities, towns, school boards, states and other public entities, work under a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction legal system that offers twists and turns not always found in the private sector. Meanwhile, attacks on teachers, other public workers and independent providers in a host of states and in the Supreme Court have neightened attention to public sector labor law in recent years. This workshop will provide an overview of public sector labor law and how it differs from private sector law; discuss the types of attacks that conservative legislatures and governors have undertaken against public sector unions; and highlight the new and creative ways organizing is happening in the public sphere and the litigation strategies and efforts to fight back against attacks.
The Rewards of Labor Law Practice - Representing unions and workers as a lawyer in 2016 is an often rewarding, sometimes frustrating endeavor: rarely has the work been more important, but rarely has the deck been so stacked against us. The Obama NLRB has made progress in protecting workers' rights, but the possibility of meaningful labor law reform seems a long way off. Meanwhile, the anti-union backlash in state capitols has presented both new challenges and, many would argue, new opportunities. Regardless of what the immediate future holds, a career in labor law gives socially conscious lawyers an almost unmatched opportunity to make a real and positive contribution in a way that both improves and empowers workers' lives. Unfortunately, however, it is a notoriously tough field to break into. In this workshop, practicing lawyers from a variety of labor positions will briefly offer their perspectives on working and practicing law in and for the labor movement, and on the positives and negatives of such a practice and the lifestyle that goes with it. The lawyers will also offer suggestions on how law students might best go about seeking a union, government or plaintiff-side job. Students should bring with them questions of general interest about job-seeking, about resume-building, and about the life of a labor lawyer.
Saturday Afternoon Workshops
Employee Benefits Law: What Do I Need to Know and Why Do I Need to Know About It? - See description above.
International Trade and Workers' Rights - See description above.
Introduction to Basic Labor Law - See description above.
Public Sector Labor Law - See description above.
Sports and Labor Law - The unions representing professional athletes are some of the most visible and controversial in the labor movement. How they act, and how successful they are, have a disproportionate impact on the public's perception of unions in this country. Labor lawyers for these unions deal with both bread-and-butter collective bargaining issues - grievances and arbitrations, discipline, health and safety - and also more topical issues that cut across legal disciplines such as drug testing, antitrust, and intellectual property. This workshop will feature labor lawyers from some of the main sports unions who will discuss their positions, their work and their perspectives and will give students some insights into what's going on in 2015 as the union members in each sport face their own sets of challenges.
Saturday Afternoon Plenary Session
Organizing Workers in the Gig Economy - From Uber to Handy to Mechanical Turk, it is no secret that more workers are finding jobs in the gig economy. New digital platforms have joined an existing landscape of casual "gig" work traditionally obtained through temporary agencies, street corner day labor hiring, and other forms of informal or less-formal hiring. Workers who seek to organize or even enforce their basic rights in the gig economy face significant organizational and legal challenges. Decentralized hiring through digital platforms may prevent workers from interacting with others doing the same work. Workers may be submect to retaliation through "deactivation" from the platform if they complain. Workers are frequently characterized as "independent contractors" rather than employees, calling into question whether they are covered by labor and employment laws at all.
This panel, consisting of lawyers and organizers from the front-line of gig worker organizing efforts, will describe these challenges and explain how gig workers are nevertheless coming together to build unions and similar organizations to achieve power and voice on the job.