At the Conference

Friday Networking Dinner

The opening-night networking dinner and program is always one of the highest-rated sessions at our annual conferences.  This is a chance to network with other law students and labor law professionals who are interested in advocating for workers' rights.  It's a chance to discuss current hot topics in labor law.  It will set the stage for other conference sessions covering issues related to workers' rights.

Friday Evening Program

Bolder Than Ever: How Innovative Union Organizing is Transforming the Labor Movement

According to a recent Gallup poll, sixty-seven percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 support unions, the highest percentage of any adult age group. While support for unions continues to rise in recent years, a transforming workforce, challenging legal landscape, and stagnant wages require creativity and innovation in union organizing. This panel will explore recent union organizing campaigns and victories and the role of labor lawyers in areas of the economy not traditionally associated with unions, including fast food, online news, and healthcare. Come learn how unions are successfully organizing in the modern economy by addressing the rapidly changing needs of today's workforce.

Moderator: Jonnee Bentley, Associate General Counsel and Counsel to the Fight for $15 and a Union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Panelists:
Cecilia Behgam, Research Analyst, AFL-CIO, addressing the National Nurses United (NNU) Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore, MD) RN organizing campaign

Stephanie Basile, New Unit Organizing Coordinator, The NewsGuild - Communications Workers of America (TNG-CWA)
 

Keynote Address and Peter Mitchell Labor Law Lecture, sponsored by IUE-CWA

Saturday morning's program will open with a keynote address/labor law lecture from Sharon Block, Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and a Lecturer on Law there.  The Labor and Worklife Progam is Harvard's forum for research and teaching on the world of work and its implications for society.  Located at Harvard Law School, the LWP brings together scholars and policy experts from a variety of disciplines to anlayze critical labor issues in the law, economy and society. Formerly Ms. Block was the head of the Policy Office at the U.S. Department of Labor and Senior Counselor to Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.

This is the second year that the IUE-CWA has sponsored this lecture, in honor of Peter Mitchell, who served as IUE-CWA's General Counsel for more than 30 years.

Saturday Workshops

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 and inspire 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.

The following workshops will be offered:

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 and at the bargaining table. 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 addition, there are many union-side law firms and union-sponsored benefits looking for dedicated employee benefit lawyers, and there is a very limited pool of candidates looking for jobs as union-side employee benefit lawyers or other legal jobs protecting workers’ benefits. In this workshop we will provide a basic overview of the Employee 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.

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 for workers’ rights now more than ever revolve around immigrants’ rights, while the effort to protect the rights of immigrants frequently 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 and language barriers, anonymity and fear inherent in an undocumented workforce. Employers resist any changes that would 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. Those efforts are made more difficult by the fear felt by many immigrant workers that standing up publicly to organize or reporting unpaid wages, sexual harassment, or unsafe working conditions to a government agency could lead to an enforcement action by ICE. This workshop will give an overview of the challenges that immigrant workers face when they attempt to form a union or enforce other workplace rights. The workshop will also discuss legal, policy, legislative and grass-roots strategies for overcoming those challenges and protecting immigrant workers who take steps to exercise or enforce their workplace rights.

Litigating for Labor Unions in the Public Interest - This workshop will discuss recent affirmative and defensive litigation by and against labor unions, and will feature outside and in house union counsel, who will give their perspectives on representing labor unions in public interest litigation. The attorneys will discuss recent cases, including cases against the federal government, which attempt to halt unlawful Executive Orders and other actions rolling back protections for workers and immigrants. The workshop will also discuss defending the labor movement against politically-motivated attacks that have been filed all across the country in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2018 Janus decision. The workshop will discuss the wide range of public interest cases involving unions, from voting rights to environmental claims, that go beyond traditional labor law issues. Finally, the attorneys will share their perspectives representing the movement in litigation as both outside counsel at a private firm and as in-house counsel at a union.

Public Sector Labor Law - Public sector workers, employed by the federal government, 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, federal employees, other public workers and independent providers in a host of states and in the Supreme Court (including the Janus case) have heightened 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 the Trump administration, 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 other efforts to fight back against attacks.

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 2019 as the players/union members in each sport face their own sets of challenges.

The Rewards of Labor Law Practice  - Representing unions and workers as a lawyer in 2019 is an often rewarding, sometimes frustrating endeavor: rarely has the work been more important, but rarely has the deck been so stacked against us.  Progress has been made in protecting workers’ rights, but the possibility always exists for much of it to be undone.  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.

Trade and Labor - Complementary or Antagonistic: New Models for Fair as Opposed to Free Trade - For decades, the labor movement has fought the dominant, neoliberal model of free trade. Its claimed improved business efficiency and lower prices have come at the cost of exporting workers’ jobs and undermining their union representation. Trade has put workers into labor cost competition with each other around the globe. U.S. workers’ real wages have been stagnant or declining throughout the free trade era. National labor standards and their enforcement have been weakened as governments have been pressured into regulatory competition while seeking increased foreign direct investment. The current U.S. administration, however, has thrown the free trade agreement (FTA) bandwagon into disarray. Emerging new FTA models could render trade more supportive of workers’ rights and interests. On the other hand, abrupt swings in policy jeopardize existing supply chains, threatening workers’ jobs in many countries. This workshop will examine prior FTA models, emerging approaches, and their effects on workers and on labor rights.

Saturday Afternoon Plenary Session

Building Worker Power with Creative Organizing Strategies - Before labor laws were passed in this country, workers organized to build power.  Despite having no protections against retaliation or accepted pathways towards forming a union, workers demanded worksite change and lifted standards across industries.  Similar worker organizing efforts in recent years have resulted in new policies extending rights to workers and new methods of improving working conditions.  Come hear about campaigns and strategies that workers in non-union industries have developed to build worker power.