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

The Peter Mitchell Labor Law Lecture - Sponsored by IUE-CWA, in honor of Peter Mitchell, who served as IUE-CWA's General Counsel for more than 30 years. A presentation by a prestigious labor law professor on a timely workers' rights topic, followed by a lively discussion with attendees.  Further details to be announced.

This year's lecturer: Ruben J. Garcia
                                Associate Dean, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law
                                Co-Director of the UNLV Workplace Law Program
                                UNLV Professor of Law

Keynote Speaker

Saturday morning's program will open with remarks from keynote speaker Kenneth E. Rigmaiden, General President of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, AFL-CIO.

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:

Disempowering Workers through Voter Suppression: The Fight to Protect the Right to Vote - Unions have spent decades engaged in important work organizing voters across the country through voter registration drives and other get out the vote efforts. In addition to rallying voter turn-out and encouraging voter registration, labor unions also have played a very important role in protecting the right to vote against ongoing efforts to suppress and restrict that right, particularly for working people. Unions have brought lawsuits on behalf of their members enjoining states from enforcing overly-restrictive voting laws and applying those laws in a discriminatory manner. Union members who are directly impacted by decisions at the local, county, and state level are often the first to learn, and raise the alert, regarding oppressive tactics that make voting more difficult. Unions and their lawyers have joined together with other organizations from the civil rights movement to fight these battles across the country. This workshop will give an overview of recent efforts to defend this fundamental right, and will discuss the legal and political strategies in the ongoing battle against voter suppression.

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 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.

Fighting Back - The World after Janus - Attacks on public workers from hostile litigation in the federal courts and a host of state legislatures 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 conservative legislatures and governors have undertaken against public sector unions, and introduce students to one of the most important public sector labor law issues facing the labor movement - the Janus case and what it means for representation of public sector workers. The workshop will highlight the litigation strategies and efforts to fight back against these attacks. Labor lawyers and organizers from labor organizations on the front lines of these battles will share their insight and experiences from practicing public sector labor law in this hostile environment.

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.

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 2018 as the players/union members in each sport face their own sets of challenges.

Teachers' Uprising - In the spring of 2018, teachers across the nation participated in powerful mass demonstrations. Sparked by teachers in West Virginia who were fed up with low pay and a severe deficit of funding for public education, teachers organized, mobilized, and secured significant victories. This workshop will feature an organizer and lawyer from the American Federation of Teachers in conversation with students about the inspiring teacher actions, how they came about, what teachers have already achieved, and what is to come. The workshop will also address the legal issues implicated by the teacher demonstrations, including the right to strike and constitutional implications of collective action.

The Rewards of Labor Law Practice  - Representing unions and workers as a lawyer in 2018 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:  #MeToo Forum
Union Efforts to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The #MeToo movement has shed much-needed light on the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Unions and union lawyers have been at the forefront of responding to this crisis. A hotel workers' union in Chicago led the groundbreaking "Hands Off, Pants On" movement to successfully enact a city ordinance requiring panic buttons in hotel rooms and other protections for a predominantly female hotel workforce especially vulnerable to harassment and assault. Unions in a range of other industries have addressed the issue through organizing, collective bargaining, and training for union representatives and members. This panel will explore all aspects of the labor movement's efforts to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the workplace and the important role played by union lawyers in assisting union leaders and members in this fight.