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

Graduate Student Organizing - The last decade has seen the explosive growth of graduate and academic worker union organizing.  While tuition reaches historic highs, graduate student employees have faced increased workloads, low salaries, thin to non-existent benefits, and often discouraging job prospects.  Workers at public and private universities have pushed back against these conditions, initiating high impact campaigns across the country.  This evening's panel will bring together student leaders and labor lawyers from these campaigns to discuss the future of graduate worker organizing after the NLRB's high-profile reversal in Columbia University, 364 NLRB No. 90 in 2016, which paved the way for organizing at private universities.

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 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 the health care debate to the Pension Protection Act (solutions versus bailouts) 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 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.

International Trade and Workers' Rights - NAFTA, NAALC, 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 analyze claims about the impact of trade policies on manufacturing jobs. it will examine the laws, treaties, and practices governing international trade, and the extent to which they incorporate or conflict with 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 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. 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 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.  Meanwhile, many American workers are fearful and angry about the economy and direct that anger 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 2017 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.

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 2017 as the players/union members in each sport face their own sets of challenges.

Saturday Afternoon Plenary Session

The closing session of the conference will feature a panel discussion of a current "hot topic" in the labor movement.  Details are still being finalized. Watch our website for further announcements.