On July 21st, Natalie Levine Ortiz, a representative of the recently certified Modern Labor Law Union, signed a collective bargaining agreement governing the details of the final examination she and her fellow bargaining unit members will take for Modern Labor Law in the Public and Private Sectors, a course taught by Professor Susan Bisom-Rapp. The course, which pursued a new approach to Labor Law by covering union organizing and collective bargaining among private sector and government workers, incorporated traditional case analysis, skills-based group assignments, and offered students the possibility of deciding to unionize.
Students very early on during the summer semester launched an organizing campaign. Under the leadership of Ms. Ortiz, Robert Chiusano, and Isaac Dawoodjee, the students gathered sufficient union authorization cards to petition for election. A “government supervised,” secret ballot election was conducted on June 25th with Associate Dean Linda Keller acting first as a representative of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and then resolving issues related to two challenged ballots as the Fictitious Regional Director of the NLRB’s Region 21. A majority of the students voted to unionize. Dean Keller thereafter certified their union as the exclusive bargaining representative for the class.
The next step for the students was bargaining over certain aspects of the final exam. Professor Bisom-Rapp had set as mandatory bargaining subjects two important details of the final exam: 1) whether the exam would be closed or open book; and 2) whether material from several guest lectures was fair game for testing. The students requested recognition of their union and demanded bargaining on those issues.
Bargaining commenced on July 7th, with a bargaining team of Rachel Vogt and Laura Zuniga Rios negotiating for the union, and TJSL General Counsel Karin Sherr serving as Professor Bisom-Rapp’s chief negotiator. A second bargaining session took place on July 14th with a union team comprised of Rachel Vogt, Erin Hayes, and Zachary Miller. Final language was hammered out thereafter and the agreement was signed by Professor Bisom-Rapp and Ms. Ortiz on July 21st.
“I cannot take credit for the idea of allowing Labor Law students to unionize,” said Professor Bisom-Rapp. “That credit belongs to Roberto Corrada, who teaches at Denver University. I know two other labor law professors who take this approach to the course. But I customized the experiential aspects differently than those three colleagues so this is the Bisom-Rapp version, if you like.” The course gave students a chance not only to read about the legal principles of Labor Law but also to experience them in action. Would she allow future Labor Law students to unionize? “Absolutely,” replied Professor Bisom-Rapp.
Group Photo: Front row left to right: Martyn Artizada, Stephen Lizaola, Zachary Miller, Robert Chiusano, Rachel Vogt. Back row left to right: Isaac Dawoodje, Natalie Levine Ortiz, Professor Susan Bisom-Rapp, Erin Hayes, Sandra Ayala, Nar Arzoumanian and TJSL General CounselKarin Sherr