By Rane Casalegno
In October, Melissa Lewis and I were fortunate to be able to attend the National Workers’ Rights Conference at the National labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland. The primary purpose of the conference was to educate law students about legal issues facing American workers and to provide networking opportunities unavailable elsewhere. We are extremely grateful to both Thomas Jefferson and The Peggy Browning Fund for providing generous financial assistance, without which we would have been unable to attend the conference
The issues addressed at the conference included an Introduction to Labor Law, Sports Law, Organizing Excluded Workers, and Immigrants’ Rights. I particularly enjoyed the format of the conference. The panels were not lectures, they were discussions. Students were able to ask questions and share challenges they have faced in internships. The passion and creativity of the panelists was truly inspiring.
The keynote speaker was Elizabeth “Liz” Shuler, the first woman ever elected as Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Her zeal and dedication energized the room as she spoke of current issues facing the labor movement. She addressed the recent laws passed in Wisconsin and Ohio, which significantly weaken collective bargaining rights of unions, and the AFL-CIO’s response to the laws. Students were ready with tough questions that stimulated discussion.
After attending the conference, we came away with a broader knowledge of the issues facing workers today and a strengthened inspiration to stand up for workers’ rights. We met interesting and knowledgeable people, both students and professionals. The panelists were approachable, friendly and genuinely wanted to help students find rewarding careers defending workers’ rights.
Beyond the substance of the conference, being in Maryland in October made the trip an experience we will not soon forget. Given the compelling stories I heard during the Conference, I personally felt that action and further edification on my part is the least I can do. Coming away from that informative and exciting weekend, I plan on looking into areas where I can benefit those that need and deserve my advocacy. We want to extend our sincerest gratitude to the panel who selected Melissa and me, including Professor Susan Bisom-Rapp and Professor Rebecca Lee for providing this incredible experience.