Labor and Employment Law: Recent, Pending and Potential Changes Conference

On May 13, SMLR’s Labor-Management Conference brought together more than 60 lawyers, human resource practitioners, labor representatives, students, and faculty to discuss recent, pending, and potential changes to labor and employment law. The event featured labor law experts, including SMLR professors, who addressed issues related to labor law enforcement, overtime rule changes, and franchising and joint employment. See more details within our Labor-Management Conference Brochure.

The purpose of the conference is to facilitate a discussion on recent, pending and proposed changes to Labor and Employment Law in the United States. Most of the laws that currently regulate the employment relationship in the United States, like the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, were set forth during the New Deal era.  Their purpose was to establish and to provide certain basic protections for workers against employers’ unfair and abusive labor practices. Today, many agree that the relevancy and appropriateness of these and other labor and employment laws have not kept pace with the realities of the changing nature of work to the point where many U.S. workers lack the basic protections that they need and deserve. 

Topics covered will include franchising and joint employer issues, new developments in labor and employment law, labor law enforcement, pending changes in overtime regulations, and a discussion on what it would take to bring labor and employment laws into the 21st century.

“When contracting, you have to be careful and responsible for labor violations,” said Catherine Ruckelshaus, general counsel and program director of the National Employment Law Project. “You need to know who is responsible as an employer.”

The conference, which was organized by SMLR instructor William Dwyer, underscored the need to bring labor and employment laws into the 21st century. Dean James Hayton gave the closing remarks.

“This conference not only fulfills SMLR’s mission, but it is also a step towards facilitating timely discussions between labor and management around labor law’s evolution,” said Dean Hayton. 

Panelists included:

Cynthia Estlund - Keynote Speaker

"What Would It Take To Bring Labor and Employment Laws Into Line For the 21st Century?"

Cynthia Estlund is the Catherine A. Rein Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law. She is a leading scholar of labor and employment law, and has written extensively on workplace governance and democracy. Her book on Chinese labor unrest and reform, A New Deal for China's Workers?, is forthcoming from Harvard University Press in the fall.  An earlier book, Regoverning the Workplace: From Self-Regulation to Co-Regulation (Yale University Press 2010), chronicles the decline of collective bargaining and the shortcomings of both regulation and litigation, and charts a potential path forward. Her first book, Working Together: How Workplace Bonds Strengthen a Diverse Democracy (Oxford University Press 2003), argues that the workplace is a comparatively diverse site of cooperation and sociability, and explores the implications for democratic theory and for the law of work. Other writings focus on workplace transparency, transnational labor regulation, freedom of speech and procedural fairness at work; and diversity, integration, and affirmative action.

Estlund graduated summa cum laude from Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1978. She then studied government programs for working parents in Sweden as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow. She earned her J.D. at the Yale Law School, where she was a Notes Editor for the Yale Law Journal, before clerking for Judge Patricia M. Wald on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She practiced law for several years, primarily with the labor law firm of Bredhoff & Kaiser, before joining the University of Texas School of Law faculty in 1989. She moved to the Columbia Law School faculty in 1999, where she was the Isidore and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law until her move to NYU in 2006.

Wilma Liebman

President Obama designated Wilma B. Liebman to be Chairman of the NLRB on January 20, 2009. She served as Chairman until August 27, 2011, when her third term expired.  Since then, she has been engaged in various advisory roles and consulting projects and has taught at several universities.  During the 2015-16 academic year, she is serving as a Visiting Distinguished Scholar at Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations.  She has also taught at New York University Law School, Cornell University’s Law School and Industrial and Labor Relations School, the University of Illinois’ College of Law and the School of Labor and Employment Relations, and George Washington University Law School.

Ms. Liebman was first appointed to be a Member of the NLRB by President Clinton and was twice reappointed by President Bush. She was the third longest serving Member of the NLRB in its 77-year history.   Prior to joining the NLRB, Ms. Liebman served for two years as Deputy Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) and for two years as Special Assistant to the Director.   Prior to joining FMCS in January 1994, Ms. Liebman held positions as Labor Counsel for the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen, and Legal Counsel to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. 

She holds an A.B. degree from Barnard College, and a J.D. from George Washington University Law School.  She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Economic Policy Institute, a fellow of The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and the American Law Institute, and a Senior Research Associate of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.  She serves on the Executive Advisory Board of the Cornell Institute for Hospitality Labor and Employment Relations.  And as of May 1, 2014, she has served as Chair of the Dunlop Commission on Agricultural Labor.

Marshall Babson

Marshall Babson is counsel in the Labor & Employment Department in the New York and Washington offices of Seyfarth Shaw LLP. A former Member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Mr. Babson’s practice focuses on all aspects of labor relations, including litigation, counseling and arbitration. His labor experience includes:

• Proceedings before the NLRB, EEOC and U.S. Department of Labor;

• Strategic planning in mergers & acquisitions regarding union and non-union workforces;

• Collective bargaining agreements and negotiations, including strikes and lockouts;

• Labor arbitration;

• Wage and hour, OSHA disputes and personnel matters; and

• Title VII and employment-at-will litigation.

While serving as a member of the NLRB, Mr. Babson participated in many important cases, including John Deklewa & Sons, which set forth new rules for pre-hire agreements in the construction industry, Indiana and Michigan Electric Co., which established guidelines regarding an employer’s duty to arbitrate post-contract expiration grievances, and Fairmont Hotel, a union access case which involved clarifying the balance between private property rights and Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act.  He was also active in the initiation of rulemaking proceedings in the health care industry.

Mr. Babson was called upon to testify before President Clinton’s Dunlop Commission regarding the status of U.S. labor laws and before Congress regarding proposed labor and employment legislation. He recently testified before the U.S. Senate HELP Committee regarding the NLRB General Counsel’s proposed new rule regarding joint employers.

Mr. Babson has been engaged in counseling employers regarding the acquisition, consolidation and reorganization of unionized and nonunionized businesses, the negotiation of international labor agreements, and the renegotiation of several industry collective bargaining agreements.

Mr. Babson is a member of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s public policy law firm, and also serves on the Litigation Center’s Labor Law Advisory Committee.  He is on the Board of Advisors of the Institute for Law and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.  Mr. Babson is a Founding Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, and Chambers USA recognizes him as a leader in labor and employment law, noting that he is “one of the deans of the traditional labor law bar” and "has an encyclopedicknowledge of labor law."  

Catherine Ruckelshaus

Cathy Ruckelshaus joined the National Employment Law Project in 1995, after working for the Employment Law Center in San Francisco.  For over 20 years, she has litigated and advocated for policy reforms promoting the workplace rights of immigrant and non-standard workers (part-time, temporary and subcontracted workers), enforcement of wage and hour and workplace laws, and anti-discrimination and family and medical leave laws.  She has litigated class action lawsuits in state and federal court and authored several amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Courts of Appeal.  In 2003, she was honored by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York for successfully litigating on behalf of New York City’s immigrant workers, and in 1989 she was a Skadden Fellow.

Cathy holds a B.A. from Princeton University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School 

Tamara Lee

Tamara L. Lee is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University, a M.S. in Industrial Relations from Loyola University-Chicago and a J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. She most recently received her M.S. in Industrial Relations from Cornell University where she is currently completing her Ph.D. in Labor Relations, Law and History at the ILR School. Her dissertation explores worker participation during contemporary political and economic transformation in Cuba. 

As a professional, she served 8 years as a Board Agent in the Chicago Regional Office of the NLRB, and most recently served on the staffs of two NLRB Chairmen: Wilma Liebman and Mark Pearce.  She is the co-author of several papers, including “Public Sector Unions Under Siege: Solidarity in the Fight Back” with Richard W. Hurd and “Immigration Advocacy as Labor Advocacy” with Kati L. Griffith.  She was most recently a contributor to the New York Times Opinion Section on the topic of the Board’s 2015 decision in Browning-Ferris. Her current work explores comparative solidarity and social movements, as well as labor education and transformative union leadership in Cuban industrial relations.

Carla Katz

Carla A. Katz, Esq. is an instructor with the School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) at Rutgers University in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, where she teaches labor studies and labor and employment law. Prior to joining the faculty full-time, Ms. Katz taught at SMLR as a Visiting Lecturer for more than 12 years, teaching courses in Collective Bargaining, Union Organizing, Women and Work and Occupational Safety and Health among others.

Ms. Katz is also an attorney with the law firm of Cohen Placitella Roth PC in Red Bank, NJ. Prior to joining the firm, she was an attorney with Fox and Fox LLP in Livingston, NJ. Her legal practice is primarily focused on labor and employment law representing unions and employees. She works closely with New Jersey's firefighters and other public employees.

Ms. Katz has a long history of representation of union members and workers, including nine years as the elected president of the Communications Workers of America, Local 1034. Additionally, Ms. Katz was appointed Commissioner of the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission and served from 2002 to 2006.

Ms. Katz is admitted to practice law in New Jersey. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Seton Hall School of Law. Ms. Katz earned both her Masters and Bachelor’s degrees from Rutgers University in Labor and Employment Relations and Labor Studies.  She also writes and lectures on politics, power, and on a broad spectrum of issues affecting working women and men.

James M. Cooney

James M. Cooney teaches “Employment Law,” “Immigration Law & Employee Rights,” and “Employment Discrimination Law” courses, along with certificate program courses for human resource, labor relations, and union representatives through Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations. 

Previously, Mr. Cooney worked as an attorney with Weissman & Mintz LLC; an associate with Apruzzese, McDermott, et al.; and served as a trial attorney with the National Labor Relations Board, Contempt Litigation Branch. He is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, Florida, and the District of Columbia.

Mr. Cooney serves as a neutral labor arbitrator and mediator. He is on the grievance arbitration rosters of the American Arbitration Association, N.J. Public Employment Relations Commission, N.J. State Board of Mediation, and Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation. In addition, Mr. Cooney serves on the N.J. Superior Court Roster of Civil Mediators, focusing on mediation of employment law and civil rights cases.    

James holds a B.A. from Rutgers University and a J.D. from the School of Law, University of Miami.  

David Leach

Attorney David E. Leach serves as Regional Director of the NLRB’s Regional Office in Newark, NJ (Region 22). Mr. Leach is responsible for enforcement of the nation’s primary labor law covering private sector employees in northern and central New Jersey.

Mr. Leach is a graduate of Cathedral College, Douglaston, New York, where he majored in History. Following graduation from Brooklyn Law School, he joined the NLRB in 1976 as a Field Attorney in the New York Regional Office and has worked there continuously since that time. In 1984, he was promoted to Supervisory Attorney.  In 1988, Mr. Leach was appointed as a Deputy Regional Attorney and in 2012 he was promoted to his most recent position of Regional Attorney.  Since 1985, Mr. Leach has been a Senior Lecturer at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and since 2001 he has been an Adjunct Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School.

Jonathan Cohen

Jonathan F. Cohen is a founding partner in the law firm of Plosia Cohen LLC.  He is a dual graduate of Boston University Schools of Law and Public Health.  Since joining a prestigious management-side labor boutique law firm after completing a clerkship at Essex County Superior Court, he has successfully represented clients before all New Jersey State and Federal courts and many administrative agencies.  An accomplished appellate advocate, Cohen argued a case of statewide import before the New Jersey Supreme Court regarding the scope of negotiations in the public sector.  Based on these successes, he has been recognized as a “Rising Star” in the New Jersey Monthly “Super Lawyer” Edition.  Cohen regularly speaks and publishes articles regarding cutting edge labor and employment issues, including in New Jersey Business Magazine, New Jersey State Bar Association Labor & Employment Quarterly and the firm’s Client Alerts.  Mr. Cohen is also a Contributing Editor to the Sixth Edition of The Developing Labor Law (and each Supplement since 2008), which is published by Bloomberg-BNA and the American Bar Association and is recognized as the seminal treatise on federal labor law.  He serves on several professional boards and committees, including as Chapter Secretary of the New Jersey Labor Employment Relations Association (NJLERA), as a member of the NLRB Region 22 Practice & Procedure Committee, the Essex County Civil Bench-Bar Executive Committee, and NJ State Bar Association School Law Committee.  When not practicing law, Cohen devotes time as a judge in intercollegiate and high school mock trial competitions, including at Yale University and the Vincent J. Apruzzese Mock Trial Tournament.

Janice Fine

Janice Fine holds a Ph.D. from MIT in Political Science and is Associate Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at the School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University, where she teaches and writes about low wage immigrant labor in the U.S., historical and contemporary debates regarding federal immigration policy, dilemmas of labor standards enforcement and innovative union and community organizing strategies.

Fine is faculty coordinator of the Program on Immigration and Democracy at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, where she is a principal investigator of the Rutgers Immigrant Infrastructure Map (RIIM), a cross-disciplinary, applied research project that studies the role of immigrant organizations and immigrant infrastructures in New Jersey and the consequences of variation across place for immigrant integration. She is also a member of the graduate faculty in Political Science as well as the Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies at Rutgers.

Fine’s ground-breaking book, Worker Centers: Organizing Communities at the Edge of the Dream, was released in January of 2006 by Cornell University Press and the Economic Policy Institute. Recent articles include “Immigration and the Transformation of American Unionism” ( with Brian Burgoon, Wade Jacoby and Daniel J. Tichenor) in International Migration Review, “When the Rubber Hit the High Road: Labor and Community Complexities in the Greening of the Garden State” in Labor Studies Journal, “Strengthening Labor Standards Enforcement through Partnerships with Workers Organizations” (with Jennifer Gordon) in Politics&Society, “A Movement Wrestling: American Labor’s Enduring Struggle with Immigration 1866-2007” in Studies in American Political Development (with Daniel J. Tichenor) and “Why Labor Needs a Plan B” in New Labor Forum. Fine has also written for the Boston Globe, the New Jersey Star Ledger, the Nation, and the Boston Review. She has been a guest commentator on All Things Considered, and appeared on the Lou Dobbs Show.

In 2008, Fine was appointed by former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine to the state Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy, where she helped formulate recommendations on a range of issues, including strategies to strengthen labor standards enforcement as well as establishing a Commission on New Americans. Prior to coming to Rutgers in 2005, Fine worked as a community, labor, and electoral organizer for more than 25 years.