Annual labor conference addresses challenges to collective bargaining

The 65th Annual Labor Conference, hosted by Professor Samuel Estreicher's Center for Labor and Employment Law and cosponsored with Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and St. John’s University School of Law, brought together leading government officials, union, management, and employee-side lawyers and human resources professionals to discuss challenges to collective bargaining. 

The private sector was the focus of the first day of the conference, which started out with a keynote address by Mark Pearce, chairman of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), who discussed issues that the NLRB has recently addressed, from bargaining unit community of interest standards to mandatory arbitration provisions which prohibit class action grievances. "The public continues to depend on this agency to protect their jobs," Pearce said. "And when workers experience the personal devastation of layoffs, terminations, or denials of unemployment as a result of unfair labor practices, we are the agency that puts people back to work... and this is what we've been doing for 77 years." The day also included a spirited discussion of the Boeing litigation between Bill Kilberg, who litigated the case, and labor law experts Michael Harper and David Sherwyn, as well as a luncheon address by Lafe Solomon, NLRB acting general counsel, who spoke about ongoing cases and the future of the NLRB.

The second day of the Conference focused on issues in the public sector, addressing whether public sector employees are overpaid, what the challenges are for public sector management, and how public pension plans should think about their funding obligations. Sharon Block, who returned as a board member of the NLRB in January 2012 after serving as deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor, opened the day with a discussion of her career in labor law. "I became a labor lawyer for the simple reason that work matters. We see this on macro scale this year as the jobs issue dominates the presidential campaign, but what motivated me is how profoundly work matters on the micro, or the individual level," Block said. "If you're not treated fairly and with dignity in the workplace, it's hard at the end of your sojourn on earth to feel that you had a good life. So to me, that's why it's worth fighting to ensure that workers have a voice and that their basic rights are protected at work." Adam Greene, U.S. council for international business, later gave a luncheon address on labor rights in the International Labor Organization.

Watch the full video of Mark Pearce's Keynote Address (50 min):

Watch the full video of Lafe Solomon's Luncheon Address (38 min):

Watch the full video of Sharon Block's Keynote Address (40 min):

Watch the full video of Adam Greene's Luncheon Address (49 min):

Posted June 15, 2012