Three Rutgers Law students have been awarded Peggy Browning Fellowships that will place them in 10-week summer positions at national organizations committed to social and economic justice. In 2016, the Peggy Browning Fund will support 70 public interest labor law fellowships nationwide, chosen from more than 325 applicants.
Barret Claunch, a second-year student at Rutgers Law School’s Camden location, William Campbell, a first-year student at Rutgers Law School’s Newark location, and Julian Krol, a second-year student also at Newark, have been selected for this distinction from a highly competitive process. Claunch will spend the fellowship working at Mehri & Skalet, PLLC in Washington, D.C., Campbell has been placed in Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union No. 19 in Philadelphia, and Krol will spend the summer at District Lodge 15, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO in New York City.According to Claunch, who hails from Seattle, in an age of globalization, free trade policies, and increased shareholder influence on corporations, employers are under tremendous pressure to cut costs, often resulting in shortcuts, cutting jobs, and short-changing their workers.
“I wish to defend the rights of employees who have been wronged by their employer,” he says. “Employment is essential to a person’s life, and when it is taken away unjustly it can be devastating, leading to homelessness, tax payer subsidies, and poverty. These consequences exact a high toll not only on individuals, but also on society at large.”
Claunch, who has volunteered with several pro bono initiatives at Rutgers Law, including Youth Court, Street Law, and the Voters’ Rights Project, says that working at Mehri & Skalet fits perfectly within his goal of helping employees achieve justice for wrongful acts perpetrated by their employers.
“Mehri & Skalet is unique in the fact that it is a public interest oriented private firm, meaning it takes on lawsuits on behalf of the common consumer against major corporations,” says Claunch of the firm, which represented a class action against Coca-Cola alleging racial discrimination. That $192 million settlement was the largest race employment discrimination class action settlement in the nation’s history.
“Gaining experience at a private firm which is able to take on any case it chooses without restriction, as well as one equipped with more resources than legal aid organizations, will expose me to clients with more diverse backgrounds while also introducing me to broader areas of the law,” he says. “This experience will be invaluable to my legal career as a whole, allowing me to be a better advocate for my future clients, and I am very excited to begin my Peggy Browning Fellowship at Mehri & Skalet this summer.”Campell is drawn to labor law because of how the American middle class has experienced wage stagnation and rising unemployment.
“The only viable way employees have ever successfully brought constructive change to their standard of living is through collective action and organizing,” he says. “Workers need dedicated advocates to fight for their rights and I know that I can be an effective part of the Labor Movement.”
What first led Campbell to pursue this area of law is his witnessing one of his high school teachers crying with a pink slip in her hand. “I knew there was something inherently wrong when lower taxes for the wealthy were valued above a dedicated teacher,” he recalls. “My commitment to workers’ rights stems in large part from that experience.”
Campbell, who received his B.A. in labor studies from Rutgers as well as a master’s in labor and employment relations from the School of Management and Labor Relations, is the grandson of two union workers, one having been killed on the job in an accident. “His union supported my family through that difficult time and helped ensure financial security for my grandmother.”
“I am incredibly excited to work at Local 19 this summer because it will be with a very active union with proven success in organizing and fighting for their members,” says Campbell. “I hope to gain valuable experience working with Local 19’s attorneys to enforce contracts and hone in on the bad actors in the industry that violate labor laws. I will also gain experience in learning the nuts and bolts of a trade union’s operations that I hope to build further in the future.”Krol, who earned his undergraduate degree in Labor Studies and Employment Relations from Rutgers School of Management, says his interest in labor law was strengthened during his two recent internships with the New York State United Teachers Office of General Counsel and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He is greatly appreciative to be a Peggy Browning Fellow this summer.
"I'm excited to perfom research of labor-related issues, mediation, and arbitration. I'm also excited to be able to take part on negotiations of collective bargaining agreements," he says. "I hope to gain even more knowledge and experience in the field of Labor Law. I'm also exctied to help union workers understand their rights and assist them with their grievances."
According to Susan Feathers, director of public interest and pro bono at Rutgers Law School’s Newark location, the institution has a strong tradition of placing law students within this competitive program.
In November, the Peggy Browning Fund hosted a panel titled, “Educating Law Students on the Rights and Needs of Workers,” with speakers Gwynne Wilcox, partner at Levy Ratner, Claude Hersh, assistant general counsel of the New York State United Teachers, and Rutgers Law Professor James Pope.
Based in Philadelphia, the Peggy Browning Fund is a not-for-profit organization established in memory of Margaret A. Browning, a prominent union-side attorney who was a member of the National Labor Relations Board. Peggy Browning Fellowships provide law students with unique, diverse and challenging work experiences fighting for social and economic justice.