Wilma Liebman, chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, makes little pretense these days of being an impartial arbiter of business-labor disputes. Her pro-unionism now extends to be a major participant in a conference at St. John’s University School of Law that embraces the theme: Not only is business greedy, it’s unchristian too.
The conference, which begins today at noon, is entitled, “The Theology of Work and the Dignity of Workers Conference.” The materials embrace the usual “social justice” themes of the Catholic left, i.e., workers are oppressed and government should redistribute wealth. The conference chairman, David L. Gregory, executive director of the Center for Labor and Employment Law, writes in his opening message:
The Dignity of Workers seems self-evident; that is, does anyone seriously argue against the Dignity of Workers? Yet, President Obama says that unions are “under assault.” Wage and hour claims proliferate. Millions of workers are not paid their just wages. Structural underfunded public sector pensions threaten to bankrupt state governments, and to leave public sector workers and retirees bereft. The minimum wage is insufficient, and the living wage initiative has had a fitful contemporary history.
The organizers identify conference themes through a series of quotations from prominent theological thinkers, Pope Leo XIII, Pope Benedict XVI, Mick Jagger and Billy Bragg.
One typical session is “Employers, Employees, Unions – Restoring the Common Good.” Panelists include four labor union officials and five professors of theology or law. Not one employer! (Conference agenda)
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, is the keynote speaker Friday.
That a law school is holding a conference dominated by the social and economic theories of the left is standard fare. (See Walter Olson, “Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America.”) This drum-beating is unlikely to help the law students any, but that’s a decision left to administrators and the contributors who pay for the law school’s political agenda.
Our problem is that Chairman Liebman has thrown in with this event, spending her time at an ideologically directed conference instead of maintaining the impartiality and distance required of a quasi-judicial agency like the NLRB. Her major session Saturday is this:
Plenary Panel: The Future of Labor
Moderator: Hon. Wilma Liebman, Chairman, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
•Jack Ahern, President, New York Central Labor Council
•His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop Emeritus, Archdiocese of New York
•Samuel Estreicher, Dwight Opperman Professor of Law; Director, Center for Labor and Employment Law, New York University School of Law
•Michael Fischl, Visiting Professor, Yale Law School
•Lawrence Joseph, Rev. Joseph Tinnelly, C.M., Professor of Law, St. John’s School of Law
•Bob King, President, The United Auto Workers Union (UAW)
•Cynthia Nance, Dean, University of Arkansas School of Law
•Gene Orza, Chief Operating Officer, Major League Baseball Players Association
•Wayne Outten, Founding Partner, Outten & Golden LLP
•Bernie Ricke, President, Local 600, United Auto Workers (UAW)
•Judy Scott, General Counsel, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
•Theodore J. St. Antoine, Dean Emeritus, University of Michigan Law School; Past President, National Academy of Arbitrators
Not one employer!
Later in the day, Liebman introduces a speaker, Samuel Estreicher, executive director of the Center for Labor and Employment Law, New York University School of Law.
It’s not necessarily improper for a government official with adjudicatory duties to speak at a conference. Judges are often featured speakers at events where major issues of the day are addressed. (For example.)
But the effective point of this conference is to take the side of organized labor against business, to provide theological and economic arguments that promote the unions as the primary means of achieving “social justice” in the workplace.
Why in the world would the head of a board that must adjudicate labor-management disputes take part in a conference that will denigrate, if not demonize, one side in these disputes?