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Conn or Jackson Lewis: who is responsible for the faculty will clause?

During the lecture The college voice article surrounding the recent realization of bad faith or administrative negligence regarding tenure-track faculty contracts over the past few years, I came across the name Jackson Lewis. This “union-busting” law firm asked me about our institution’s priorities for its employees. After extensive research and interviews with members of our community, I have tried to understand Jackson Lewis and his relationship with Connecticut College.

Jackson Lewis is one of the oldest and largest law firms specializing in union avoidance. Jackson Lewis joins Littler Mendelson and Ogletree, one of the world’s largest union-avoidance giants in business today. Union-busting companies like these “advise companies to treat unions like a ‘virus’ and to ‘inoculate’ employees with messages about the alleged consequences of early and frequent organizing.” The 4C’s, an activist organization of 4,000 higher education workers in Connecticut, believes:

“Companies like Jackson Lewis seek to destroy unions across the United States and lower standards for all workers. They allow large employers across the country to pay poverty wages to their workers. Their actions and industry are actively hurting students at community colleges and universities in CT and across the country. They lead to the destruction of the middle class. They are the enemy of any person or organization committed to racial, gender and economic justice.

Other colleges, universities and individuals have raised concerns about company practices that align with the spirit of this stark assertion. Professor John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University and visiting scholar at the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center, shared his views in an interview after several higher education institutions hired Jackson Lewis to fight unionization among their faculty: “You don’t hire Jackson Lewis if you want a union agreement or if you want to respect the right of your employees to unionize. You hire them for their hardball tactics. He goes on to say, “The university will claim it’s just legal process and Jackson Lewis is well regarded, but it’s absolutely clear that most of the time when you hire Jackson Lewis, it’s ‘is for taking a hard line’, and Jackson Lewis is not the company you hire if you have a budget in mind.

According to Professor David Correia, Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of New Mexico: “As universities like UNM continue to divest from the academic mission, the state-funded union busting gets a blank cheque.” Some claim the company engages in borderline, if not outright, illegal practices as part of its “tough tactics” against employee rights. Federal officials had accused the company of committing 120 labor violations in its anti-union efforts, including firing union supporters, illegally assisting in decertification drives, firing supervisors reluctant to carry out illegal activities , the abusive withdrawal of union recognition and the relocation of companies to non-unionized sites. in retaliation.

While all of this is of concern to the company as a whole, the most relevant question for our community is how Connecticut College works with Jackson Lewis and whether their involvement with them runs counter to our values ​​of governance and of shared justice. To dive into this question, I reached out to faculty, staff, and administrators. The professors I corresponded with, Professors Jafar and Rotremel, raised concerns about the College’s involvement with the company given their history, but knew few details about what the company is doing for the company. ‘school. The staff I contacted, Cheryl Banker, also knew little about the relationship. The most fruitful information I obtained was during my conversation with President Bergeron and the new vice-president of human resources, Reginald White. The key details that emerged from these conversations complete the picture somewhat. According to the President, the College hired Jackson Lewis about 15 years ago on the advice of their insurance and it is financially feasible. This was before one of our current senior administrators worked for Connecticut College. The firm’s commitment to the Order is very targeted, using a single lawyer specializing in labor law. The president was clear that the firm deals with both employment and labor law and that the union busting was limited to the labor law section of the firm and not something the ‘Order considered relevant given the extent of their work with them. . For all non-employment legal matters, the College uses a small New Haven law firm called Wiggin and Dana.

White described the relationship with Jackson Lewis as a specialist physician to the patient. They were recommended Jackson Lewis to address a very specific area of ​​interest, they have built a relationship of trust with their attorney who now has a solid understanding of and responds to the College’s history and needs. The attorney the College is working with acts as a consultant for all employee-related legal advice, including compensation, benefits, health and safety, and changes to sick leave that have accompanied the pandemic . They also serve as a sounding board for policy changes to ensure the school complies with changing employment rules and regulations. This includes working on changes to the employee handbook and policies.

Originally founded in 1958 by Lou Jackson and Robert Lewis as a law firm in New York, Jackson Lewis has grown across the country as an employment and labor law giant. Currently, Top Law Firms rank Jackson Lewis top in these areas, Tier 1 in Top Law Firms “Labour Law – Management” and “Litigation – Labor and Employment”, in addition to ranking Tier 2 in “Labour law – Management”. Jackson Lewis states that its mission is to be “a preeminent employment law firm dedicated to our clients and passionate about providing creative, effective and highest quality representation of employers across the full spectrum matters of employment and labor law”.

Jackson Lewis has built a business over the past six decades and a reputation worthy of attracting marquee clients like ADP TotalSource, Anheuser-Busch Companies, Boehringer Ingelheim, Burger King, CVS/Caremark Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Hilton Hotels, IBM, Pfizer Inc, Target Corporation and Toys ‘R Us, as well as a growing number of higher education institutions in recent years. Their impressive clientele is indicative of a high caliber company that is not hired on a whim. The reason this company is so popular with big business seems to be its ability to moderate employee-employer relations, especially when it comes to fighting against union formation.

When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, Jackson Lewis is a mixed bag. Although they have been accused of helping employers circumvent the Americans with Disabilities Act in the workplace, I have found no hard evidence to support this claim. The lawyer who works directly with the College, Tanya Bovee, holds a certificate in diversity and inclusion from Cornell University and specializes in working with employers to develop policies that are sensitive to diversity, equity and inclusion. White confirmed that this is an area in which Jackson Lewis is involved with Connecticut College.

Jackson Lewis is a massive company and upon investigation it appears their involvement with the College is relatively limited. Questions may be raised about the difference in caliber of attorneys between employee relations and the rest of the College’s legal concerns, why the insurance company is recommending these attorneys, and whether it is right to hold the College morally guilty of the actions of the sections. of a company with which they have no direct connection, but this is largely circumstantial, which makes it difficult to obtain clear answers.

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