Zachary Ment, BSILR '09
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Washington, DC
"Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it."
My name is Zachary Ment. I am member of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations graduating class of 2009. I transferred into ILR because I wanted to develop my deep interests in social psychology, politics and government to improve the world around me.
After a year of studying the world of work at Cornell in Ithaca, I was itching to apply what I had done. So with the help of Brigid Beachler and Professor Daniel, I took my studies to our nation's capital. The ILR credit internship program in Washington, DC offered me the opportunity to gain invaluable experience working at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where I investigated claims of unlawful discrimination. Early on in my internship at the EEOC, I became especially interested in a certain type of case that was given little priority at the EEOC mostly because it was so hard to prove: discrimination based on Age. Unfortunately, I am unable to discuss the specific cases, but throughout my internship at the EEOC, I continually faced claims from men and women who's employment had been terminated as they neared retirement. And while these individuals knew in their hearts that they had been terminated because of their age, material evidence of their claims was extremely rare. These cases were especially disturbing to me so I undertook an independent study with the help of my Academic advisor Professor Risa Leiberwitz on the causes, effects, and solutions of age discrimination in the American workplace.
Probably the most exciting aspect of my experience in the ILR Credit Internship Program was the opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of the United States government in a special class taught by Professor Robert Molofsky, VP and Special Counsel at the AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corp. The other ILR students with internships in the DC area and I met with Professor Molofsky weekly. Some weeks we would discuss the current political environment for various labor issues in Professor Molofsky's K Street office. Other weeks, he would bring us to speak with lobbyists and pollsters and senior congressional staff all around the city.
And for the grand finale (although it was closer to the middle of the semester), Professor Molofsky brought the class to a small fundraiser for Senator Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign where we were introduced to President Bill Clinton.
My experience with the ILRCIP in Washington, DC had left me with more questions than answers about my future. Though I had lived in Spain and France in previous years, my desire gain international perspective on my studies of the U.S. labor system burned slowly and deeply. I decided therefore to take the next semester to work and think about my future.
I interned for part of every week at Spark Media a documentary production company in Washington, DC as a producer's assistant. For the rest of the week I worked on various projects for Emtec Metal Industries as a Management Trainee in New York City. At EMI, I partook in the labor negotiations between the allied metal building industries of New York and the Ornamental Iron Workers Union Local 580. After the negotiations had come to successful conclusion, I stayed on with EMI as an HR consultant and aided with special projects related to their corporate reorganization throughout that summer. That spring, I spoke to Brigid Beachler about my desire to gain an international perspective on the U.S. Labor system and was soon enrolled in the ILR Semester in Dublin program.
The ILR Semester in Dublin program enabled me to engage in the study of the European Union and European Labor systems without tackling the difficulty of a language barrier. From Irish Culture and History to International Trade Economics, my professors at the University College Dublin were engaged and interested in their student's development. Professor Roland Erne took us to a summit at the European Foundation for Improving Working and Living Conditions where we heard presentations from the Finish delegation. Professor Anne Coughlan brought the class to meet with upper level Human Resources Executive at subsidiaries of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Royal Sun Alliance. Professor Coughlan also invited one other student and me (chosen at random) to meet with the Prime Minister of Ireland, Brian Cohen and participate in very serious discussion about the future of Irish Labor at the Irish Business and Employers Confederation's annual HR Summit. The program offered an endless stream of cultural expedition yet plenty of autonomy to ponder the differences between the U.S. and E.U. labor systems and social safety nets as the global economy turned from bad to worse.
I returned to Ithaca proud to have helped elect Barack Obama our president, and with a deeper more complex understanding of and appreciation for the American employment system. I believe that the European Union stands to learn from the flexibility unique to the U.S. labor system. Likewise, there are aspects of the European labor system that my better suit our modern society.
In order to judge properly, one must get away somewhat from what one is judging, after having loved it. This is true of countries, of persons, and of oneself.
- Zachary Ment, BSILR '09