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Michael Bohling ’14

Alumni Spotlight: Michael Storm Bohling

Michael Storm Bohling’s journey to “The Happiest Place on Earth” began with a paid internship with The Walt Disney Company during his senior year at the ILR School. After graduating in 2014, he earned a degree at Notre Dame Law School and following a stint in private practice as a labor attorney, Bohling rejoined The Walt Disney Company. He now serves as counsel of labor relations for Walt Disney Television in Los Angeles. Bohling lives in Santa Monica with his wife, Meagan (MLA ’18) and their dog, Marshall.  

How did ILR change you?

I grew up in a union household; my father has been a long-time grievance and United Steelworkers bargaining representative at a local manufacturing plant in upstate New York. At a young age, I felt like I had a grasp on why people went to work, the challenges faced by the every-day worker, and the importance of collective bargaining in the workplace.  I had no clue, however, what to do with this raw knowledge – until I attended the ILR School.

There is definitely something to be said about ILR being one of the smaller schools on the Cornell campus. You get to know people and they get to know you  When I reflect on my time at ILR, I am most impressed that there was not just an emphasis on learning course material – but also learning about yourself. Looking back on various talks with Professor Lipsky, Professor Scanza, alums like Marty Scheinman and Dick Fincher – these people took an interest in helping me figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my interest in labor and employment. I revel in the fact that ILR has innumerable educators and alum to play this same role for students for generations to come.  

How are you making an impact through your experiences at ILR?

What I do day to day is directly linked to my experiences at ILR. During the spring semester of my senior year, I decided to do an ILR credit internship. I was a little hesitant to leave campus right before graduation, but wanted to obtain more work experience before law school. With the guidance of ILR Internship Director Brigid Beachler, I landed an internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, in a program developed and supported by ILR alums over the years. At Disney World, I gained unmatchable collective bargaining and negotiations experience with the world’s largest single-site employer.  I also had the best six months of my life and even met my future wife (thanks again, Brigid!).  

Without ILR, I would not have discovered all that The Walt Disney Company had to offer. I now place an emphasis on taking the time and effort to mentor interns within the organization  If I can help provide a portion of what I got out of my ILR credit internship, I can rest assured that I am making a positive impact on a student trying to figure out who and what they want to be. 

How might the mission of ILR help shape the next 75 years of work, labor and employment?

I think it is very interesting timing for the 75th anniversary of ILR. In the past several months, COVID-19 has dramatically altered the workplace as we know it. As businesses continue to reopen, workers are finding themselves balancing the needs of earning a paycheck and maintaining the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. These discussions will dominate the “water cooler,” meetings between management and employees, and the bargaining table.  

As I look toward the future of labor and employment, I find the ILR slogan very applicable: “It takes work.”  It truly is going to take a lot of work from all of us – employees, employers, agencies, scholars – to re-think a workplace that is safe, productive and efficient for everyone. Whatever challenges that are presented, I know that the ILR School will be at the heart of finding the much-needed solutions.