"Do What You Love"

Labor leaders to speak about experiences, opportunities in labor movement
Friday, November 8, 2013

The best way to learn about what it’s like to work for a union is to go directly to the source.

That's why ILR hosts the annual Labor Roundtable, an event in which students meet union leaders and ask them about the realities of the job—both the challenges and the rewards.

"Most students at ILR and Cornell have never had a chance to speak one-on-one with union leaders or staff," explained Director of Labor Education Research Kate Bronfenbrenner, whose office coordinates the event in partnership with the ILR Office of Career Services.

Seventeen labor leaders across a wide range of occupations, unions, industries, and geographical locations will be coming to ILR this year for the 11th Annual Labor Roundtable on Nov. 15.

The event will be held from 1:15 to 5 p.m. in the Statler's Carrier Ballroom.

When students think of opportunities open to them in the labor movement, they tend to think exclusively about the organizing component of the field, said Marcia Harding, assistant director of career services at ILR.

"Everyone needs to have a passion for social justice, but the unions need people with a variety of skills," she said.

The diversity of career options for those interested in the union movement is reflected in the titles of this year's participants, ranging from "Communications Coordinator" to "Lead Researcher" to "Executive Director."

As is tradition, several of this year's panelists are ILR alumni. They include Joan Moriarty PhD '01, Change-to-Win; Chris Repole '06, SAG-AFTRA; Nischit Hegde '06, UNITE HERE; Alison Lupico MILR '11, AFT, and Robin Raynor BSILR '12, UAW.

ILR alumni are eager to come back to the Labor Roundtable, Bronfenbrenner said, because they remember the connections and mentoring they acquired through attending the Roundtable when they were at ILR.

Chris Repole '06, who currently serves as legal counsel to SAG-AFTRA, said he wants to give the students a realistic picture of working for a union.

"I definitely want people to go into work in the labor movement with eyes wide open," Repole said.

While a student, Repole helped organize the Labor Roundtable. Now a returning alumnus, Repole said he looks forward to getting to know the up-and-coming graduates with an interest in organized labor.

"The people that are sitting at that roundtable now might be my colleagues coming up. I want to meet them, see who's out there, and see what their concerns are. I want to help them get some perspective," he said.

Each panelist will have twenty minutes per table of ILR students to tell their story and answer questions about current issues and labor careers before cycling to the next table.

This will give the students the opportunity to talk to alumni involved in the labor movement in different capacities, Harding said.

Having worked as a paralegal for a large corporate law firm in the past, Repole said he hopes to share the wisdom gained from his own experiences.

"I think the main thing I want to convey is that it's important to do what you love, and don't get distracted from that. Figure out what you want to do first, rather than going after the money or a job that isn't in an area that interests you. I would encourage people not to let the tail wag the dog."

Registration for the event is available online through the ILR website.