Labor Law Enforcer

Worker rights will be focus of May graduate
Friday, May 12, 2017

Austin Case MILR ’17 will continue his labor advocacy journey as part of The Honors Program in the Office of the Solicitor at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Atlanta regional office location after graduation.

“I will be a trial attorney for the Department of Labor,” Case said. “It is sort of like a tight-knit group of first-year trial attorneys for the Department of Labor.”

The program “provides challenging professional opportunities for outstanding law school graduates,” according to the Department of Labor’s website. Positions are offered at the headquarters in Washington, D.C., and at regional offices.

Case, who is receiving a law degree from the University of California at Davis this month, does not know what cases he will be working on during the program, but he will be helping enforce labor laws.

“The regional office is responsible for enforcing many of the laws that protect workers and anti-discrimination laws for federal contractors throughout the South,” Case said.

Case’s interest in labor issues started when he was an undergraduate debater at the University of Missouri–Kansas City.

“I was involved with the college debate team at my school,” Case said. “I researched and argued around issues of national importance on the various college debate topics.”

“I developed an appreciation for workers’ issues. At the same time, we were organizing and campaigning for higher wages for Sodexo workers at my college.”

Case’s background before coming to Cornell is in union organizing.

“I worked for Unite Here Local 5, the hotel workers’ union in Honolulu, before going to law school,” Case said. “During law school, I worked for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in their appellate services division, so I developed a great appreciation for agencies that enforce the meaningful laws that enforce workers’ rights. I have always cared about labor and workers’ rights issues.”

Debate has been a driver for Case.

“I went to the University of Missouri–Kansas City because I was recruited to join their debate team and it is the same reason I came to the ILR School,” Case said. “We have an excellent debate program, and I am serving as an assistant coach this year working with our students to make them as successful as possible heading to nationals.”

Case is an “Argumentation and Debate” course teaching assistant for ILR Senior Lecturer Sam Nelson, director of the Cornell Speech and Debate Society, and assists with a debate program at a juvenile correctional facility.

Case plans to take the bar exam this summer and start his position with the Department of Labor in September.