“With organized labor being such an important part of the ILR School, I think the Labor Roundtable is key in helping to encourage and support the next generation of labor leaders and activists fighting for a better world,” said Daniel Kirchner ILR ’21 one of the two students spearheading the organization of the ILR Labor Roundtable on November 15th, 2019.
Each year, the Worker Institute, ILR School hosts the Labor Roundtable, an event that brings a wide range of representatives in labor leadership, unions, and social justice organizations to the Cornell campus to engage in dynamic, in-depth conversations with students. Through these discussions, students gain exposure to current trends in the labor movement and the fundamental role that it plays in bringing about social change. Topics range from the current state of the labor movement, the most effective strategies to organize within the gig economy and global capital, and how these leaders came to join the labor movement.
Kirchner spearheaded the organizing of this event with fellow student, Hannah Ritter ILR ‘22. Kyra describes the importance of this event for students who may not otherwise see opportunities in the labor fields they are interested in.
This year's Labor Roundtable featured organizers, lawyers, and researchers from labor organizations across the country, including Service Employees International Union, American Federation of Teachers, United Food, Commercial Workers International Union, and many others.
With representatives ranging from researchers to on-the-ground organizers to lawyers, the ILR Labor Roundtable exemplifies the diverse career opportunities available to those who want to make a difference through social change. This event offers an important contrast to the corporate, management-side opportunities usually dominating the job-search conversations around campus.
Ritter describes, “Since the ILR major can result in a variety of student career paths, and because the ILR curriculum and culture heavily positions students' careers in HR and business, the labor movement has been underrepresented. The Roundtable was created 16 years ago by students who felt the same way as I do, and my vision for a successful roundtable is to invite union researchers, lawyers, and organizers to advocate for organized labor and illuminate the vast array of career opportunities for students in the labor movement.”
The ILR Labor Roundtable is not confined to only Industrial and Labor Relations majors, but students from diverse academic backgrounds. It brings in biology, government, and computer science majors, for example, who may not have thought of a future in these social/labor organizations, but now see it as an option.
After speaking with the social and labor representatives, Cornell students gain valuable advice and knowledge that will help define the trajectories of their careers, and the importance of the Labor Roundtable for career opportunities, as well as the continued growth of the labor movement. Events like the Roundtable help keep the labor movement fresh by allowing students and young people the chance to contribute their new ideas, energy, and spirit.