People at ILR

Esta Bigler
people / faculty

Esta Bigler

Director of NYC Government Relations
Labor and Employment Law


Esta R. Bigler, Esq., is Director of Cornell University ILR’s Labor and Employment Law Program and Co-Chair of the Cannabis Workforce Initiative, a partnership between ILR's Labor and Employment Law Program and the Workforce Development Initiative. Ms. Bigler uses her extensive background in labor and employment law to convene conferences and forums studying current and emerging legal issues impacting employment, with the goal of influencing legislation and public policy decisions. A major focus of her work is promotion and support of social equity in New York’s adult-use cannabis market through relationships in communities most affected by the former drug laws and provision of training and support to workers and employers in NY’s emerging cannabis industry.

Since beginning to work in the area of reducing barriers to employment of people with criminal records in 2008 and the creation of the Criminal Justice and Employment Initiative in 2016, the Labor and Employment Law Program has brought together stakeholders to discuss, analyze, and propose best practices on the issue of employment of people who have been involved in the criminal justice system, the mitigation of criminal records, and collateral consequences such as licensing bans. She has expanded this work to include the adult use cannabis market and ensuring that creation of high-road career pathways, with the goal of creating generational wealth in communities impacted by mass incarceration, will help mitigate the adverse impact of NY's former drug laws.

Ms. Bigler is Chair, New York State Apprenticeship Council; Executive Director, Cornell Criminal Records Panel Study; Member, Cornell Prison Education Program Advisory Board; Member, College of Labor and Employment Lawyers; Chair, NYC Chapter, ILR Alumni Association; and President, Prospect Park South Neighborhood Association.

Ms. Bigler earned her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and B.S. from Cornell ILR.


Journal Articles

  • Esta R Bigler. 1992. Review of Women, Minorities and Unions in the Public Sector, Industrial and Labor Relations Review . 45(2):382-384.

Conference Proceedings

  • Esta R Bigler. 1990. The Changing Workforce and Its Effects on Unions. in Proceedings of the New York University 43rd Annual Conference on Labor. Boston MA, United States: Little, Brown, and Co., 1990.

Professional Activities

  • NA. Presented to ILR Alumni Association NYC Chapter. On-line. 2022.
  • Lois Gray. Presented to WI Lois Gray Labor Innovation Initiative. Virtual. 2021.
  • Moderated panel with speakers Helen Missenbaum, Professor, Cornell Tech; JP Pollack, Sr. Researcher in Residence, Cornell Tech; Nathaniel Hupert, Internist/Researcher in Public Health, Weill Cornell Medicine. Presented to eCornell Keynotes and SC Johnson School of Management. Virtual. 2020.
  • Labor and Employment Law and Worker Rights. Presented to Worker Institute. Virtual. 2020.