The Future of Public Employee Labor Unions: The case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Case or Controversy Series

Mon, 03/28/2016
Bowl 001, Robertson Hall
Event Category: 
Panel Discussion
Princeton University Community: Faculty, Fellows, Students, Staff

The ability of unions to protect public employees faces a serious challenge.  Despite the decline of the labor movement, public employee unions over the last few decades, public-employee unions in the United States have remained a powerful force.  The case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, recently argued before the Supreme Court presents the question of whether non-union members should have to pay certain fees associated with the representation that a union provides for all employees.   Our panel of experts in national labor policy and law will examine the case, the broader issues facing public-sector unions on the eve of the 2016 election, as well as its impact on the labor movement.

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  • Janice Fine, Rutgers University
  • Benjamin Sachs, Harvard Law School
  • Dorian Warren, Roosevelt Institute
  • Paul Frymer, LAPA Director, Moderator

Janice Fine  is Associate Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at the School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University, where she teaches and writes about low wage immigrant labor in the U.S., historical and contemporary debates regarding federal immigration policy, dilemmas of labor standards enforcement and innovative union and community organizing strategies. Fine is faculty coordinator of the Program on Immigration and Democracy at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, where she is a principal investigator of the Rutgers Immigrant Infrastructure Map (RIIM), a cross-disciplinary, applied research project that studies the role of immigrant organizations and immigrant infrastructures in New Jersey and the consequences of variation across place for immigrant integration.  Fine’s ground-breaking book, Worker Centers: Organizing Communities at the Edge of the Dream, was released in January of 2006 by Cornell University Press and the Economic Policy Institute.  Fine has also written for the Boston Globe, the New Jersey Star Ledger, the Nation, and the Boston Review. She has been a guest commentator on All Things Considered, and appeared on the Lou Dobbs Show.

Benjamin Sachs is the Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry at Harvard Law School and an expert in the field of labor law and labor relations. Professor Sachs teaches courses in labor law, employment law, and law and social change, and his writing focuses on union organizing and unions in American politics. Prior to joining the Harvard faculty in 2008, Professor Sachs was the Joseph Goldstein Fellow at Yale Law School. From 2002-2006, he served as Assistant General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Washington, D.C. Professor Sachs graduated from Yale Law School in 1998, and served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. His writing has appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, the New York Times and elsewhere. Professor Sachs received the Yale Law School teaching award in 2007 and in 2013 received the Sacks-Freund Award for Teaching Excellence at Harvard Law School. Professor Sachs is also a founder of, a leading blog on labor law and labor politics.

Dorian T. Warren is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and Board Chair of the Center for Community Change. A scholar of inequality and American politics, he taught for over a decade at the University of Chicago and Columbia University, where he was Co-Director of the Columbia University Program on Labor Law and Policy. A native Chicagoan, Warren received his B.A. from the University of Illinois and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Yale University.  Warren has worked with several national and local organizations including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, American Rights at Work/Jobs with Justice, AFL-CIO, CTW, UNITE-HERE, SEIU, UFCW, Steelworkers, and the NGLTF Policy Institute, among others. He currently serves on several boards including Alliance for a Greater New York, Working Partnerships USA, the Model Alliance, the Workers Lab, the National Employment Law Center and The Nation Magazine Editorial Board. He is also Co-Chair of the AFL-CIO’s Commission on Racial and Economic Justice Advisory Council.   As a commentator on public affairs, Warren has appeared regularly on television and radio including NBC Nightly News, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, BET, BBC, NPR, Bloomberg, & NY1, among other outlets. In 2015 he was the Host and Executive Producer of “Nerding Out” on MSNBC’s digital platform,

Paul Frymer teaches and writes on topics in American law and politics, particularly as they intersect with issues of democratic representation, race and civil rights, and labor and employment. He is a former LAPA fellow (2004-2005), and served two terms as Acting Director (2009-2010 and 2012-2013) before his appointment as Director in 2015. He is the author of two books: Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America (reissued in 2010 with an afterward on President Obama's election) and Black and Blue: African Americans, the Labor Movement, and the Decline of the Democratic Party (2008), both of which were published by Princeton University Press. He has also authored or is currently writing about topics ranging from legal understandings of political parties to the racial politics of Hurricane Katrina and affirmative action to the role of law and politics in the historical development of American territorial expansion.

Private Student Dinner

With Panelists from “The Future of Pubic Labor Unions”

By invitation:  Students interested in attending should contact

(Note: students must attend the noon event to receive a dinner invitation)