Public Sector Labor and Employment Law Conference report

Dear colleagues:

Below is a report from Ann Hodges on the Public Sector Labor and Employment Law conference held in Richmond last week, and co-sponsored by the Labor Law Group. Kudos to Ann and her collaborators, and many thanks to Laura and Steve for arranging to publish the papers from the conference in the ABA Journal of Labor and Employment Law.


On September 9, a group of more than 100 lawyers, academics, government officials, union officers and law students gathered in Richmond, VA to hear the speakers at the conference on Public Sector Employment in Times of Crisis sponsored by the Labor Law Group. Neither earthquake nor hurricane nor floods nor Presidential visit (yes that President) stopped the conference, which had to be moved to the Westin Hotel on short notice because of a last minute visit to the University of Richmond campus by President Obama.

The conference was planned by Marty Malin, Joe Slater and Ann Hodges, who recently completed the Public Sector Employment case book. Presentations focused on the hot button issues that have dominated the news in 2011 and included economists, policy analysts and union representatives as well as legal academics and practitioners. Among the issues covered were: the economic and legal issues relating to public sector pensions and the efforts to modify those pensions because of economic problems in the states; comparative compensation of public employees and private employees; the recent changes (and proposed changes) in public sector collective bargaining laws and implications of those changes; the constitutional framework for public sector employment, including contract clause limitations on changing collective bargaining agreements and equal protection and first amendment challenges to the amendments to Wisconsin collective bargaining laws; the role of teachers in education, including controversial recent changes to tenure laws and teacher evaluation requirements which proponents argue will improve educational quality; and public employee discharge and discipline in the state and federal systems, including an empirical look at the question of whether it is “too difficult” to terminate public employees.

Speakers included Labor Law Group members Steve Befort, Laura Cooper, Ann Hodges, Marty Malin and Joe Slater. Peggie Smith served as moderator of the panel on collective bargaining laws. The conference papers will be published in the Winter 2012 issue of the ABA Journal of Labor and Employment Law edited by Steve Befort and Laura Cooper. Conference participants were uniformly enthusiastic about the quality of the program.

The program was cosponsored by the University of Richmond School of Law Austin Owen Lecture, the American Constitution Society and the University of Richmond Center for Leadership in Education. Both the law school and the American Constitution Society plan to post the conference video on their web sites as soon as all video permissions are secured. Conference materials will be available for several more weeks on the law school web site, click here to view.

Pictures from the conference