I retired in 2019 after 22 years as a Senior Lecturer at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) in Ithaca, New York, where I taught U.S. labor and employment law and international labor rights. I now live in San Diego, California—no more Northeast winters for me! I continue working with colleagues at the ILR School on research and I undertake labor rights consulting projects for unions and NGOs.
Teaching at Cornell was an opportunity to work with wonderful colleagues and students in a vibrant intellectual community. It also led to exceptional leave opportunities: a year in 1999-2000 with Human Rights Watch to write Unfair Advantage: Workers’ Freedom of Association in the United States under International Human Rights Standards, the first of my three major HRW labor rights reports; two leaves accompanying my spouse Maria Lorena Cook when she directed Cornell’s study abroad center in Seville, Spain in 2001 and 2006; a semester in Lisbon, Portugal in 2013 for her Fulbright fellowship; a visiting chair appointment at Leiden University law school in the Netherlands in 2014 (see Inaugural Lecture for the Paul van der Heijden Chair in Social Justice), and visiting professorships at the University of San Diego Law School in 2016 and 2019.
Before joining the Cornell faculty in 1997, I directed labor law research at the NAFTA labor commission, working with a tri-national staff of lawyers and economists in comparative studies of labor law and labor markets in North America. My first article on the NAFTA labor side agreement helped prepare for this appointment (see "The First NAFTA Labor Cases: A New International Labor Rights Regime Takes Shape").
Prior to my 1995 appointment to the commission, I taught labor law, employment law, and international labor rights as a Visiting Lecturer at Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management. I also practiced international labor law for unions and human rights organizations in Washington, D.C.
Working in the international labor law field made me part of a network of trade unionists, human rights activists, lawyers and scholars with shared values and shared commitment to workers’ rights and human rights. It was such a coalition that achieved the first “hard law” linkage of trade and labor standards with the labor rights clause in the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences in 1984, and has continued to press for labor standards in trade agreements around the world. These collaborations and friendships, as well as our differences and debates, help make labor rights work both satisfying and challenging.
After law school and before moving to international labor law practice and teaching, I worked for many years as a trade union organizer and negotiator, first for the United Electrical Workers (UE), and then for the Newspaper Guild. Those years in the trenches handling grievances and arbitrations, negotiating contracts, and organizing gave me a solid grounding in labor relations and labor law, making me a better lawyer and ultimately a better teacher. Starting my career with the UE early enough to learn from some of the union’s founders was particularly formative. This experience imparted principles of democratic rank-and-file unionism that continue to inspire. I wrote about that experience here.
Coming out of McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, New York, and going to Fordham University for college makes me a Jesuit product, and glad of it. The Jesuit tradition of intellectual rigor and social commitment—at least by those who taught me—has a strong and lasting effect.
Fordham provided a great education in the humanities, and New York City was a giant free university for a boy from the provinces, a grandson of immigrants who came to the United States with what they could fit into a single trunk. Fordham also made possible a study-abroad program in Paris studying the French anti-Vietnam war movement of the 1950s. At Yale Law School an Intensive Semester program allowed me to study labor law reform in Chile under the Unidad Popular government of Salvador Allende.
The overthrow of Chile’s democratic government in September 1973 and the vicious military dictatorship that followed—which saw the murder of my Santiago housemate Frank Teruggi—instilled in me a lasting commitment to the restoration of democracy there. I made a small contribution by filing the first complaint against the Pinochet dictatorship under the new GSP labor rights clause in 1986, leading to the suspension of GSP benefits for Chile until democracy returned (an account of this and other GSP cases is in “Labor Rights in the Generalized System of Preferences: A 20-Year Review”).
As someone who had never before left New York, those foreign study programs opened up the world to me. They provided both a solid language foundation in French and Spanish and an abiding interest in international affairs and comparative labor law. Later, they led to opportunities to conduct workers’ rights investigations and reports in Central and South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, as well as on U.S. labor law and workers’ rights in companies and industries where many Spanish-speaking immigrants work (see, for example, Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants). Links to most of these are contained in the list of publications elsewhere in this website.
This website provides an overview of my efforts to combine scholarship and advocacy on behalf of workers and their allies in the United States and around the world. While I have worked mainly on the trade union side, I have had many positive engagements with employer representatives at the bargaining table and in the international labor rights arena, and I recognize and respect those who honor workers’ organizing rights without interference, and who bargain in good faith when workers choose representation. I am a true believer in collective bargaining between a strong union and a strong employer. The compromises that result from good-faith bargaining are the best outcome for workers and employers, and are a school for democracy in the wider society.
Home page photo credit: Lindsay France, Cornell Brand Photography