Michael M. Oswalt

Visiting Professor of Law
Interim Director of the Institute for Law and the Workplace
565 W. Adams St., Room 817
Chicago, IL 60661


  • J.D., Duke University
  • M.T.S. (Master of Theological Studies), Duke University
  • B.A., Haverford College


Michael M. Oswalt is a Visiting Professor and the Interim Director of the Institute for Law and the Workplace for the 2021-2022 academic year. He has been a faculty member at the Northern Illinois University College of Law since 2013. He teaches courses on labor and employment law, torts, and seminars on emerging issues in employment discrimination and workplace organizing. 

Michael’s research focuses on the relationship between law and activism, particularly how legal regimes impact collective action at work and in communities. His full-length articles have appeared in the California Law Review, the Cardozo Law Review, the UC Davis Law Review, the UC Irvine Law Review, the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, and Law and Contemporary Problems. He is a co-author of two casebooks on public and private sector labor law. In 2019, Michael co-convened a symposium at the Chicago-Kent College of Law on emerging forms of organizing and bargaining. His most recent work, Liminal Labor Law, will be published by the California Law Review in 2022.   

Michael graduated from Haverford College and has degrees in law and theology from Duke University. At Duke, he was a member of the Duke Law Journal and served as Notes Editor for the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy. After law school he clerked on the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals for Judge, now Justice, Sonia Sotomayor. Michael previously worked for the Service Employees International Union where he provided counsel to a variety of low wage worker campaigns.  

Selected Publications

Books and Book Chapters
  • Labor Law in the Contemporary Workplace (Dau-Schmidt, Corrada, Cameron, Rosado Marzán, Oswalt, Gely eds., West Academic Publishing 4th ed., forthcoming 2022).
  • The Power of Place, in The Cambridge Handbook of U.S. Labor Law for the Twenty-First Century (Richard Bales & Charlotte Garden, eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 2019). (Available in SSRN)
Law Review Articles
  • Liminal Labor Law, 110 Cal. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2022). (Available in SSRN).
  • Short Strikes, 95 Chicago-Kent L. Rev. 67 (2020). (Available in SSRN).
  • Alt-Bargaining, 82 L. & Contemp. Probs. 89 (2019).
  • The Content of Coercion, 52 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1585 (2019).
  • Organizing the State: The “New Labor Law” Seen From the Bottom-Up, 39 Berkeley J. of Emp. & Lab. L. 415 (2018) (with César Rosado-Marzán).
    The Right to Improvise in Low Wage Work, 38 Cardozo L. Rev. 959 (2017).
  • Law and the Questions and Answers of Workplace Mobilization, 40 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change Harbinger 129 (2016). (Available in SSRN)
  • Improvisational Unionism, 104 Cal. L. Rev. 597 (2016).
  • Automatic Elections, 4 U.C. Irvine L. Rev. 801 (2014).
  • Steeple Solidarity: Mainline Church Renewal and the Union Corporate Campaign, 50 J. Cath. Legal Stud. 227 (2011). (Available in SSRN)
  • Preemption and Civic Democracy in the Battle Over Wal-Mart, 92 Minn. L. Rev. 1502 (2008) (with Catherine Fisk). (Available in SSRN)
  • The Grand Bargain: Revitalizing Labor Through NLRA Reform and Radical Workplace Relations, 57 Duke L.J. 691 (2007). (Available in SSRN)
Other Writing