Institute for Law and the Workplace Conferences & Lectures


The annual Federal Sector Labor Relations and Labor Law Program is the largest conference on federal sector and postal labor relations and labor law held outside of Washington, D.C.

The annual Illinois Public Sector Labor Relations Law Program is the major conference on public sector labor law in the state, drawing upwards of 500 lawyers and labor relations professionals to the law school each year.

Conferences for Labor Arbitrators are held periodically in cooperation with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The conferences give Midwest labor arbitrators an opportunity to focus on key issues affecting the field of arbitration.


Kenneth M. Piper Memorial Lecture in Labor Law

The annual Kenneth M. Piper Memorial Lecture in Labor Law brings together leading scholars, policymakers and leaders from labor and management to debate current issues in the workplace.

April 30, 2019: Ruth Milkman, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York Graduate Center and research director of the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor (CUNY), delivered a lecture entitled "Reinventing the Labor Movement? Worker Organizing and Advocacy in the 21st Century United States." Sharon Black, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program and lecturer on law at Harvard, and Harry I. Johnson III, partner at Morgan Lewis, commented. 

See our Piper Lecture page for past lecturers.

Distinguished Labor Leader Lecture

The Distinguished Labor Leader Lecture brings a national labor or employment leader to Chicago-Kent for a presentation about contemporary and emerging issues in the workplace. The lecture series is cosponsored by the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Institute for Law and the Workplace, and is presented as a public service.

Special Events

The Thirteenth Amendment and Racial Justice Conference
November 9-10, 2019

This conference focuses on the ways that the Thirteenth Amendment can be used in legislation and litigation, or in the context of social movements, to promote racial justice in the United States. It is the third event of the Thirteenth Amendment Project, an interdisciplinary association of scholars of labor, class, race, caste, and poverty at law schools and universities throughout the United States and the wider world. For more information about the Thirteenth Amendment Project please see

A schedule and registration are available on the conference website.

Please email the committee with any questions at

Alt-Labor Law Symposium: The State of the Law of the New Labor Movement
November 14, 2019

The last decade has been full of changes and challenges for organized labor. Union membership continues to decline. Recent discussions have focused on Janus v. AFSCME, where the U.S. Supreme Court declared that unions could no longer compel non-members to pay an agency fee, or on Epic Systems v. Lewis, holding that class action waivers are unprotected by the National Labor Relations Act and federal law more generally. But at the same time, labor mobilization and new forms of organizing have experienced an upswing. The tip of the iceberg might be the public school teachers who in 2018 demanded better pay and working conditions in mostly non- union, Red states where they lack collective bargaining rights. Sectoral bargaining in New York some years ago helped fast food workers get closer to their goal of $15 an hour, a product of the fight “Fight for $15,” “Fast Food Forward,” and “Our Walmart.” Worker centers and other low-wage worker groups continue to grow. “Gig” workers, college football players, adjuncts, and graduate students have shown signs of unionization in a variety of forms. Six years ago, there was even talk about a works council at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Welcome to “alt-labor”!

This symposium will bring together a group of highly accomplished scholars who have been writing about, or actively supporting, nontraditional labor organizing and other ways to break and redistribute economic power at work, or “alt-labor.” The symposium will map out the current state of the “alt-labor law.” Parts of alt-labor law lie within traditional labor and employment law, but a lot of it does not. Alt-labor law includes first amendment protections used by non-employee labor unions and worker centers, laws regulating non-for-profit associations, state laws dealing with industry wide-minimum wage setting and voluntary dues deduction, and anti-trust laws that impinge on the rights of independent contractor unions, among others.

A conference schedule is available here. To register, please fill out the online form.