DC LERA elects 3 new board members and 2024 board officers

On Wednesday, February 14, 2024, members of DC LERA elected three new board members to serve on the Board of Governors of the Washington, DC chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association. Below are DC LERA’s three new board members:

  • Stacy Hickox, Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland
  • Homer La Rue, Law Professor, Howard Law School and Arbitrator (National Academy of Arbitrators)
  • Michelle Kochosky, Master’s Candidate (Human Resources), from Penn State World Campus and Human Resources Chief for Defense Health Agency – Region 9 Continental

Each of the new board members was elected to serve a 3-year term. Michelle Kochosky was elected to serve as a student board member. She will become a regular board member upon graduation.

In addition, at its meeting on Wednesday, February 21, 2024, the Board of Governors of the Washington, DC chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (DC LERA) elected the following officers to serve in 2024:

  • President: Tequila Brooks, Attorney and Labor Law Scholar (2nd term)
  • President Elect: Amaury Pineda, Researcher at Georgetown University and Policy Analyst at National Jobs With Justice
  • Secretary: Stacy Hickox, Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland
  • Treasurer: Steve Silvia, Professor, American University

Keep an eye out for more detailed profiles of DC LERA’s newest board members and, to all our new board members and the 2024 officers – Congratulations! We look forward to working with you this year.

Please consider becoming a member of DC LERA or renewing your membership this year. You can do so here. Lots of exciting stuff happening this year and in the future!

Amber Barth, Director of the ILO Office for the US and Canada, joins DC LERA Board

The Board of Governors of the Washington, DC chapter of LERA welcomes its newest board member, Amber Barth, Director of the ILO Office for the US and Canada. The Board elected Ms. Barth as a member at its meeting on November 14, 2023.

As Director of the ILO’s Office for the US and Canada, Ms. Barth is responsible for steering the International Labor Organization’s efforts to advocate for policies and priorities that promote decent work. Her responsibilities extend to fostering collaboration with key government officials, workers’ and employers’ organizations, as well as engaging with the Bretton Woods Institutions and other stakeholders to champion actions that support a sustainable future of work.

Prior to her new role in Washington, Ms. Barth held the position of Senior Multilateral Relations Specialist at the ILO Office for the United Nations in New York. In this capacity, she played a vital role in providing strategic economic and social policy guidance, making substantial contributions to enhancing decent work outcomes within the United Nations and other global development processes. She also served as Decent Work Specialist within the Multilateral Cooperation Department at the ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. There, she spearheaded the coordination of multi-stakeholder partnerships to advance the Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing the integral role of decent work in achieving broader global development objectives. Her commitment to advancing the principles of decent work on a global scale was further underscored during her tenure as the ILO executive coordinator for various UN initiatives, including, most recently, the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions. In this capacity, she played a pivotal role in advancing policies and commitments to support sustainable and equitable transitions in the world of work.

Welcome to the Board, Amber! We look forward to working with you.

DC LERA submits 4 successful panel proposals for LERA-ILERA-FMCS in NYC (June 2024)

In 2024, the ILERA 20th World Congress, the LERA 76th Annual Meeting, and the FMCS 2024 National Labor-Management Conference will all be held simultaneously in New York City from June 26-30, 2024.

The Washington, DC chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association will be well-represented at the ILERA – LERA – FMCS conference next year, having submitted four successful chapter proposals for consideration by the conference committee.

DC LERA Board Member Jeff Wheeler will be moderating two panels featuring international members of the board, including Marcos Fraile Pastor of the Spanish Embassy, Yasmin Hilpert of the German Embassy, and Benoit Sevcik of the French Embassy. The titles of these two panels are:

  • Panel 1: The Role of the Labor Attaché: Diplomacy, Research, Analysis and Dialogue (LERA)
  • Panel 2: Hot Topics and Trends for Labor Attachés: US, National, and Global (LERA)

DC LERA member Stacy Hickox will be moderating DC LERA’s panel US and International Perspectives on Sexual Harassment in Organized and Unorganized Workplaces (LERA). This panel will reprise DC LERA’s successful 2023 webinar with an Asia Pacific twist.

Anannya Bhattacharjee of AFWA and Anna Lee Fos Tuvera of ITUC-Asia Pacific will also participate in a panel organized by Emily E. LB. Twarog on Building Women’s Union Leadership Globally through Education (ILERA). This panel will also feature Pinar Ozcan and  Stephanie Fortado and will be moderated by DC LERA President Tequila Brooks.

DC LERA member and President of the African Labour Law Society (ALLS) Pamhidzai Bamu will moderate DC LERA’s panel Constructing and Deconstructing Racism: Tales of Work and Life in Virginia, Europe, South Africa, South America, and the U.S. (ILERA) This panel will be a reprise of DC LERA’s successful 2022 webinar with the addition of a Latin American perspective and deeper discussion of affirmative measures to address racism in the workplace and society. In addition to all of the original speakers, the panel will feature Professor Mariela Noles Cotito of the Universidad del Pacifico (Lima, Peru).

Congratulations to the submitters, moderators, and speakers! We also wish success to everyone in the DC area who is submitting an individual paper proposal.

Tequila Brooks, Pamhidzai Bamu, and Emily E. LB. Twarog will be working to raise funds to assist speakers in traveling from outside the U.S. to the conference in New York next June. Please email dcleramailbox@gmail.com if you would like to make a contribution or have an idea about funding sources.

Amaury Pineda, Georgetown University fellow researcher and Jobs With Justice policy analyst joins DC LERA as Director of Communications.

Amaury Pineda joined the DC LERA Board of Governors representing Georgetown University Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor in October of 2023.

As a researcher and policy analyst, Amaury Pineda uses his research skills to find new ways to increase workers’ power through local, state, and federal policy. Before joining the Kalmanovitz Initiative and Jobs With Justice, Pineda represented and advocated for graduate students’ rights as the Graduate Student Association president at Western Michigan University.

Furthermore, Pineda holds a law degree from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he worked as a labor lawyer before pursuing a Ph.D. at Western. He completed his Ph.D. in political science in Dec. 2021, focusing on comparative politics and political theory.

You can find Pineda watching movies, playing chess or basketball, and spending time with friends in his free time.

Christian Collins of Johns Hopkins University and CLASP joins DC LERA as First Student Board Member

On September 6, 2023, the DC LERA Board of Governors adopted a measure designating 2-3 new positions on the board for Student Board Members. The purpose of these positions is to bring a student perspective to the board and serve as a short- and long-term organizational succession strategy.

Christian Collins joined the DC LERA board as its first Student Board Member.

Christian is a current graduate student attending Johns Hopkins University and a policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)’s education, labor, and worker justice team. A native of Akron, Ohio and proud product of public schools, he brings expertise in labor rights advocacy and workforce and economic development. He holds a strong commitment to promoting racial justice through public policy and advocacy. Preceding his career at CLASP, Christian was a researcher with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In this role, he assisted local union chapters with organizing efforts, while partnering with outside organizations and partners to advocate for increased rights and benefits for workers. Additionally, he’s served as a research assistant at Urban Institute and a state fiscal project campaigns intern with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities since moving to DC. While in his home state of Ohio, Christian spent time as an intern for both the Ohio State Senate and Columbus City Council. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in public policy from The Ohio State University and also attended Kent State University during his undergraduate studies.

Japanese Labor Attache Takahito Fushiki joins DC LERA Board

Takahito Fushiki, Labor Attache with the Embassy of Japan, has joined the Board of Governors of DC LERA. He replaces Yoshi Suzuki, who returned to Japan in August 2023.

Taka joined the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan in 2007. He has worked in departments related to Pharmaceutical Safety, Labor Standards, Welfare for Persons with Disabilities, and Unemployment Insurance.

Welcome to Washington, Taka!

A Farewell Address from Yoshi Suzuki, former Labor Attaché with the Embassy of Japan

By: Yoshi Suzuki, Former Labor Attaché, Embassy of Japan

I arrived in the summer of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. I remember as if it were yesterday that I addressed a virtual board meeting. The exchange of information and interactive discussion in DC LERA was so stimulating and meaningful to me. I would like to briefly describe my impressions after working in DC for three years.

The pandemic hit the U.S. economy hard, with the unemployment rate soaring to 14.7% in April 2020, but it soon recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and the turbulence in the U.S. labor market has been remarkable. From the perspective of Japan, which is generally regarded as stable internationally (not only unemployment rate but also wage increase…), it should be admired the positive aspects of the dynamism of the U.S. economy. On the other hand, it looks like that there appears to be a steadily increasing number of voices in the U.S. that are concerned about the weak safety net for those left behind in the economic growth and calling for policy responses.

In response to these voices, Biden administration has been working to realize various social policies, including labor policies, but the existence of the Senate filibuster etc. has made the hurdles to policy realization through legislation extremely high, forcing the administration to rely on policy tools such as executive order. However, I think this is inextricably linked to the fragility of legal stability and predictability. Stricter scrutiny of administrative authority by conservative federal courts will also affect the policy formation process, and it is likely that even greater caution will be required in the future, not only in terms of policy content, but also in terms of procedures.

The Biden administration’s emphasis on labor unions in its various policies is a major characteristic of its administration, and while it is true that the bargaining power of labor unions and workers has increased under the recent labor market conditions in which workers are dominant, it will take more time to determine whether the trend of decline in labor unions over the medium to long term can be reversed. Whether or not the Democratic Party will be able to retain power and secure a sufficient base of support in the presidential election of 2024 will be the touchstone for the penetration and maturation of the various policies implemented by the Biden administration into the U.S. society.

Although it is difficult to make simple comparisons between Japan and U.S. because of differences in social systems, cultures, and practices, labor policy and labor market trends in U.S., where market functions are strongly activated, can provide hints toward more optimal policy formulation by making Japanese policies more relative. I would like to continue to observe them regularly in the future.

In Japan, I will return to Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) and be in charge of unemployment benefit planning. Based on the reflections under the pandemic, a number of systemic revisions will be made, including the extension of employment insurance coverage to part-time workers and others.

Leaving DC is excruciating, but I am also excited about my new job.

DC LERA welcomes the German Embassy’s new representative Yasmin Hilpert to Board

Yasmin Hilpert joined the DC LERA Board of Governors as the Representative of the German Embassy in July 2023.

Yasmin Hilpert is an experienced researcher, advisor and consultant on labor market development, digitization and technological innovation, social policy and inclusion. She serves as the Counselor for Labor and Social Affairs at the German Embassy in Washington DC since July 2023.

Yasmin comes from an extensive trade union background with experience in strategic development, labor issues and workforce development. She brings close to ten years of experience as a trainer and educator in a labor union vocational training institute in Germany. She worked as a strategic advisor to human rights and labor organizations to develop strategies for Industry 4.0 and workforce automation in light of technology innovation.

Since 2016, Yasmin has been working in academia and think tanks in the US, with a particular focus on the intersection of technology and industrial policy and the implications for the labor market, workers and qualifications.

Prior to her work in the U.S., she worked as leadership advisor at IndustriALL Global (50m members) in Geneva and IndustriALL Europe (7m members) in Brussels, the global and European umbrella organizations of all heavy industry manufacturing sectors. She engaged in high-level negotiations on a national and European level with employers and multi-national corporations and is regularly invited as a contributor to meetings of labor, business and government leaders in Germany, the UK and the EU as a whole.

Yasmin is an expert on metropolitan industrial policy and regional development, innovation infrastructure, and sustainability. With an interdisciplinary academic background in political science and with a focus on Industry 4.0, Yasmin holds a Masters from Humboldt University Berlin and is graduating with her Ph.D. in 2023. She regularly presents at academic conferences and was elected chair of the Research Committee 11 “Science and Politics” of the International Political Science Association in July 2023.

Welcome, Yasmin!

DC LERA welcomes Merrilee Logue of BCBSA to the Board of Governors

The Board of Governors of the Washington, DC Chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association voted to accept the nomination of Merrilee Logue to serve as a DC LERA Board Member at its meeting on April 19, 2023. Merrilee is Executive Director of the BCBS Association National Labor Office and replaces Bonnie Summers, who recently retired.

Merrilee became Executive Director of BCBSA NLO in August 2022. She is an experienced executive with over 30 years in the healthcare industry, with demonstrated leadership in Labor Relations, Healthcare and Employee Benefits. In addition to her experience in the healthcare industry, Merrilee has served as a Board Member  of Crossroads4Hope, and the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City.

You can get to know Merrilee a bit by tuning into this video. Welcome, Merrilee!

DC LERA thanks Bonnie Summers of BCBSA for service on Board

Bonnie Summers steps down from the board of DC LERA as she hands over responsibility to Merrilee Logue as Executive Director of the Blue Cross-Blue Shield (BCBS) National Labor Office.  Bonnie’s involvement with BCBS National Labor Office spans nearly four decades, including 20 years as the Executive Director.   The BCBS National Labor Office acts as a liaison between organized labor and 34 BCBS companies across the United States, serving over 17 million workers, retirees, and their families.  Bonnie played a critical role in national LERA, joining the Executive Board in 2002, and played an important role in launching the health care industry council of LERA.  She also was an active member and board member of DC LERA for the past 20 years.   We know Bonnie’s passion for healthcare and organized labor will continue and we look forward to her participation in DC and National LERA events in the future.

Steve Sleigh, President, Sleigh Strategies LLC