Panel: An Update from NLRB and Public Sector Labor Relations Agencies on Higher Education Issues

Panel Description

Key representatives of public and private sector labor relations agencies will discuss current trends and issues in higher education collective bargaining. Among the wide array of topics to be discussed, these distinguished panelists will explore issues related to collective bargaining and student athletes; employee designation, classification and misclassification; rights, responsibilities and limitations in the wake of the Janus decision; the scope of public sector bargaining units and NLRB policy under the Biden administration and its impact on students and employees of institutions of higher education.

Panelists Bios

J. Felix De La Torre was appointed General Counsel of the California Public Employment Relations Board in February 2015 by Governor Brown.  Before that, he served as Chief Counsel for SEIU Local 1000.  From 2000 to 2008, Mr. De La Torre was a shareholder at (Van Bourg), Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld, where he represented public and private sector employees in labor and employment matters.  He also served on the Board of Directors for the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee and the Sacramento Center for Workers Rights.  Mr. De La Torre was a Staff Attorney at the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and, before that, the State Policy Analyst for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.  From 2008 to 2017, he was an Instructor at the UC Davis Extension in the Labor Management Certificate Program.  Mr. De La Torre is a graduate of UC Davis’ King Hall School of Law.

Ellen Maureen Strizak is the General Council of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. She began working for the Illinois Educational Labor Relations as a Board Writer in 2002. Ms. Strizak was Staff Counsel for the Illinois Labor Relations Board from 2006 until 2010. She returned to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in 2010 as Associate General Counsel and became General Counsel in 2019. Ms. Strizak received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Iowa and her J.D. from the John Marshall Law School. Prior to law school, Ms. Strizak organized tenants as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in Austin, Texas.

On July 22, 2021, Jennifer A. Abruzzo began serving as General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board.  The General Counsel, appointed by the President to a 4-year term, is independent from the Board and is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of unfair labor practice cases and for the general supervision of the NLRB field offices in the processing of cases.  Ms. Abruzzo had previously worked for the NLRB for over two decades, including as Field Attorney, Supervisory Field Attorney, Deputy Regional Attorney, Deputy Assistant General Counsel, Deputy General Counsel, and Acting General Counsel.  Immediately prior to her appointment as General Counsel, Ms. Abruzzo served as Special Counsel for Strategic Initiatives for the Communications Workers of America.

Mark Gaston Pearce is the executive director of the Workers’ Rights Institute and visiting faculty (distinguished lecturer) at Georgetown Law Center. Mr. Pearce formerly served for two terms as Board Member and Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. Prior to assuming his positions at Georgetown, Mr. Pearce was a visiting senior scholar and Lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations.  Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Mr. Pearce received his BA from Cornell University and his JD from the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School. His 40-plus year career includes District Trial Specialist, Region 3 of the National Labor Relations Board; co-founder of the Buffalo, New York labor and employment law firm Creighton, Pearce, Johnsen & Giroux and was a governor-appointed member of the New York State Industrial Board of Appeals. He is currently a Presidential appointee to the Federal Service Impasse Panal of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators and is a Fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers.