3L awarded prestigious Peggy Browning Fund Fellowship to pursue labor law
As he sat poring over the newest case file laid out in front of him, 3L Dominic Saturday paused briefly to think about his client.
He imagined how he would feel if that person were his father, Dave Saturday, who works as a welder and crane operator for a large manufacturing company, or his grandfather who worked in the steel industry his entire life, or even his great grandfather who came to this country as an immigrant and worked on the railroads.
Having grown up in a family of union laborers, Saturday understood what was at stake in the cases he worked on this summer as an intern with United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh. It was the perfect opportunity for him to combine his passions for solving complex problems and advocating for workers’ rights.
“Most of the work that I did involved unfair labor practices or ULPs,” Saturday said. “A lot of my work was research and writing on specific issues. So if an attorney was going to pursue a case, or write a motion, I would start drafting a memo in support of that motion, either before a federal court if the case was being appealed, or if the case was going to the NLRB I would write position statements outlining the union’s stance on the unfair labor practice charge.”
Saturday also had the opportunity to create a comprehensive outline to help non-lawyers in the union’s organizing department. It explained everything from representation election procedures to when to file for an election, who the members of the state labor board were, and the predicted outcome of cases.
“One of the challenges of writing for non-lawyers is you have to put things in layman’s terms,” Saturday explained. “The organizers are not lawyers—they don’t have a law school background. A word or phrase that you may think is simple, a term that you learn in class, or a statute that you think is clear, you have to really break it down and explain it piece, by piece, by piece, in way that anyone can understand.”
A valuable lesson Saturday said he will take way from his time at the United Steelworkers this summer is the importance of staying positive in the face of adversity.
“One of the things you kind of have to learn being a union lawyer is you’re going to lose a lot. You’re going to lose a lot of cases, but the wins that you do get, you really have to cherish those wins and hold them up and say, ‘Look at this, this is something we can be proud of, we’re moving the law in the direction of workers, even if it’s only a tiny little bit, we at least won them that right.’ For working people, even those tiny wins can mean a lot,” he said.
“I think that’s one of my stronger qualities—being a positive person and saying even though we’re losing some cases, we’re going to make other gains, we’re going to win, we’re going to at least keep fighting for workers’ rights.”
Saturday was able to spend the summer helping champion workers’ rights at the United Steelworkers thanks in part to a generous fellowship awarded to him through the Peggy Browning Fund. The prestigious program awards 10-week public interest labor law fellowships to law students who “have not only excelled in law school but who have also demonstrated their commitment to workers’ rights through their previous educational, work, volunteer, and personal experiences.” Of the more than 400 students who apply each year for the fellowship, only 80 are selected nationwide.
As Saturday describes his experience working for the United Steelworkers, it’s clear he’s found an area of law that he’s truly passionate about. Ironically, labor law wasn’t something he had initially considered as a possible career path. It was only after meeting with employers through the On Campus Interview program that he realized what he didn’t want to do, which made him begin to reflect on his own experiences and find his passion.
“My interest really stems from when I was a little kid. My dad was on strike as a Steelworker, and if you know anything about strikes they’re long, they’re sometimes drawn out, they’re difficult, and when you’re on strike the union pays your wages through other members’ dues because the company isn’t paying you. My dad was at a point where he was making about $150 a week over a period of however many months of being on strike. When you have two young children and a wife who doesn’t work (my mom never worked when I was a kid), $150 doesn’t go very far. And that is really what launched me into labor law,” he said.
“I really didn’t know coming in to Moritz that I wanted to be a labor lawyer. It’s something that I kind of discovered after figuring out what I didn’t want to be. I never forgot what side of the tracks I came from. I never really forgot that I was a product of union work—my great grandfather, my grandfather, and my dad—and that’s what I always have in the back of my mind when I say I want to be a labor lawyer.”