Today’s News & Commentary — September 1, 2016

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Kerrie Campbell filed a complaint against Chadbourne & Parke LLP alleging that she and other female partners who have been “disparately underpaid, systematically shut out of Firm leadership, demoted, de-equitized and terminated” are owed damages totaling $100 million.  She filed her complaint weeks after Traci M. Ribeiro alleged that the “male-dominated culture” of Sedgwick LLP prevented female attorneys from receiving equal pay and that the firm “systematically excludes women from positions of power.”  A New York Times piece on Campbell’s suit noted that women hold 18 percent of big-law partnerships, an increase of just two percent over the past ten years.  Furthermore, a survey from the National Association of Women Lawyers suggests that female partners make 80 percent of what male partners earn.

Mark Oppenheimer at the New Yorker has continued the coverage of the recent National Labor Relations Board ruling that graduate students working at private universities are statutory employees. Oppenheimer draws on his own experience at Yale University.  As an undergraduate student, he did not support graduate student unions and was quoted as saying, “no one is more privileged than the graduate students.”  He later reversed his position as a graduate student at Yale, and he subsequently worked as an organizer in the religious-studies department.  Oppenheimer observes that tenure track jobs have become increasingly scarce in academia and graduate students “have become an indispensable source of labor.”  Last week, graduate students in ten departments at Yale filed a petition for a union election.

The New York Times reported that yesterday President Obama headed to Asia to press his case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The article describes the TPP as “the centerpiece of the president’s Asian focus.”  Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both oppose the agreement, and Congressional leaders have let it be known that they will not bring the measure up for a vote before the election.  As a result, the lame-duck session is likely the last opportunity for a vote in Congress on the issue.