Four Rutgers Law students - Melissa Perez, left, and Rebecca Zborowski, right, and Gianna McDevitt and Caitlin Pennell, all RLAW '22 - have won Peggy Browning Fellowships and will participate in public interest labor law summer fellowships. The fellowships are highly competitive, with over 700 students applying for them this year.
McDevitt and Pennell will spend their summer at Sheet Metal Workers Union No. 19 in Philadelphia. A South Philadelphia native, McDevitt grew up in a union family and worked in the restaurant industry where she witnessed exploitive labor practices. Pennell is a first-generation student who became passionate about workers' rights after learning about the job discrimination her Irish ancestors faced.
At Rutgers Law, Pennell is the Vice President of the Student Bar Association, the Vice President of Sports for the Sports and Entertainment Law Society, and the Secretary of the Women's Law Caucus. " When I toured Rutgers Law-Camden with my parents, I knew it was the right fit for me. Minutes away from city-life in Philadelphia, yet still has the classic Jersey elements, such as friendly staff and students, an overall eagerness to help others, and a strong community," she said. "That is the great thing about Rutgers Law, even in a virtual environment, so many students have made themselves available to 1L's for advice, or just someone to talk to. The Rutgers Community is what makes Rutgers Law so special!"
Perez will spend her summer at Segal Roitman, LLP in Boston to help advise labor unions and employees, negotiate contracts, counsel employee benefit funds and assist injured workers. Zborowski will work at AFSCME in Washington D.C. on international issues affecting the union as a whole.
Both student had a strong interest in labor law and previous experiences that led to their successful fellowship selection.
Perez said, "My interest in labor and employment law stemmed from my passion for human rights work, which has evolved throughout my professional experiences. I became interested during my undergraduate schooling at the George Washington University where as an intern at Lawyers Without Borders, I aided in the publication of informational manuals on child labor laws in Jamaica. In 2019, I interned at the United Nations Joint Inspection Unit in Geneva, Switzerland to assist on a report covering the internal workings of a UN organization." She added,"These experiences led me to work at a union this past academic year where I was allowed the opportunity to work at New York State United Teachers to conduct a large range of research in various facets of labor and employment law, such as reasonable accommodations."
"I was an AFSCME shop steward for my local just outside Boston where I represented my coworkers at the bargaining table," Zborowski explained. My interest in public interest law stemmed directly from my experience advocating on behalf of my coworkers in the union. I'm an effective negotiator for a group and I developed the skill of distilling the wants of many people to a core agenda I can bring back to them."
The Peggy Browning Fund explained that this summer's fellows will work in a combination of in-person and remote assignments, "While the country continues to recover from the pandemic, having great labor lawyers is now more important than ever, and we are proud of our fellows fighting for workplace justice."
The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Perez is a member of the Minority Student Program and the financial committee for the Dean's Student Advisory Council at Rutgers Law School. This fall, she will be an Associate Editor for the Rutgers Law Record and a LAWRS Teaching Assistant.
Zborowski is a member of the National Trial Team and will be part of the Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic this fall.
The Peggy Browning Fund is a not-for-profit organization established in memory of Margaret A. Browning, a promininent union-side attorney, who was a member of the National Labor Relations Board from 1994 until 1997. The fellowships named after her, provide law students with unique work experiences and encourage them to pursue careers in public interest labor law.