Penn State Law student wins labor law fellowship

Penn State Law student Sean Jorgensen was awarded a ten-week summer fellowship from the Peggy Browning Fund. Jorgensen will be working at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., which has 1.6 million working and retired members.  

Jorgensen said he will be working in the General Counsel’s Office and felt his experience last summer working at AFSCME Council 13 in Harrisburg gave him an advantage. Jorgensen’s first exposure to the labor movement came shortly after he graduated from high school and took a job doing low-voltage electrical work. Having been raised in an anti-union family, he was hesitant to become a union member. He changed his mind after experiencing firsthand the company’s violation of federal wage laws, underpaying employees. That led him to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 291, and he remained a member until taking a leave of absence to do volunteer work in the Czech Republic. After returning from Europe, he worked part-time while earning a degree at Idaho State University in philosophy.

“My study of philosophy deepened my commitment to social justice and, perhaps more importantly, led me to law school where I am learning to apply my passion for workers’ rights.  Becoming a Peggy Browning Fellow has been the greatest honor and thrill of my budding career,” Jorgensen said.

In spite of his strong union-side experiences, Jorgensen said when he graduates, he hopes to work in private practice representing both employees and employers. He was just elected president of the WorkLaw Society, whose mission is to promote the awareness and discussion of legal and social issues affecting the workplace, and to advocate for workers’ rights and workplace equality. He said he especially benefited from Professor Ellen Dannin’s expertise as well as her practical approach to networking and skill building. Dannin is the faculty coordinator for the Peggy Browning Fellowship.

According to Peggy Browning Fund spokesperson Robin Robinowitz, the application process is highly competitive -- with over 500 applications for 70 slots, and the award was based on Jorgensen’s outstanding qualifications. The Peggy Browning Fund is a not-for-profit organization established in memory of Margaret A. Browning, a prominent union-side attorney who was a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from 1994 until 1997. Peggy Browning Fellowships provide law students with unique, diverse and challenging work experiences fighting for social and economic justice.  

Last Updated July 22, 2015