Founding Donor Interview: Frank Freed Subit & Thomas

For this interview we spoke with Mike Subit from Frank Freed Subit & Thomas. Founding Donors have made deep, lasting investments in the success of Fair Work Center.

Why did you choose to practice employment law?

Going into law school, I knew I wanted to practice some sort of civil rights or constitutional law when I got done. At the time, I would have guessed I’d go into a career with someplace like the ACLU. And I actually did work for the ACLU for a couple of years early in my career, but it was as a summer associate at a labor and employment firm in the Bay Area that I got a taste for plaintiff-side employment law. So I took more labor and employment courses and by the time I was done with law school and after two federal clerkships, I knew it was the area of law I wanted to focus my career.

For so many of us, our work is fundamental to who we are. When people are stripped of their rights at work or aren’t getting fairly paid for their work, it can be devastating for them and their families, both economically and psychologically. I’ve always felt that practicing employment law enables me to do that public interest work that I went to law school for in the first place.

What are some challenges you see for workers today?

Elections matter. Changes in the courts matter. I have been through some different administrations, but we are now dealing with the greatest challenge we have seen since the New Deal. We are going to have an administration that will be the most anti-worker, anti-union administration since Calvin Coolidge. I think workers are in for a host of challenges – from gutting labor standards to attacks on unions to undoing some of the good work the Department of Labor has been engaged in under the Obama administration.

Thankfully we are in a region and a state with relatively strong laws for workers, so we will devote our time to improving lives of workers at state and local levels over the next few years.

What change would you like to see to improve the welfare of all working people?

I would like to get rid of employment at will – the employment law principle that allows employees to be discharged for no reason. I believe ending it would help both employers and employees. It would improve both the appearance and the reality of fair treatment in the workplace. I would like to replace it with some sort of cause provision, similar to what you see in union contracts. I think it would help lead to faster resolutions for both sides, help avoid costly litigation, and, as we see among workers with cause provisions in their union contracts, it makes a big difference in the empowerment of workers to have greater control over your conditions at work.

Why does your firm support Fair Work Center?

There are so many unmet needs in terms of resources for workers to exercise their rights, particularly fair wages. Private law firms don’t have enough lawyers to do the work, and even with the current system that encourages attorneys to take such cases on, a lot of cases still don’t make sense for a firm to take on financially. A clinic has different goals and orientations and can provide more resources to the people who need it and to people who might otherwise fall through the cracks. Also, we fully support the Legal Clinic’s role in training the next generation of lawyers that will devote their lives to help working people achieve their rights.

 

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