Aaron Bibb—one of five recipients of a 2018 Michael Weiner Scholarship for Labor Studies—is busy pretty much all the time as a married father of two children and a law student.
When he isn’t making sure his children are fed and ready for school, Bibb, a Tennessee native, is studying labor and employment law at the University of Wisconsin Law School.
“I am a non-traditional law student,” said Bibb, whose goal after earning his law degree is to practice labor and employment law in Wisconsin. “In the early 2000s I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I got involved in the Teaching Assistants’ Association, the union for graduate workers at UW.”
Bibb credits his time with the TAA for his understanding of the value of collective action.
After graduate school, he went on to work for the parent union of the TAA, the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, where he acquired hands-on experience organizing new faculty and academic staff unions. He worked for nearly two years organizing at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where faculty successfully petitioned for a union election. That election was scheduled for February 2011, less than two weeks after Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, introduced Act 10, which ultimately repealed the legal authority of the UW academic faculty and staff to collectively bargain and drastically restricted the rights of other public employees in the state.
“Helping faculty at UW-La Crosse organize a new union was a really great experience,” said Bibb. “Despite the fact that Walker had just introduced the bill, our members really stepped up to win their election by a huge margin.”
Though the anti-union bill was eventually passed, Bibb says, he and fellow union members know the labor movement lives on—with or without the law.
“Unions didn’t form because the law said they could; laws like the National Labor Relations Act were passed because union members were already working together to demand those changes,” he said.
In response to the reduction of union rights within the state, Bibb and his colleagues worked with a wide variety of public employees to build structures to sustain workers’ voices even with their ability to collectively bargain gone.
It was that involvement that helped motivate him to pursue going to law school.
“The work was interesting and intellectually stimulating, something I had kinda missed from my graduate work,” said Bibb. “I was finding that a lot of the pieces of my job that I found most interesting had the law involved. It was intellectually stimulating in a way that I missed from my graduate work. My wife, Elizabeth, has been an attorney for over ten years, and I had always been very interested in the work she was doing.”
In addition to his coursework, he is a clinical law student in the Neighborhood Law Clinic, learning and practicing employment and rental housing law. He is also a law clerk at Hawks Quindel, S.C., a Wisconsin law firm that focuses on employee-side labor and employment law, and volunteers in the Unemployment Appeals Clinic, assisting workers whose eligibility for unemployment benefits has been challenged. He is also active in his local school district, and has rejoined the TAA now that he’s back at UW.
Bibb, like many fellow Weiner Scholarship recipients, has come to view the MLBPA’s significant achievements over 50-plus years as symbolic of workers’ ability to succeed through unity.
“Seeing that commitment to the labor movement really does set a great example for other unions,” said Bibb. “Whatever their income level is, there are still workers exposed to exploitation and when they act collectively, they can demand fair treatment.”
“This scholarship means a lot to me, as I grew up a baseball fan,” said Bibb, who roots for the Cardinals and Brewers. “Baseball was my first exposure to the importance of labor unions, and because of that I’m really grateful.”
To be eligible for the Michael Weiner Scholarship for Labor Studies, individuals must be Graduate or Law Students enrolled in accredited educational institutions in the United States or Canada and must have a demonstrated interest and aspire to a career working in the labor movement and on behalf of workers’ rights.
To receive an award, eligible candidates must meet a combination of criteria including a superior academic record, a demonstrated commitment to the labor movement, a strong recommendation from an academic or a labor/worker’s rights practitioner, and an excellent display of written and oral communication skills.
Preference also is given to those who can demonstrate financial need through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) scores or otherwise.
The scholarship application for the 2018 Michael Weiner Scholarship for Labor Studies will be posted here in July 2018.
To read Gabriel Frumkin’s scholarship feature, click here
To read David Huang’s scholarship feature, click here
To read Benjamin Mantle’s scholarship feature, click here
To read Joaquin Recinos’ scholarship feature, click here