Posted November 15, 2016
At our 2016 awards dinner on Wednesday evening, the National Employment Law Project will recognize our newest Beth Shulman Fellow, Judy Scott, as well as an honor roll of individuals and campaigns that have made exceptional contributions towards advancing workers’ rights and interests in the past year.
The members of our staff and board are particularly excited to honor Scott, who serves as general counsel for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), for her decades of leadership as a labor lawyer and union strategist.
“Now, more than ever, we need people like Judy,” says Christine Owens, NELP executive director. “A trailblazer and role model without equal, she has made a deep and lasting impact on our movement, and she is the perfect embodiment of the values that guided Beth Shulman throughout her life.”
The Beth Shulman Fellowship was created in memory of its namesake, who was a widely respected writer and workers’ rights advocate, and whose contributions as chair of the NELP board of directors continue to inspire and guide our work.
“It is truly an honor to be recognized with NELP’s Shulman Fellowship,” Scott says. “It has been a pleasure to work with the organization over the years, and especially given the events of the past week, it is comforting to know that labor unions and advocates have such strong and committed allies, like NELP, in our fight for workers’ rights moving forward.”
Like Shulman, Scott has devoted her career to ensuring that all workers have access to opportunity and economic security through their labor, beginning with her work in the Kentucky coal mining communities more than 40 years ago.
There, Scott worked with the families of coal miners who were seriously ill and dying from black lung disease, but who struggled to get the compensation that they needed from their employer for their illness. The experience, as well as the extreme levels of poverty that she witnessed, cemented her commitment to the labor movement.
Since then, Scott has become an unrivaled labor advocate, with experience working with the United Mine Workers, the United Automobile Workers, and AFSCME, and later as general counsel with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and now with SEIU.
“My experience over these many years has only strengthened my view that workers joining together in labor unions is one of the most effective ways to confront poverty and to forge a pathway to a decent middle class life and to thriving communities,” Scott says.
In her current role, she has played an integral part in SEIU’s innovative organizing tactics and legal strategies in North America, while guiding the union’s participation in several campaigns that are key to NELP’s work, including efforts to protect wages and benefits for home care workers and the “Fight for $15 and Union Rights” movement.
The only woman to have served as general counsel of two major international unions, Scott is also a pioneering female labor lawyer, and she is committed to her role as a mentor for young women who are following in her footsteps.
She currently serves on the boards of the Alliance for Justice and the American Constitution Society. She previously served as union co-chair of the ABA International Labor and Employment Law Committee and on the board of the National Partnership for Women and Families. Scott was honored by the D.C. Women’s Bar Association as the 2015 “Woman Lawyer of the Year,” and in 2016, she received the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.
Though Scott will officially retire from her position at SEIU in early 2017, she will continue her work as a member of the Washington, D.C. labor law firm James & Hoffman, which NELP is also honoring at our awards dinner.
Along with Scott and James & Hoffman, NELP will honor a carefully selected group of federal officials, other leaders from business, philanthropy, and the law, and several game-changing campaigns on Wednesday, including the Fight for $15 and the Jobs to Move America campaigns.