MISSOULA – Noah Goldberg-Jaffe grew up with a father as a teacher and spent his life watching his dad benefit from being a union member. Then when he was 26, Goldberg-Jaffe worked to organize unions for the Oregon American Federation of Labor Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). This summer, he walked picket lines, held strike signs and developed a deep and meaningful understanding of what it means to advocate for working people.
“It was an ‘ah-ha’ moment when I was going to work and making an impact on my community,” he said. “I realized that unions are a conduit for social change and improving the lives of working people.”
Now a third-year law student at the University of Montana, Goldberg-Jaffe spent 10 weeks this summer making a difference by advocating for workplace justice and fair labor practices after earning a prestigious Peggy Browning Fellowship.
The fellowship provides stipends to law students who dedicate their summer to advancing the cause of workers’ rights by working for labor unions, worker centers, labor-related not-for-profit organizations, union-side law firms and other nonprofit organizations.
Through these unique and challenging work experiences, Fellows gain practical skills while the host organizations and their clients benefit from the services they provide.
When Goldberg-Jaffe came to the Blewett School of Law, he applied to the Peggy Browning Fellowship and received the award for 2021.
“I always knew I wanted to do union law,” Goldberg-Jaffe said. “I’ve benefitted my whole life from unions and worker movements.”
The fellowship partnered Goldberg-Jaffe with his top-choice organization, Service Employees International Union. The union represents 2 million diverse members in health care, the public sector and property services and is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with local offices throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.
“I worked for the general counsel office doing a wide range of research and writing – classic legal intern clerk skills – but I did get to go to strike and learn what it’s like to practice law outside the office, too,” Goldberg-Jaffe said.
He was involved in a strike in Kalispell by an SEIU union representing 650 nurses at Logan Health. The nurses walked off the job June 1 after more than a year of contract negotiations, as well as staffing and retention issues. He shadowed an SEIU attorney there to support the workers, held signs and walked the picket line alongside the nurses.
“That is how the summer started for me,” he said. “Technically, my work was based in D.C., but I was really excited to be able to connect that work in D.C. with people on the ground in Kalispell.”
He said when he started law school, Goldberg-Jaffe was unaware how complex labor law was, but that his eyes have been opened by his fellowship experience.
“I’ve learned that all types of law impact working people – constitutional law, civil rights –not necessarily just labor law,” Goldberg-Jaffe said. “This is what I came to law school for, and it was so validating. It was interesting and exciting to work with attorneys and other law students all over the country.
“As I’ve done the work, I’ve grown more passionate about it.”
After completing his final year of law school, Goldberg-Jaffe will clerk for the Honorable Donald W. Molloy of the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in Missoula, then he hopes to launch a career in labor law.
Contact: Andi Armstrong, Blewett School of Law director of marketing and communications, 406-243-6509, firstname.lastname@example.org.