As MSLAW alumnus Ed Starr was graduating from law school in 2007, he began his second career. Starr transitioned from a Fiber Optics (FiOS) Technician with Verizon to the elected union representative, the Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, IBEW Local 2321. Today, Starr represents all of the Verizon workers in 43 communities throughout the Merrimack Valley and North Shore. “Every day is different, and when we can actually help a member win their job back or keep them from being fired, it is very rewarding. This job is about helping people—working families—and it entails every imaginable form of advocacy you can come up with,” Starr said.
As the principal officer of the union, Starr is responsible for an appointed staff of business agents. He runs the day-to-day operations of the union and negotiates the collective bargaining agreements with Verizon on behalf of a small negotiating team, which represents 39,000 workers along the East Coast. “I basically serve as a general counsel of the union local as well, where I investigate employee grievances and proceed to represent the employees through the grievance process, at which time depending on the case, I appoint an attorney to represent our member in arbitration,” Starr explained, while handling mediation cases from beginning to end. “I also practice some administrative law, researching and preparing cases for hearings with the National Labor Relations Board, the Department of Labor, and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. We also represent members at unemployment hearings and work with outside counsel for Workers Compensation cases.” Starr was appointed last year to the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Section Council Committee.
In addition, Starr handles some legislative work and lobbying at the Massachusetts State House and in Washington, DC, and he noted that one of the most challenging parts of his job is advocating on behalf of employees to keep jobs, in light of the employer downsizing and moving jobs out of state. Clearly, all of this makes for a long work day—Starr says his days tend to begin at 5:30 AM and last until 5 PM. “I enjoy it all, as every day brings different kinds of chaos, where we are constantly utilizing Alternative Dispute Resolution skills,” he said.
Starr recounted one streak of contract negotiations which lasted 16 months in total, while he was away from home 5-7 days a week the whole time. “We had a two-week strike two months into the negotiations and came back to work and the bargaining table for another 12 months in New York as part of a bargaining team of approximately 30 union negotiators from Massachusetts to Virginia” Starr recounted. “After 12 months, the bargaining team was reduced to 10, of which I was selected to go to federal mediation in Washington, DC with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, in order to try and avert another strike. This was an experience unlike no other and my legal education and values that MSLAW instilled in me were the reason that I was selected to the small negotiating table.”
Starr said he appreciates most the education he received in learning to research and think like a lawyer. “[The] education and skills that I learned as an MSLAW student have undoubtedly provided me with a phenomenal background, which I use every day as a union negotiator,” he said. “MSLAW’s contributions to my success in my career came from not only teaching me about the study of law, but more importantly MSLAW taught me about commitment, due diligence, zealously advocating for your client and thinking about both sides of an argument. I think everything that I have detailed about my profession as a labor leader and workers advocate and the success that I have had in my field is absolutely due to the foundation that was built for me by MSLAW.”
Starr stressed the importance of continuing education—since graduating law school, he has obtained Masters in Human Resources and Employee Relations from Pennsylvania State University and is currently obtaining another Masters in Organizational and Professional Communication, Alternative Dispute Resolution, from the University of Denver. He has also sought out many other certificates in labor studies, advanced negotiations, and sustainable community development. “I think that once you get your law degree and become a lawyer, the keys to success are not only continuing your education and attending bar association events and training, but also becoming active as a volunteer in your community,” Starr noted. “[J]oin all of the bar associations you can, attend social events and really try and soak up as much as you can. If there are opportunities for you at your present employer, seek them out, take chances; update your resume professionally and be ready to hit the ground running after you pass the bar.”
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