Faculty of Law

Faculty of Law
Faculty of Law

Baker McKenzie renews support for ground-breaking labour law research 

(August 1, 2017)

Manoj Dias-Abey, PhD’16, recipient of the 2017 Baker & McKenzie LLP Fellowship.
Manoj Dias-Abey, PhD’16, recipient of the 2017 Baker & McKenzie LLP Fellowship (Photo by Greg Black)

Improving the conditions of migrant farm workers is more challenging and critical than ever in a world with a globalized food system. Baker & McKenzie LLP, an international law firm with expertise in global issues, is helping to do just that with a new $60,000 gift to Queen’s Law to support the research of Manoj Dias-Abey, PhD’16. Since the firm’s 2013 endowment gift of $62,500 to Queen’s Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace (CLCW), research support has been awarded annually to the Centre’s designated priority.

Dias-Abey, the 2017 Baker & McKenzie LLP Fellow, is a postdoctoral researcher with the CLCW who is investigating the strategies used by non-traditional labour organizations in the agricultural sector in North America. 

“I am interested in developing conceptual tools that make sense of the legal strategies adopted by such emerging organizations as innovative unions, worker centres, legal clinics, activist and advocacy bodies, transnational advocacy networks, and social movements,” he says. “I take a broad view of legal strategies – not only how these organizations engage with government laws and institutions, but also how they use law to build and coalesce movements, spread legal consciousness among workers, and develop private regulatory systems. I also conduct empirical research to study non-traditional labour organizations currently active in the field. Ultimately, I want to uncover which strategies work and why.”

He calls migrant farm workers some of the most exploited employees in today’s economy. “They tend to be excluded from many of the legal protections (e.g. collective bargaining) available to other types of workers, and trade unions have had very limited success in organizing them.” 

“This has left a space for non-traditional labour bodies to intervene to assist the migrant farm worker community,” he explains.  “I believe that the ‘alt-labour’ organizations looking after these workers’ interests represent some of the most creative and energetic elements of the broader labour movement and that the rest of the labour movement can learn from them.” 

One product of Dias-Abey’s research to date is his forthcoming article for the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review: “Justice on our Fields: Can ‘Alt-Labor’ Organizations Improve the Working Conditions of Migrant Farm Workers in Canada?” He has also presented his research at a number of academic conferences and been invited to give talks to interested faculty at places like the Cornell ILR School. 

In addition to his work with the CLCW, which provides national leadership in research and teaching in labour and employment law, Dias-Abey developed and teaches an online Workplace Law course as part of Queen’s Certificate in Law program for undergraduate students and non-legal professionals. He has also taught International Labour Law to upper-year JD students. 

At this busy stage of his academic career, he says, “I’m very grateful that the Baker McKenzie Fellowship has secured for me the time, space and means to conduct such extensive research.”

By Anthony Pugh