‘Real Joy’ in Improving Lives Through Labor Law: Amy Rosenberger ’85

By Christopher Clymer Kurtz | May 24th, 2019

Amy Rosenberger ’85 in her office in downtown Philadelphia at Willig, Williams and Davidson. She is a past president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association and has served on the board of directors of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee.

HER MOTHER’S EXASPERATED “You ought to be a lawyer!” was ultimately not lost on Amy Rosenberger ’85, who as an eight-year-old was arguing her case for spending a Saturday with a friend.

But heading off to EMU a decade later, her perceived career options – social work, nursing, teaching – didn’t include law. Mennonites, after all, have historically sworn off suing or otherwise turning to the courts for conflict resolution.

“But it sure is fun,” she said recently.

Now practicing labor and employment law in Philadelphia, Rosenberger works with unions to protect people such as health care workers, educators, bus drivers and custodial workers against unfair treatment, and to negotiate for fair wages, benefits and retirement security.

“I get a nerdy sort of satisfaction out of crafting a persuasive argument to a court, arbitrator or other decision maker,” she said. “But the real joy in my work comes from putting my arguments to use as part of a team of people with diverse talents all working together to help improve the lives of ordinary people in concrete ways.”

Rosenberger graduated from EMU with a degree in English, minors in sociology and theater arts, and a deeper understanding of “the wider array of options for my professional role in society,” she said, thanks to a year at the Washington Community Scholars’ Center (WCSC) with “part professor, part counselor and part mentor” Nelson Good ’68.

A year after graduating, Rosenberger returned to Washington, and worked for WCSC and as support staff for five attorneys at a faith-based agency working with low-income families. Like her mother long before, her future brother-in-law noted her skills.

“That’s actually the first time in my adult life that anyone said, ‘Yeah, you should think about going to law school,’” she said.

First, though, Rosenberger and a former WCSC housemate – now-Eastern Mennonite Seminary office coordinator Emily North – headed to San Francisco, where she found another legal secretarial job at a firm that represented labor unions. The firm opened her eyes to law as “a practical way to do something that can have relatively immediate benefits for ordinary people, and something that I really felt a connection to,” she said.

Now nearly a quarter century into practicing law, Rosenberger is continuing to “learn and develop as a lawyer and as a business partner” – and to have fun.

As an eight-year-old, she had had “no idea” what her mother had been talking about – “but I certainly do now,” she said. “It is still thrilling to be able to help right a wrong for an individual employee, or to help ensure fair treatment for a group of workers.”