UNM law student selected as Peggy Browning Fellow: UNM Newsroom

Rachel Swanteson-Franz, a rising 2L at the University of New Mexico School of Law, was named a Peggy Browning Fellow for 2024 and will spend the summer working at the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty.


Rachel Swanteson-Franz

The Peggy Browning Fund helps law students gain experience advocating for justice in the workplace by providing fellows with a stipend for ten weeks of employment with labor-related mentoring organizations. Swanteson-Franz is one of 117 law students from across the country selected from a pool of nearly 4,000 applicants for this year’s program.

“Labor needs advocates and we are inspired by the passion and commitment this year’s Fellows bring to the movement. These Fellows are distinguished students who have not only excelled in law school, but who have also demonstrated their commitment to workers’ rights through their prior educational, organizational, employment, volunteer, and personal experiences,” said a statement from the Peggy Browning Fund.

Swanteson-Franz worked in the environmental field for four years, both in research and advocacy, before choosing to attend law school. Working in the environmental justice space and learning more about the labor movement, she saw a deep connection between the issues. She cited the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident, which killed 11 oil rig crew members and led to the largest offshore oil spill in history, as an example of how better labor protections could have stopped the catastrophe.

“You see it locally, where oil and gas workers or miners have a lot of direct health impacts from their working conditions, and the communities near the workplaces have really negative impacts, from poor air quality to water quality, which also directly contributes to the environment. degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change,” she said. “If companies were required to meet much stricter worker safety standards across the board, they wouldn’t be able to exploit workers and exploit the environment at the same time.”

She also cited her interest in ensuring that labor rights are prioritized in the transition to renewable energy and that new jobs in the sector are well paid, treat people well and have strict safety rules.

Swanteson-Franz plans to obtain the Natural Resources and Environmental Law Certificate and will serve as vice president of the Association of Public Interest Law at UNM next year.