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The areas of our firm’s expertise and focus are as diverse and adaptable as the clients we serve. We recognize, and have built our practice upon, the principle that high quality work demands both careful attention to the de rigueur elements of advocacy and representation, and the ability to anticipate and cultivate new and creative avenues to better assist our union, trust fund and individual employee clients.
In the hostile climate facing today’s labor unions, our approach to counseling and advocacy must be anything but “traditional.” We recognize the need for, and assist our clients in, adopting creative and aggressive approaches to organizing and protection of basic employee collective bargaining rights, whether before the National Labor Relations Board, in arbitration, or on the picket line. Employers, their consultants, and their political allies are more sophisticated and resistant to their employees’ aspirations than ever; we have developed, and helped our clients develop, tools and mechanisms to succeed in contemporary labor struggles.
Bush Gottlieb attorneys represent Taft-Hartley and governmental pension and health plans in a number of industries. In that capacity, we provide counsel to plans and their trustees with regard to the complex rules governing those plans, including compliance obligations under such federal laws as ERISA, HIPAA and COBRA. We provide expertise to guide our plan clients through numerous other areas of concern, including QDRO requirements, benefit denials, trustee deadlocks, withdrawal liability tax qualification issues, employer audits and contribution collection litigation. Our employee benefits attorneys serve in leadership positions in the Los Angeles County Bar Association, California Bar Association, and American Bar Association Employee Benefits Section. Among our trust fund clients are Screen Actors Guild-Producer Pension Plan, Western Alliance Trust Fund, Pacific Alliance Food & Commercial Workers Trust Fund, EP Health Insurance Trust, California Healthcare Industry Trust, Public Employees Benefit Trust of California, United Farm Workers Trust Funds, Directors Guild of America-Producer Pension and Health Plans, Motion Picture Industry Pension Plans, and United Firefighters of Los Angeles Benefit Funds.
Bush Gottlieb has for decades represented state and local unions in the expanding area of public employment. Our practice in counseling and advocating for unions has embraced institutions representing tens of thousands of teachers, bus drivers, custodians and other school employees, county and municipal workers, professional employees and health care workers. In this area, our clients call upon us to advocate for them in the courts, before county boards of supervisors, boards of education and civil service commissions, and in the legislative corridors of city councils and Sacramento. On behalf of our public sector union clients, we are active in all three branches of government: adjudicating to obtain beneficial results in court and administrative agencies, lobbying and persuading executives to help and protect our clients, and drafting and arguing for better legislation to bolster their interests.
The firm’s attorneys appear and advocate regularly throughout the nation before federal, state and local courts, administrative agencies and arbitration panels in their representation of unions, injured workers, collectively-bargained trust funds, and employees, with respect to a broad range of tort, labor relations and employment matters. In addition to tort litigation brought on behalf of its own clients, the firm continues to play a unique role as local counsel for out-of-state attorneys involved in tort litigation in the state and federal courts of the State of California. The firm’s tort litigation includes: Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), vehicular and professional negligence, toxic tort, product liability, and employment and business litigation.
As to labor-related matters, in addition to the gamut of “bread and butter” cases wherein a union must defend its decisions as collective bargaining agent for employees and a trust fund brings collection suits against delinquent employers, the firm has participated in bankruptcy cases to protect union members’ interests against insolvent employers, whistleblower actions, wage and hour litigation, and has often been called upon to prepare and file amicus curiae briefs on behalf of clients who are intensely interested in disputes where they are not formal parties.
Bush Gottlieb has pioneered the use of security interests to enforce performance of collective bargaining obligations. While traditional labor doctrine is hostile to extensive bargaining over such mechanisms, Bush Gottlieb has nonetheless developed broad expertise in negotiating contract provisions providing for adequate financial assurances, and the creation and perfection of security interests, particularly in motion picture collateral and related proceeds and receivables. We have found that collateralizing employer property to secure performance of contract obligations greatly enhances contract enforcement. Our familiarity with Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code, the Copyright Act, the Canadian Copyright Act, and the laws of other foreign jurisdictions relating to perfection of security interests in copyrights and related assets exemplifies the firm’s creativity in harnessing commercial law concepts for the protection of worker interests.
We have been involved in hundreds of complex motion picture production and financing transactions, representing the interests of labor unions through negotiation of security agreements, intercreditor agreements, guaranties, collection account agreements and other devices intended to maximize employer performance of obligations owed to union members under collective bargaining agreements. Bush Gottlieb’s commitment to vigorously protect the interests of labor unions in the area has taken us to Sacramento and Washington, D.C. as we monitor and often play a significant role in legislative efforts that impact on the laws and regulations governing the creation of liens in intellectual property.
In addition to counseling our clients in properly obtaining and perfecting security interests, we also assist in obtaining alternative financial assurances, and in enforcing security interests through negotiated resolutions, foreclosure sales, and creative use of such liens to protect the interests of labor organizations as creditors in bankruptcies, workouts and other insolvency scenarios.
The firm has extensive experience counseling unions and trust funds as creditors, in bankruptcies and other insolvency scenarios. Our work in this area commenced with airline bankruptcies in the 1980s and continues in that troubled industry today. We have developed skills and industrial knowledge applicable in many fields, particularly in the entertainment industry. Although the Bankruptcy Code is in many ways antagonistic to union interests in general and continuing responsibility for future obligations in particular, we have executed strategies and techniques through which we have facilitated collection of tens of millions of dollars in accrued and future residuals and pension and health contributions for directors, performers, writers and trust funds covering virtually all organized vocations and crafts in the motion picture industry. Our experience in this area has resulted in developing expertise in intellectual property concepts and Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code as we have assisted clients in obtaining and enforcing security interests in motion pictures as collateral for performance of collective bargaining obligations. We increasingly utilize these skills in a proactive manner through non-bankruptcy workouts, and anticipate continuing success in using commercial law concepts to further the interests of unions and their members.
The RLA regulates labor relations for employees of airlines and railroads. Our expertise in this unique area of law and practice arose from epic battles against Frank Lorenzo’s Continental Airlines in the 1980s, extended to the creation of the world’s largest employee stock ownership plan at United Airlines in the 1990s, and has continued in the deregulation era through the post-millennium airline bankruptcies. Our RLA practice calls upon the firm’s lawyers to represent airline and railroad unions and their members throughout the nation in the federal courts, and before administrative agencies and System Boards of Adjustment. We counsel unions engaged in the often arduous and distinct RLA-defined collective bargaining process monitored by the National Mediation Board, and are familiar with the idiosyncrasies of modern application of a statute enacted prior to the advent of commercial aviation.
Bush Gottlieb has a growing litigation practice dedicated to the representation of employees in wage and hour claims against their employers, including disputes concerning wages, non payment of overtime or preparation time, vacation pay, rest and meal period violations, and failure to abide by local living wage ordinances. This practice is devoted to enforcing local, state and federal laws regulating employee pay, on both an individual and class action basis.
Non exempt employees are entitled to time and a half or double pay for overtime, and are entitled to receive timely pay for all hours worked, including time spent working during lunch or other breaks, and time spent in necessary preparation for work. Employers sometimes illegally misclassify employees as supervisors or managers or otherwise inaccurately define them as within overtime-exempt categories to avoid properly paying for overtime, fail to pay them gratuities or other compensation due them, and/or do not give employees breaks, as required by law. Bush Gottlieb’s wage and hour practice group pierces these common workplace abuses to ensure employees are properly compensated in accordance with all applicable laws.
The firm has long recognized the importance of establishing and maintaining proactive relationships with the governmental officers, bodies and agencies that impact upon, and influence, our clients’ interests. We advocate before local, county, state and federal administrative, judicial and legislative decision makers to assist our clients in obtaining appropriate rulings, regulations and legislative action that will benefit them.
In all governmental arenas, we help our clients develop and implement strategies to achieve their short- and long-term objectives, working with other allied groups and organizations when appropriate. We provide written and testimonial commentary before legislative bodies on pending bills, draft and review legislation in which our clients have an interest, fostering our clients’ efforts both to gain passage of helpful laws, and also furthering their endeavors to defeat or ameliorate harmful laws. The firm also litigates in support of its advocacy in the administrative and legislative arenas, to sharpen the focus of our non-judicial advocacy efforts, and to underscore the need and desirability for the changes we seek on behalf of our clients.