In 1970, young lawyers active in the student civil rights and anti-war movement founded the firm in makeshift offices on Bonnie Brae Street in downtown Los Angeles, determined to dedicate their practice of law to advance the cause of working people. From the firm’s inception, we have been committed to providing our clients with the highest quality legal services, and we continue to devote our time and energies to the principle that our clients and the important work they do deserve the very best advocacy and counsel. Through the ensuing decades, as the name of the firm has changed and its expertise has evolved with the needs of its union and trust fund clients, the firm remains true to its original purpose of supporting progressive social movements wherever we can be of service — in the courtroom, the boardroom, the halls of Sacramento and Washington, D.C., from the rural reaches of Watsonville, California, to the city streets of Los Angeles.
This uncompromising approach has borne fruit in numerous significant reported judicial and administrative decisions handled by our attorneys.1 In the 70s, the firm won a breakthrough Title VII class action victory2 for female flight attendants unfairly subject to airline weight restrictions. That success led to the firm’s representation of the flight attendants’ union at Continental Airlines, and the pitched labor battles against its CEO Frank Lorenzo in and out of the bankruptcy courts in the airline industry in the 1980s. Those battles resonate today as the airline unions we represent continue to fight major air carriers seeking economic concessions in bankruptcy.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the firm litigated a number of class action Title VII actions against the Pacific Maritime Association which resulted in consent decrees that required the integration of longshore, clerk and other positions in the Los Angeles- Long Beach harbor.3
In the 1980s, litigation highlights for the firm included convincing the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to stop what was to be the largest airline merger ever,4 and breaking new ground in affording unions the discretion they need to fairly represent employees in the grievance and arbitration process.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, the firm continued to expand its practice, representing unions bargaining for aerospace workers throughout Southern California, airline employees throughout the United States, supermarket employees, teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers and bus drivers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and actors, directors and the basic crafts in the vibrant Southern California entertainment industry. In that period, the firm established its signature bankruptcy practice built upon its participation in the airline collapses of the 1980s, representing unions whose members’ fundamental interests are threatened by employers’ insolvency. During the same period, it extended its expertise into plaintiff’s tort litigation, including asbestos/toxic tort, product liability and Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) litigation. The firm also successfully represented the Justice for Janitors organizing campaign in police brutality litigation against the Los Angeles Police Department.
The litigation highlight for the 90s was our triumph in the United States Supreme Court for the Screen Actors Guild rejecting a “right to work” attack5 against provisions found in the union’s collective bargaining agreements and in similar agreements nationwide. The firm successfully undermined other “right to work”6 assaults on public sector clients, gained relief against employers engaging in corporate “sleight of hand”7 to undermine employees’ rights to union representation, fought to provide the widest berth8 for grievance and arbitration protective of those employees, and built legal barriers against overreaching claims of union liability.9 In 1993-94, the firm helped its clients establish the largest employee stock ownership program in the United States, at United Airlines. We also participated in securing proper overtime wage payments for represented employees in the public sector.
The firm has successfully harnessed commercial law doctrines to serve workers’ interests. Most significantly in the film industry, the firm has represented the entertainment guilds in all major industry bankruptcies since 1988. As a consequence of this experience, the firm pioneered and developed a unique practice of obtaining security interests in employer film assets to ensure payment of residuals to directors, performers and writers, and made that practice pay off in the bankruptcy courts where major insolvent production companies sought relief from their creditors, but could not escape their secured obligations owed to entertainment unions. The firm has also succeeded in the legislative arena10 in enhancing residuals collection.
In the last decade, the firm has expanded its representation of trust funds, counseling pension and health plans that provide benefits to employee participants in the construction, entertainment and other industries, and providing litigation services to protect the integrity of the plans. The firm has also played a prominent role in protecting employees’ rights to all appropriate forums for pursuing wage and hour claims,11 an area where the firm anticipates growth and opportunity for unions in Southern California. Airline labor litigation continues to be hard-fought, with this firm in the forefront of impeding carriers’ attempts to curtail employees’ ability to maintain job security12 and express dissatisfaction at work.13 The firm continues its active plaintiffs’ tort, employment and business litigation practice, which it has expanded through its service as local counsel in counties throughout the State of California and in the California federal district courts, associating with counsel from Oregon, Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, New York, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.
Looking forward, we anticipate continued growth in our representation of multi employer pension and health plans in the entertainment, construction and other industries, steady concentration on litigation and transactional support for unions and injured workers, counseling of clients in the related fields of government regulation and legislation, and an increasing emphasis on representing unrepresented employees who have claims based on violations of state and local laws, such as wage and hour, antidiscrimination, and whistleblower protection statutes.
- Gerdom v. Continental Airlines, Inc., 692 F.2d 602 (9th Cir. 1982).
- Bates v. Pacific Maritime Ass’n, 744 F.2d 705 (9th Cir. 1984).
- IBTCWHA, Local Union No. 2707 v. Western Air Lines, Inc., 813 F.2d 1359 (9th Cir.1987); Delta Air Lines, Inc. v. International Broth. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs,Delta Air Lines, Inc 484 U.S. 806 (1987).
- Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild, 525 U.S. 33 (1998).
- Mitchell v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist., 963 F.2d 258 (9th Cir. 1992).
- N.L.R.B. v. Compact Video Services, Inc., 121 F.3d 478 (9th Cir. 1997); International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and Moving Picture Mach. Operators, AFL-CIO v. Compact Video Services, Inc., 50 F.3d 1464 (9th Cir.1995).
- Screen Actors Guild v. A. Shane Co., 225 Cal.App.3d 260 (1990); United Broth. of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local No. 1780 v. Desert Palace, Inc., 94 F.3d 1308 (9th Cir.1996).
- Laughon v. International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists & Allied Crafts of the United States and Canada, 248 F.3d 931 (9th Cir. 2001); Madison v. Motion Picture Set Painters and Sign Writers Local 729, 132 F.Supp.2d 1244 (C.D.Cal., 2000).
- 28 U.S.C. Section 4001; UCC ‘9-321
- Styne v. Stevens, 26 Cal.4th 423 (2001).
- International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers v. US Airways, Inc., 287 F.Supp.2d 599 (W.D.Pa.2003); International Ass’n. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers v. U.S. Airways, Inc., 358 F.3d 255 (3rd Cir. 2004).
- United Air Lines, Inc. v. International Ass’n of Machinist and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO 243 F.3d 349 (7th Cir.2001).
Other prominent published cases in which our firm’s attorneys have been involved include:
- County Sanitation Dist. No. 2 v. Los Angeles County Employees’ Assn., 38 Cal.3d 564 (1985) (Public section union employees may strike, and such strikes are neither unlawful nor tortious, unless specifically deemed an imminent threat to public safety).
- Motion Picture & Videotape Editors Guild, Local 776, I.A.T.S.E. v. International Sound Technicians, Cinetechnicians and Television Engineers of Motion Picture and Television Industries, Local 695, 800 F.2d 973, amended 806 F.2d 1410, (9th Cir. 1986) (Judicial deference must be afforded to unions in interpreting their constitutions).
- In re Continental Airlines Corp., 64 B.R. 882 (Bankr.S.D.Tex.1986).
- In re Continental Airlines Corp., 60 B.R. 903, (Bankr.S.D.Tex.1986).
- In re Continental Airlines Corp., 57 B.R. 845 (Bankr.S.D.Tex. 1985).
- In re Continental Airlines Corp., 38 B.R. 67 (Bankr.S.D.Tex. 1984).
- International Ass’n. of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. Qantas Airways, Ltd., 1984 WL 2738, 121 L.R.R.M. 2312 (N.D.Cal. 1984).
- Comedy III Productions, Inc. v. Gary Saderup, Inc., 25 Cal.4th 387 (2001) (Right of publicity prevents defendant from using images of deceased personalities on sketches and t-shirts for his own economic gain).
- DIC Entertainment, LP v. N.L.R.B., 238 F.3d 434 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (NLRB determined an appropriate bargaining unit and order of enforcement for ULP against employer for failure to bargain granted).
- Messenger ex rel. Messenger v. Gruner + Jahr Printing and Pub., 94 N.Y.2d 436, 727 N.E.2d 549 (2000).
- Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984) (Videotape recorders do not sufficiently tread upon copyrights by television producers so as to bar their sale).
- Farmer v. United Broth. of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local 25, 430 U.S. 290 (1977) (Federal labor law does not preempt state causes of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress).
- Moynahan v. Pari-Mutuel Emp. Guild of Cal., Local 280, 317 F.2d 209 (9th Cir. 1963) (The LMRDA does not restrict union’s rights to determine reasonable membership requirements) cert. denied 375 U.S. 911).
- Directors Guild of America v. Harmony Pictures, Inc., 32 F.Supp.2d 1184 (C.D.Cal.1998).
- Norris v. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc., 74 Haw. 235, 842 P.2d 634 (Hawai’I 1992) (RLA did not preempt union airline mechanic’s state tort claims of termination in violation of state statute governing protection for whistleblowers).
- International Ass’n of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) by Winpisinger v. Allegis Corp., 144 Misc.2d 983, 545 N.Y.S.2d 638, 135 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2083 (1989) (RLA does not preempt union’s cause of action against airline holding company for fraudulent conveyance in state court, since the court need not construe any provision of the contract).
- Joint Council of Interns & Residents v. Board of Supervisors, 210 Cal.App.3d 1202 (1989).
- Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. v. Florida Gulf Coast Bldg. and Const. Trades Council, 485 U.S. 568 (1988) (Supreme Court permitted union to handbill outside of a shopping mall that paid substandard wages where such activities did not constitute threatening or coercive behavior, and held that NLRB’s construction of the NLRA posed serious First Amendment questions).
- Ellis v. Western Airlines, Inc., 652 F.Supp. 938 (S.D. Ca. 1986).
- Castelli v. Douglas Aircraft Co., 752 F.2d 1480 (9th Cir.1985) (Union does not breach its duty of fair representation by not providing a union member with an attorney at arbitration).
- Ponce v. Construction Laborers Pension Trust for Southern California, 582 F.Supp. 1310, (C.D.Cal. 1984).
- United Air Lines, Inc. v. Occupational Safety & Health Appeals Bd., 32 Cal.3d 762 (1982) (State supreme court affirmed an OSHA decision against airline, finding that the FAA did not promulgate health and safety rules, and that OSHA had jurisdiction).
- Richins v. Southern Pacific Co., 620 F.2d 761 (10th Cir. 1980).
- Friery v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist., 300 F.3d 1120 (9th Cir. 2002).
- Hunter v. National Mediation Bd., 754 F.2d 1496 (9th Cir. 1985).
- Flathau v. International Ass’n of Machinists, Dist. 141, 172 L.R.R.M.2526, (W.D.Wash.2003) (Court dismissed with prejudice employee’s DFR and promissory estoppel claims against the union).
- Fairbairn v. United Air Lines, Inc., 250 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2001).
- SEIU Local 620 v. City of Santa Barbara, 57 Cal.App.4th 654 (1997).
- Florida Farm Bureau v. Ayala, 543 So. 2d 204 (1989) (Florida Supreme Court overturned state workers compensation law providing different death benefits for resident and non-resident alien beneficiaries on equal protection grounds).
- Agricultural Labor Relations Board v. Exeter Packers, 184 Cal.App.3d 483 (1986) (ALRB’s’ regulations permitting organizer access to citrus workers upheld).
- Trustees of Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension and Health Plans v. Meterna, 70 F.Supp.2d 1082 (C.D.Cal.1999) (Court awarded union health plan summary judgment and attorney fees against employee who was found ineligible for benefits totaling almost $15,000 he had received).
- Smith v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 109 Cal.App.4th 1637 (2003) (LMRDA preemption of wrongful discharge claims applied to union).
- United Broth. of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local No. 1780 v. Desert Palace, Inc., 94 F.3d 1308 ( 9th Cir.1996) (Question of arbitrability in suit to compel arbitration is properly determined by arbitrator).
- ETW Corp. v. Jireh Pub., Inc., 332 F.3d 915 (6th Cir. 2003) (Artist’s rendering of athlete was found not to infringe on athlete’s trademarks and was entitled to First Amendment protection).
- In re NSB Film Corp., 167 B.R. 176 (9th Cir.BAP 1994).
- In re NSB Film Corp., 160 B.R. 151 (Bankr.C.D.Cal. 1993).
- Teamsters Joint Council No. 42 v. International Broth. of Teamsters, AFL-CIO, 82 F.3d 303 (9th Cir. 1996).
- Bordiga v. Directors Guild of America, 159 F.R.D. 457 (S.D.N.Y. 1995).
- Moore v. International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Operators, AFL-CIO, Local 659, 29 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas.542, 29 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 32,943 (C.D.Cal. 1982).
- Thompson v. Union of Flight Attendants, 109 L.R.R.M. 2870 (C.D.Cal., 1982).
- Sure-Tan v. NLRB, 467 U.S. 883 (1984).