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The biggest rift to tear through U.S. organized labor in the last 50 years is good news for management-side attorneys. And not because the AFL-CIO appears to be in its death throes. In fact, lawyers representing employers say several major unions’ decision early last week to ditch the AFL will lead to more aggressive union organizing — and more legal work opposing unions — than they’ve seen in years. “Is it going to go to the benefit of my firm and increasing revenues? Yes,” said Stephen Hirschfeld, a partner at Curiale Dellaverson Hirschfeld & Kraemer who represents employers in labor disputes. “Is it going to benefit my clients? No.” Hirschfeld said the decision of the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters — who left the AFL to direct more of their resources to organizing — makes sense for a labor movement that’s in crisis after two decades of withering membership. “I agree with those unions that pulled out. I agree that the AFL hasn’t been sufficiently aggressive,” Hirschfeld added. “Those people are dinosaurs.” Union-side lawyers are hesitant to badmouth the AFL. “We –like, I think, every other labor firm — represent people on both sides of the schism,” said Philip Monrad, a partner at Leonard Carder in Oakland, Calif. But they are generally supportive of the break, since the issue at its heart — that dissident unions want to put more money toward gaining new members — means more active organizing and a brighter outlook for organized labor. And more organizing means more lawyering. “This is going to be a gold mine for management lawyers, because all the unions are going to be more aggressive,” said David Rosenfeld, a partner at the union-side firm Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, which represents the service employees. “Management lawyers are going to make a fortune.” In addition to seeing increasingly aggressive tactics from the dissident unions, lawyers on both sides said they also expect AFL affiliates to step up their organizing efforts. In fact, increasing union activity in the wake of the rift has been the theme of a series of internal meetings at the management-side firm Jackson Lewis, said partner Bradley Kampas. Lawyers there expect “more organizing activity and more hard lines on contracts,” he said, adding that plenty of legal work will be created by an increase in “corporate campaigns.” Such campaigns — which have made the service employees and hotel worker unions pariahs in the eyes of many management-lawyers — involve the use of a wide range of nontraditional methods to cow employers into accepting unions. They tend to generate tremendous amounts of legal work, ranging from National Labor Relations Board complaints to litigation over union attempts to sully a company’s image. “We use all the things at labor’s disposal to get recognition,” said Steven Stemerman, a partner at the union-side firm Davis, Cowell & Bowe who supports the break. “I would be sorely disappointed if this didn’t mean there was going to be an increase in the number of corporate campaigns. I think that’s what it was intended to do.” Management-side attorneys say they’ve seen a lead-up to the rift over the past couple of years, as dissident unions — which represent about a third of U.S. organized labor — have shifted their focus from political maneuvering to worker organizing. “I’ve done more traditional labor work in the last two years than I had in the last 15,” Hirschfeld said. In response, he’s been advising clients who want to avoid union campaigns to do whatever they can to keep their employees content. “To the degree that they want to maintain a non-union workplace, they need to step up their efforts” to provide good working conditions and pay, he said. But Hirschfeld and his firm are known for having a particularly civil and collaborative relationship with their opposition, and other management lawyers look upon current union tactics far less charitably. “This is the most aggressive, emboldened union I’ve seen in 35 years of practice, and I expect it’s going to spread,” said Daniel Berkley, a partner at Gordon & Rees. He represents a Hawaii resort battling a hotel workers union that, he said, is emblematic of dissident unions’tactics. “All they want to do is fight and take over.” Most union-side lawyers wouldn’t dispute the notion that unions want to take over the workplace. And while they anticipate some administrative headaches from the rift — questions abound about whether AFL and non-AFL union disputes will create lawyer conflicts — they’re anticipating more litigious days. “We’re looking forward to being as aggressive as we can,” Rosenfeld said.

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