At Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, we are proud of our reputation as one of the nation’s leading firms dedicated to serving the interests of working people.
We’re the law firm that unions and benefit funds consistently come to when they need help navigating complex legal issues.
Labor unions and employee benefit plans look to us when they need guidance on critical decisions that influence the direction of their organization.
We step in to guide our clients as they navigate complex labor and employee benefit issues by helping to develop creative solutions and, when needed, provide specialized litigation experience.
We serve the widest range of industries of any labor and employee benefits law firm.
We have a deep understanding of legal issues across a range of industries. Our clients include international, national and local unions, as well as national, regional and local employee benefit plans across a wide range of industries, including sports, entertainment, transportation, health care, construction, communications, manufacturing, steel, rail, airline, auto, and postal delivery.
We represent unions and benefit funds in bankruptcies, workplace investigations, and DEI training.
Our principal areas of practice are labor union representation; representation of jointly administered benefit plans; union and benefit fund representation in bankruptcies; anti-sexual harassment and anti-discrimination training, internal investigations, and diversity, equity and inclusion training and education; and representation of individual employees in employment matters.
The Firm is Founded
The firm was founded when Samuel J. Cohen, a small-town lawyer from Monticello, New York, who had served as an editor on the Columbia Law Review, joined practices with Edward C. Maguire, a New York City labor lawyer.
Early Supreme Court Victory
Cohen and Maguire teamed up to win a Supreme Court victory protecting the rights of truck drivers in the bakery industry to picket in defense of their working conditions. Bakery and Pastry Drivers and Helpers Local 802, I.B.T. v. Wohl, 315 U.S. 769 (1942).
Cohen Teams Up With Weiss
After World War II, New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia installed Edward Maguire as a magistrate judge. Samuel Cohen found a new partner when the Navy released from duty another Columbia Law graduate named Henry Weiss.
Simon Joins Cohen and Weiss
Bruce Simon, a Harvard Law graduate, became the firm’s third partner, and has since achieved a reputation as one of the nation’s leading labor lawyers.
Protecting Funds From Paying Benefits Without Written Agreements
CWS founding partner Sam Cohen litigated Moglia v. Geoghegan, where the Court of Appeals strictly enforced the Taft-Hartley Act’s written agreement requirement, holding it illegal for the pension fund to have received contributions from an employer, and to pay benefits to the employer’s employees, in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement (which the employer had refused to sign upon the union’s request) requiring the contributions, even after many years. 403 F.2d 110 (2d Cir. 1968)
CWS Has Represented Benefit Funds Since Before the Passage of ERISA
ERISA, the first federal law providing comprehensive procedural and substantive rules governing multiemployer pension, health, annuity and other employee benefit plans, is signed into law by President Gerald Ford on September 2, 1974, Labor Day. At that time, CWS has already established a thriving employee benefits practice representing multiemployer plan clients that were created long before ERISA was even enacted.
Another Supreme Court Win
The U.S. Supreme Court holds that an employer held liable under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII for pay disparities between female and male employees did not have a right to contribution for a proportionate share of damages against the unions that represented the affected employees. Former CWS partner Stephen Moldof successfully argued the case for the unions. Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers Union of Amer., 451 U.S. 77 (1981).
CWS Partner Bruce Simon Serves as Consultant to U.S. Congress on Enactment of Bankruptcy Code Section 1113
Congress enacts Section 1113 of the Bankruptcy Code, providing further protection for collective bargaining agreements in bankruptcy, including when employers seek rejection of such contracts. Then CWS partner Bruce Simon serves as a consultant to the Chair of Conferees for the House of Representatives and attends Senate-House conference. This spurred the further development of CWS’s bankruptcy practice and, based on the firm’s work through the years that followed, the recognition of CWS as the go-to firm for representing unions and multiemployer plans in labor contract rejection litigation.
CWS wins appeal in In re Altair Airlines, Inc.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reverses lower courts and holds that labor unions are eligible for appointment to creditors committees in Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. The decision paves the way for labor unions to serve on creditors committees in bankruptcy cases across the country. Senior counsel Bruce Simon, partner Richard Seltzer, and retired partner Babette Ceccotti represent Air Line Pilots Association, International on appeal.
Yet Another Supreme Court Win
Following the amendment of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Trans World Airlines, Inc. (TWA) instituted a transfer and forced retirement system for all commercial pilots over the age of 60. The Supreme Court holds that TWA’s policy, while not willful, discriminates against protected individuals on the basis of age and in violation of the ADEA. CWS, on behalf of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), litigates the issue of liability with respect to the Union only. The Supreme Court ultimately declines jurisdiction to overturn the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ holding that labor organizations like ALPA are immune from the assessment of damages under the ADEA. Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Thurston, 469 U.S. 111 (1985).
Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP represents the United Steelworkers in the Chapter 11 filing of LTV Corporation and LTV Steel, at that time the largest bankruptcy filing in American history. As a result of the Company’s termination of retiree benefits, Congress enacts Section 1114 of the Bankruptcy Code.
Second Circuit Win in Major Hatch Act Case
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturns the convictions of the Presidents of the two major postal unions for violating the federal Hatch Political Activities Act by publicly opposing Ronald Reagan and supporting Walter Mondale for President in the unions’ publications. The decision is a major victory for the free speech rights of postal and federal employees. CWS partner Keith Secular successfully argued the case for the union presidents. Biller v. U.S. Merit Sys. Prot. Bd., 863 F.2d 1079 (2d Cir. 1988).
Still Another Supreme Court Win
In U.S. Postal Service v. NALC, the Service sued the union to vacate an arbitrator’s award requiring the reinstatement of a letter carrier who had been discharged. After the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the Postal Service’s position that the award violated public policy, the Supreme Court agreed to review the decision. CWS partner Keith Secular argued the case for the NALC. The Supreme Court subsequently dismissed the writ of certiorari as having been “improvidently granted.” This action meant that the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, affirming the union’s arbitration victory, was the final resolution of the case. U.S. Postal Service v. NALC, 485 U.S. 680 (1988).
Air Line Pilots Association
Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP represents the Air Line Pilots Association, International (“ALPA”) in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Eastern Airlines, and wins appeal in Second Circuit Court of Appeals upholding right of unions to pursue arbitration of grievances during Chapter 11 proceedings. Partner Richard Seltzer represents ALPA in appeal. During the following two decades Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP represents ALPA in the Chapter 11 filings of such major air carriers as Pan American World Airways, UAL, TWA, US Airways, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines.
NALC Breaks Pattern in Historic Interest Arbitration
In an interest arbitration between the National Association of Letter Carriers and the U.S Postal Service, the union, represented by CWS, achieves a long sought pay upgrade for its members. The panel chairman upheld the union’s position that letter carriers should be placed in a higher pay classification, breaking a linkage with other employee groups that had been in effect since at least 1907. Bruce Simon served as panel arbitrator and Keith Secular and Peter DeChiara were lead advocates for the union in this proceeding.
Victory for Nurses
Susan Davis and Bruce Levine successfully obtain an injunction and subsequently contempt sanctions requiring the supervisor-dominated New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) Board of Directors to leave office and seat the newly-elected union officers. In 2012, Ms. Davis assists NYSNA in effectuating a wholesale restructuring of the organization, resulting in NYSNA emerging as a powerful labor union. Ms. Davis and CWS now serve as NYSNA’s General Counsel. Kane v. New York State Nurses Ass’n, No. 11 CIV 6505 RJS, 2011 WL 4862924 (S.D.N.Y. 2011).
Merger of SAG and AFTRA
Susan Davis represents the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) in connection with the successful merger of AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and the formation of SAG-AFTRA. Ms. Davis represents AFTRA in connection with the preparation and negotiation of a merger agreement and Constitution for the newly merged union. CWS now serves as national counsel to SAG-AFTRA.
2013 – 2014
Protecting Detroit Workers
Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP fights to protect the pensions of city workers after Detroit, Michigan filed for bankruptcy. During that case, which was the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, CWS partner Peter DeChiara cross-examines then Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
March 2013 – Fall 2014
CWS Represents NYSNA in Litigation Keeping Long Island College Hospital Open
CWS Partners Richard Seltzer and Kate Swearengen and former CWS Partner Thomas Ciantra represent the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) in litigation aimed at keeping Long Island College Hospital (LICH) open after its planned closing by the State University of New York (SUNY). CWS first wins a judgment on behalf of NYSNA enjoining the closing because the decision was taken by the SUNY Board of Directors in violation of New York State’s Open Meetings Law. In re Long Island Coll. Hosp., 41 Misc. 3d 1210(A), 980 N.Y.S.2d 276 (N.Y. Sup. 2013). CWS then represents NYSNA and works with counsel for other groups on a new lawsuit alleging that the closing of LICH would violate NY Education Law, and that various NY Department of Health regulations invoked for the closing were unconstitutional. The state court grants numerous Temporary Restraining Order applications — keeping LICH open for over a year — and SUNY finally agrees to an innovative Request For Proposal process, giving NYSNA and other groups a role in the sales process
Expanding the Scope of Collective Bargaining Rights in New York
The New York Court of Appeals holds in this precedent-setting decision that a city agency must provide a union with all of the relevant information that it requests when it files a grievance. The decision stems from the New York City Human Resources Administration’s (HRA) discipline of two nurses, and HRA’s refusal to provide the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) with information related to the grievance it filed. Deceased CWS partner Joseph Vitale litigated on behalf of NYSNA. City of New York v. New York State Nurses Ass’n, 29 N.Y.3d 546 (2017).
2017 – 2021
The Biggest Bankruptcy Proceeding in U.S. History
CWS partners Richard Seltzer and Peter DeChiara represented unions of public employees in the bankruptcy of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the biggest bankruptcy proceeding in U.S. history. Those proceedings left intact both the unions’ collective bargaining agreements and their members’ pensions.
Pensions for Nurses
A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit enforces an order of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) holding that the employer of a unit of registered nurses and nurse practitioners represented by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) committed an unfair labor practice by ceasing to pay pension contributions for unit employees after its last collective bargaining agreement with NYSNA expired. NYSNA, represented by CWS partners Richard Seltzer and Kate Swearengen, had intervened in support of enforcement. StaffCo of Brooklyn, LLC v. Nat’l Lab. Rels. Bd., 888 F.3d 1297 (D.C. Cir. 2018).
SAG-AFTRA Strike and Win at the National Labor Relations Board
In 2017, an advertising agency attempts to unilaterally repudiate SAG-AFTRA’s Commercials collective bargaining agreement in a “test” case that would have industry-wide implications. The Union fights back with a ten-month strike and aggressive corporate campaign. It also litigates an unfair labor practice charge through trial. After the judge rules in the Union’s favor, the employer re-signs the CBA in a significant victory. CWS partner Evan Hudson-Plush litigates the unfair labor practice charge and provides legal and strategic advice on the strike and campaign. Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Inc. & Screen Actors Guild-Am. Fed’n of Television & Radio Artists, No. 02-CA-220370, 2019 WL 2122756 (N.L.R.B. Div. of Judges 2019).
Saving Scabby the Rat
A supermarket chain in Staten Island plans to move one of its stores into a new shopping center constructed with non-union workers who would be paid wages and benefits below the area standard. Laborers’ Local 79 protests the move, and erects large inflatable balloons of cockroaches and Scabby the Rat outside the stores. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) under General Counsel Robb seeks to make Scabby unlawful and moves for a preliminary injunction against Local 79. Deceased CWS partner Joseph Vitale is instrumental in convincing Judge Garaufis of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York to reject the NLRB’s request. The court holds that the Union’s “peaceful” and “expressive” conduct is lawful under NLRB case law and, more importantly, is protected by the First Amendment. King v. Constr. & Gen. Bldg. Laborers’ Loc. 79, Laborers Int’l Union of N. Am., 393 F. Supp. 3d 181 (E.D.N.Y. 2019).
Protecting Property Interests in Continued Employment
In a case the Second Circuit Court of Appeals calls “unusual,” the Court finds that two former employees of a federal government contractor had a property interest in continued employment under the applicable collective bargaining agreement and that they should have been afforded due process protections in connection with their removal by the government. CWS partner Kate Swearengen and former CWS partners Thomas Ciantra and Joshua Ellison litigated this case and the consolidated case, Hauschild v. United States Marshals Serv., at their various stages. Atterbury v. United States Marshals Serv., 941 F.3d 56 (2d Cir. 2019).
CWS Partner Lisa Gomez Nominated by President Biden to Serve as Assistant Secretary of EBSA
CWS Partner Lisa M. Gomez nominated by President Biden to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Employee Benefits Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor, subject to U.S. Senate confirmation. A copy of the White House press release can be found here.
In another win for the right of unions to protest substandard working conditions
Firm attorneys Peter DeChiara and Olivia Singer persuade a New York federal court to throw out a suit by an asbestos abatement contractor that claimed that Laborers Local 78 harmed its business by display of the inflatable rat at the workplace. Deceased CWS partner Joseph Vitale led the union’s defense. K.D. Hercules v. Laborers Local 78, 2022 WL 204216 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 24, 2022).
Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP Today
Today, CWS remains uniquely dedicated to serving the interests of labor and working people as counsel to unions, jointly administered benefit plans, individual employees, and plaintiffs in class-action employment suits.
Industries We ServeWe’re equipped to navigate complex legal issues across a wide range of industries.
- Public Sector
- Health Care
- Postal Workers
- TV and Film
- Opera and Dance