October 20, 2006 Volume 107 Number 20

Goldberg Mechanic Stuart Gibson labor law firm to close

Goldberg Mechanic Stuart Gibson, a prominent union-side labor law firm, will dissolve at the end of the year, and its attorneys will go in separate directions.

Steve Goldberg and Gene Mechanic met in Salem in the 1970s, became friends, and founded a firm together in 1980. Diana Stuart and Giles Gibson joined the firm later. Over the years, the firm has represented many unions in disputes with employers, as well as injured workers and union benefit plans. The firm also represented the Northwest Labor Press.

With the firm’s seven-year office lease coming up for renewal Dec. 31, Goldberg, 59, decided it was time for a change in focus. Goldberg is active in the National Lawyers Guild, a progressive lawyers group, and wanted to devote more time to pro bono political cases, like several he’s recently worked on that challenge the Bush Administration’s assertions of executive authority in the so-called “war on terror.” Goldberg defended soldiers in Iraq who had their terms of enlistment extended without their consent, and is currently representing the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a Central Oregon charity that is suing the Bush Administration over warrantless wiretapping. Goldberg said cases like these are a return to the kind of idealism that drove him to practice law to begin with.

“Bush’s actions have had devastating effects on U.S. standing in the world … and on working people,” Goldberg said.

Mechanic took Goldberg’s planned departure as a chance to consider his own options, and decided to take a job in Miami, Florida, working for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Starting Jan. 1, Mechanic, also 59, will be associate general counsel for the international union, responsible for strategic planning for a 17-state region that includes all states east of California and south of the Mason-Dixon Line. SEIU is undertaking a major organizing campaign in the South, an area of the country that has traditionally resisted unionization. Mechanic said the new job will be a chance to be on the front lines in a union campaign of national significance. “It’s crucial to labor that we not just rely on states where unions are strong now,” Mechanic said. “We have to go into the ‘right-to-work’ states to get people to understand the importance of unionizing.”

Gibson, who entered the legal profession after a career as a union organizer and rep, admitted to having done some grieving over the firm’s dissolution, but said he has recovered. He will be joining the Carney Buckley Hays & Marsh firm as a full partner, meaning his name will be added to the end of the list. He’ll also continue offering training to union leaders as an adjunct faculty member with the Labor Education and Research Center of the University of Oregon.

Stuart is weighing whether to embark on a solo practice or join another firm, but will continue to specialize in family law and civil litigation.

Associate attorney Jenny Marston has taken a position with a labor law firm in San Francisco. The closure will mean the layoff of five support staff, all members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555.

Each of the firm’s four partners plan to continue doing at least some work for the clients of the existing firm, with Gibson expected to serve the bulk of the union clients at his new firm. In recent years, Gibson and Mechanic have done most of the union work. Goldberg will continue to represent the Operating Engineers Local 701 pension fund, which he serves as a legal adviser. Local 701 was the Goldberg Mechanic firm’s very first client.

“I think both Gene and I reached the same conclusion,” Goldberg said. “It was time to shake things up a bit and look for new challenges.”

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