May 25, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY -- Larry Cary, a Founding Partner in the firm of Cary Kane LLP, has a long history of involvement with and working for unions. Born in Arizona, he grew up in Brooklyn, where, he says, his family was among the very poorest in the community.
Although his parents had conservative values, he says he was radicalized as a senior in high school. “The war in Vietnam was raging and I felt that I had to decide if that was right or wrong; I did a lot of research and decided it was wrong.” That started him on the road to questioning the value system he’d had.
Cary was already involved with unions at 18, and after graduating from Brooklyn College, he was hired by Local 3, United Storeworkers, as an organizer. Then he got a job with the union’s health fund. Later came a Master’s in Public Health and a law degree from Brooklyn Law
School. Mr. Cary taught labor law and related subjects for over 20 years. He was an Adjunct in the labor liberal arts extension certificate program of Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where he has taught labor, employment and employee benefits law.
Before founding his own firm, he was senior partner in the labor department of Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard where he represented unions and benefit plans for 17 years. At Vladek, among many other cases, he worked on the Eastern Airlines Strike, which happened after the Machinists decided they had to stop corporate raider Frank Lorenzo from breaking their union. The long strike ended in bankruptcy for the airline.
Cary Kane, started in 2004, employees 11 attorneys and does labor law exclusively. The firm also has a large pension and welfare plan practice, with four attorneys who work full time on funds.
Dedication plays a big part in what drives the firm. Says Cary, “Everybody who is here is because this is the kind of law they want to do, unlike the bar as a whole. Because our client base can’t afford to pay the kind of rates corporate America pays; we need the kind of lawyers that are just as good or better than those lawyers so we have to rely on dedication in order to attract the kind of people who want to do this. I like to come to work; we like what we do, and I think that’s true for everybody that’s here.”
The firm stands out in a number of ways. One is the union background of its two leaders.
“Both my partner Walter and I were trade unionists before we became lawyers and both of us worked for unions organizing or servicing and so we came to the law with a background of what it is to be a trade unionist. We have an intuitive understanding of what a union is looking for, and we bring a level of expertise to labor law that you can’t get in law school and you don’t get necessarily by practicing law. We always look for people that have a real-life practical background working in the labor movement before going to law school.”
Another thing that makes the firm stand out, he says, is the professionalism and willingness to go the distance of its attorneys. “At the end of the day, we do the work whether the client can afford to pay us for doing the work or not, and we do that with great frequency because we are willing to go up against the best and we intend to beat them, and we do pretty well in that respect. We are respected by the employer’s side of the bar; that’s important. I learned a long time ago that the only person in the room that knows if you did a good job is the lawyer on the other side. Your client knows whether you won or you lost, but doesn’t really know if you’ve done a really, really good job or not. But the lawyer on the other side knows.”
“Every new associate here gets a standard speech from me about the importance of getting the employer’s side counsel to respect you and trust you. Your word is your bond. In labor, so many problems are resolved with a handshake, so if you can’t be trusted to keep your word, you
can’t do the job.”
Mr. Cary was General Counsel to TWU, Local 100, the union for bus and subway workers in New York City. He is General Counsel to District council 1707, AFSCME, which represents workers in New York City Day Care, Head Start, Home Care and other non for profit agencies.
His most current case for 1707 involves multi-million dollar claims against the Federation of Employment Guidance Services (FEGS), a massive social services agency that abruptly closed shop and laid off hundreds of union members. They’re owed thousands in back pay and accrued vacation time.