Municipal Government, New York

Richard Winsten: A Passionate Advocate for Labor

May 16, 2016 

Richard Winsten

By Silver Krieger

New York, NY – Richard Winsten, of Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein, has a long history of working with unions, a cause that he says is close to his heart.  We caught up with him in Manhattan to learn more about him and his firm and what they bring to the table.

“I’ve been representing unions in Albany since I got out of law school (NYU) in 1977, and started off my career working for District Council 37 of AFCSME here in New York City. Following that, I became the legislative and research director for New York State AFL-CIO in the mid ‘80’s,” says Winsten. “Following that I started in this law firm, Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein, and established the Government Relations practice here, centered on unions.”

Two of his longest-term clients, he says, are Local 1199, and Teamsters Local 237. He’s been working with them since the late 1980’s to early ‘90’s, saying, “I have a rich history with them, and am very grateful to have been retained by them for all these years.”

The first two unions he worked with, were 1199 SEIU and CWA District 1. “For 1199, in the very beginning, 1987-8, I worked on a campaign to get home care workers health insurance, and worked with my then partner Basil Patterson, and ultimately we had some success and a terrific
campaign that was spearheaded by a joint appearance from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Cardinal O’Connor in support of the home care workers. And I worked on legislation for CWA District 1,

“My specialty is lobbying,” he notes.  About the firm, he says it includes more than ten attorneys who are solely employed in working for unions.  “I have partners in this office who represent unions, and do every different kind of labor law work that there is: collective bargaining, benefit fund work, disciplinary cases, grievances, National Labor Relations Board work, and litigation. It’s a soup to nuts labor practice.  Here at the firm, Richard Corenthal represents numerous firefighter locals, Patricia McConnell represents United Food and Commercial Workers, Hanan Kolko represents SEIU 1199, Richard Gilberg works for Amalgamated Transit Workers Local 1181, Irwin Bluestein handles SEIU 1199 and the Newspaper Guild, Barry Peek, the Chair of the Labor Department here, represents the UFT and numerous other, both private and public sector, unions.  Any type of work a union needs done we do and are capable of handling,” he adds. that related to prohibiting the monitoring of telephone calls that workers thought of as an invasion of their privacy and their civil liberties.”

As for current projects: “Right now I’m working for a group called Rural Migrant Ministries that is working for labor rights for farm workers who are denied most labor rights in New York State. At this moment, one of the pieces of labor legislation that we’re working on is a piece that would permit farm workers to organize and collectively bargain in New York State; there are unions that have been working actively in support with us on that provision in the legislation in particular.  Other things are legislation for the Writers Guild of America East that would allow
them to participate in the New York State Film and Television tax credit program. The legislation would allow credits for salaries of hires who are women or minority group members.”

Working for unions is a source of personal fulfillment for Winsten. “It’s been the love of my career; it’s what’s in my heart.  I’ve been privileged to get to advocate for issues that I totally agree with and believe in, and can bring some passion to on behalf of the unions I work with, so I’m very fortunate to be able to do that since it coincides with my own beliefs.”

So much so that he has taken on union pro bono cases, as well as those of his paying clients.  Two cases he is especially proud of involved the domestic workers and farm workers campaigns. He got on board after, he says, “Union people approached me and said, these folks are denied basic rights under New York State law and don’t have a union to fight for them, and can’t pay you anything because they’re not collecting dues.  They asked me whether I’d be willing to work with them and help with their cause, and because that’s where my heart is, I agreed.”

May 15, 2016

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