I have been involved with labor relations my whole life. My grandfather, Hyman Belkin, migrated from Belarus in the early 1900’s and worked in the “needle trades”. Grandpa was a proud member of the Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), and would relate memories of some of the early struggles of the labor movement in Cleveland.
My father, Louis Belkin, began his legal career with the National Labor Relations Board. He then became general counsel of an international union, before entering private law practice. Lou Belkin represented employers as their labor counsel, and later in his career began to hear cases as an arbitrator. I was privileged to practice labor and employment law with him from 1967 until 1975.
After obtaining my law degree from the University of Michigan (1964), I worked as an attorney in the NLRB regional office in Detroit. At the NLRB, in addition to trial work, I had the unusual opportunity to draft many of the Regional Director’s decisions in representation cases. This experience enabled me to evaluate evidence and review post-hearing briefs from the prospective of a decision-maker.
Another benefit of my position at the NLRB was working with attorneys and staff representatives from both labor organizations and employers on unfair labor investigations and trials. In that capacity, I learned to evaluate labor cases from an objective, non-ideological perspective that was beneficial to my eventual success as a neutral arbitrator.
In 1967, I began practicing labor law in partnership with my father in Cleveland. Our employer-side practice, although based in Ohio, included clients in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia among others. Our practice was atypical in that while most of our clients were employers, we also represented a large local union in the construction trades. The majority of my legal work involved negotiating labor agreements and presenting arbitration cases.