The plight of immigrant Latino workers will be the focus of a half-day conference sponsored by the California Applicant Attorneys Association (CAAA) on February 8 at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento. “Death, Denials & Discrimination: A Conversation” will bring together a dozen distinguished figures from the state’s labor, legislative and legal sectors to provide expert overviews on the challenges facing the immigrant Latino labor force.
Among those challenges are the sheer statistical realities that the 2.4 million undocumented Latino workers in California comprise about 10% of the state’s workforce, but in 2014, they accounted for 59.4% of workplace injuries and 37.8% of workplace deaths. These daunting figures suggest a unique set of circumstances not only for workers, but for the employers, legislators, attorneys and judges who must contend with the complex challenges of undocumented workers suffering injuries on the job.
Three panel discussions at the conference will address these and other concerns facing both undocumented and documented Latino workers.
“Latino Workers’ Injuries & Deaths” will feature panelists Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of the United Farmworkers; Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center; Barry Broad, legislative advocate for the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, and Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.
The “Rights of the Undocumented” panel that follows will feature Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced), an expert on workplace issues; Doug Bloch, political director of the Teamsters Union Joint Council 7; Joe Capurro, an attorney and advocate whose 35 years of experience in workers’ compensation law have included appearing before the California Supreme Court; and Laura Polstein, the immigration senior staff attorney with the workers’ rights and Latino support organization Centro Legal de la Raza.
The concluding discussion, “Tearing Down Walls,” will include panelists Maria Elena Durazo, the general international vice president of immigration and diversity for the labor union “UNITE HERE”; Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Bill Herreras, an attorney with 40 years of experience in workers’ compensation law who has also argued cases before the California Supreme Court.
Boxer & Gerson Partner Maria Sager, chair of the conference’s organizing committee and long active in legal issues affecting Latino immigrants, will offer opening remarks to kick off the day. Sager also chairs the Board of Directors of the Latino legal services and support group Centro Legal de la Raza, conducts a monthly radio interview show on workers’ rights on Spanish radio station KIQI in San Francisco, and visits the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco monthly to give pro bono presentations on workers’ compensation law to immigrants.
As a Spanish speaker herself, Sager has represented thousands of Spanish-speaking clients over her nearly 18-year legal career, and is thus in a unique position to understand the fears and concerns of immigrants during this turbulent political time. She will be joined briefly on the podium during opening remarks by Rodrigo Baez, Consul of Protection & Legal Affairs for the Sacramento Mexican Consulate. She will also play a 2-minute video produced in both English and Spanish that discusses the benefits even undocumented workers are entitled to when injured on the job. The video can be downloaded anytime at vimeo.com/caaaworkcomp.
The idea for this conference was hatched in discussions last year between Boxer & Gerson Partner Bert Arnold, who recently ended his year-long term as president of CAAA, and his colleague Sager, whose experience on the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Executive Committee and other activities regarding immigrant rights has seen her heavily involved in workplace issues involving Latinos. When Arnold and the CAAA decided that one critical goal would be to heighten the activity and profile of the organization’s Latino Caucus, he turned to Sager for assistance. She then parlayed much of her experience with the State Bar and her many contacts in the field of immigration and workers’ rights to join forces with the Latino Caucus in the creation of the upcoming conference.
Initial funding for the conference was provided personally by the CAAA Board of Directors last year when the idea was first discussed in earnest at a July board meeting. A subsequent and separate collection among the CAAA’s Latino Caucus was to be donated to the California Legislature’s Latino Caucus in furtherance of that group’s goals.
For more information and registration, go to latinoworkcomp.eventbrite.com
The San Francisco Maritime Trades Port Council invited union members and friends aboard the World War II era cargo ship Jeremiah O’Brien for a discussion about the future of health care costs and coverage on January 11. The luncheon event featured San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson, who addressed the status of health care affordability as the Trump Administration prepares to take over the reins of government.
Boxer & Gerson Partner Dennis Popalardo was in the audience as Paulson discussed the implications of President-Elect Trump’s plans to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.” Given the dramatic impact of health care costs on union pension funds, unions are closely monitoring congressional deliberations in Washington D.C., with an eye toward adequate cost containment while also maintaining the coverage gains that have been realized under the ACA.
The Jeremiah O’Brien, named after an American Revolutionary War ship captain, survived an engagement at the Battle of Normandy and eventually came to be docked at Pier 45 in San Francisco. It was built in just 56 days in June, 1943.
(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, from the Carol M. Highsmith Archive)
Some 100 employers convened at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles last month for a special panel presentation billed as the “California Employer’s Guide to Workers’ Compensation.” The event, sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce, featured Boxer & Gerson, LLP’s Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist Maria Sager on a three-person panel that has presented similar programs in venues around the state over the past year.
Sager joined defense attorney Yvonne Lang and California Division of Workers’ Compensation Chief Judge Paige S. Levy in a two-hour panel discussion that was followed by some 50 audience questions. The Cal Chamber’s HR Adviser Erika Pickles served as moderator.
The event fit with the goals of the California State Bar Workers’ Compensation Executive Section, which charges its Community Outreach Subcommittee to engage in educational activities enhancing the knowledge of workers’ comp law among employers, businesses, workers and the public. Sager serves as chair of the subcommittee, and regularly engages in activities intended to educate workers on their rights and employers on their responsibilities with respect to workers’ compensation law.
Boxer & Gerson, LLP attorneys continued their longtime support of local unions by attending simultaneous holiday luncheons across the bay from each other on December 2.
The Building & Construction Trades Council (BCTC) of Alameda County held its 42nd Annual Holiday Luncheon at the Oakland Airport, where Boxer & Gerson Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialists Dennis Popalardo and Frank Russo paid their respects to the firm’s many friends in the East Bay’s union movement.
The BCTC is a coalition that represents 28 union locals involved in a wide range of construction trades and projects around the Bay Area.
Luminaries in attendance at the luncheon included Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and former San Francisco ‘49er and Oakland Raider great Ronnie Lott, who has been busy in an investment group that is putting forth a package to keep the Raiders in their hometown rather than pursue possible relocation to Las Vegas. Schaaf has heartily endorsed those efforts.
Across the bay at The Westin, San Francisco Airport in Millbrae, Boxer & Gerson Associate Justin Litvack represented his firm at a festive luncheon sponsored by the San Mateo County Central Labor Council (SMCLC) and the San Mateo County Building Trades Council. The SMCLC is a coalition of 110 local unions ranging from workers in bakeries and transit to teaching, airline piloting, firefighting, plumbing, music and many others. The Building Trades Council is an umbrella organization representing the county’s construction unions.
Boxer & Gerson, LLP’s Justin Litvack recently celebrated a couple of banner days with the California State Bar, where he has been a member since 2005. On September 30, he made a presentation to the bar’s annual meeting in San Diego, where he spoke on the subject of, “Mastering the MSC” (mandatory settlement conference). His talk offered in-depth discussion and tips on how to best prepare for such conferences. Effective framing and presentation to the judge is one critical component, as is making certain one’s client is fully apprised and updated on the nature of the conference and what might be expected of him or her.
The following day, Litvack became a member of the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Executive Committee, which governs the organization’s Workers’ Compensation Section. The committee meets approximately six times per year and performs a number of tasks, including outreach and education to the public and production of a quarterly newsletter. Litvack joins his Boxer & Gerson colleague Maria Sager on the committee, giving the firm a solid presence in this active force in the workers’ compensation community.
Litvack is a Bay Area native who went north to the University of Washington for his undergraduate degree before returning to enroll at the Santa Clara University School of Law. He came to many of his insights on the workers’ comp system by spending the first seven years of his career on the defense side of the table, representing insurance companies and large self-insured employers contesting workers’ comp claims. Over time, he grew uncomfortable with instances in which companies attempted to deny claims to workers who were clearly injured and in need of redress. That is when he decided to join Boxer & Gerson and align himself with bringing justice to injured workers.
Boxer & Gerson, LLP’s tradition of hosting the kickoff reception for the annual Oakland Mayor’s Toy Drive will be renewed on December 8 from 5-8 p.m. at the firm’s home offices in the Rotunda Building of the Frank G Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland. The toy drive, now in its 36th year, collects toys and distributes them to underserved children in the community.
The kickoff reception has long been adopted by Boxer & Gerson and supported by the wider workers’ compensation community in Oakland. More than 30 co-sponsors now contribute to the event, which has been planned and coordinated over many months by a committee chaired by Boxer & Gerson workers’ compensation attorney Andrew Levine, assisted by former chair Maria Sager.
“Admission” to the opening reception is the same every year: either three unwrapped non-violent toys suitable for children up to age 12, or a $30 check which will be used to purchase toys on the donor’s behalf. Last year’s reception netted 23 large boxes of toys and more than $20,000 in cash, enough to land toys in the homes of more than 1,200 children in the Oakland metropolitan area. The entire drive raised $53,000 and served approximately 8,000 children.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board Presiding Judge Gene Lam will be honored speakers at the event, which will feature entertainment by the Oakland Youth Chorus and the George Spencer Trio. Children are welcome free of charge, with popcorn and cotton candy made onsite among their snacking options.
Andrew Levine and Maria Sager, with toys collected from Boxer & Gerson employees prior to the reception.
Some 500 people turned out to honor retiring U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer on November 10 at a special banquet at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. The event was sponsored by the Bay Area Union Labor Party, a political action committee and forum for the cause of working people and unions. The party is affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Joint Council 7.
Boxer, wife of Boxer & Gerson Co-Founder Stewart Boxer, was presented with the group’s Robert “Bob” Morales Leadership Award in recognition of her 24 years’ service representing California in the United States Senate. Morales was a longtime labor leader in the Bay Area who died in 2015.
Senator Boxer was also noted for her previous service in the House of Representatives and the Marin County Board of Supervisors.
Boxer & Gerson staff members were well-represented at the event. The group flanking Boxer in the photo below includes (l-r): attorneys Warren Pulley, Gary Lee, Dennis Popalardo, Stewart Boxer, Julius Young, Michael Gerson (with his wife Jamie to his left), Jenny Jerez, Justin Litvack, John Harrigan, and Lee’s wife Lisa Oyama on the far right.
Stewart Boxer and Michael Gerson founded Boxer & Gerson in 1977. The firm has earned a reputation over the years in the Bay Area and beyond for aggressive and intelligent representation of injured and infirm clients who often had little other recourse in pursuing a just settlement of their claims.
The firm is also recognized by peers and media, most recently earning U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” awards as Tier 1 “Best Law Firm” for metropolitan Oakland for workers’ compensation and personal injury.
In a repeat of its performance ratings last year from the prestigious U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings, Boxer & Gerson, LLP has again been named a Tier 1 “Best Law Firm” for the metropolitan Oakland area in two of its specialty practice areas: workers’ compensation and personal injury. The awards are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in the respective fields, and other factors.
This year’s rankings attracted the highest-ever number of participating firms and client ballots. More than 10,000 attorneys provided some 800,000 law firm assessments, and 10,000 clients+ provided more than 90,000 evaluations.
“We’re pleased again to be recognized in a well-respected national selection process, and the combination of peer and client reviews make these awards particularly meaningful,” said Boxer & Gerson Managing Partner John Harrigan. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about showing up every morning and doing your best to serve the needs of your clients. Whatever awards come from those efforts are just icing on the cake.”
Boxer & Gerson Partner Maria Sager’s visit to Meadow Homes Elementary School in Concord on October 7 carried a special resonance as she addressed a group of parents from Spanish-speaking countries who were recently arrived in the United States. Sager is herself a graduate of Meadow Homes, where she began school as a 6-year-old who did not speak English. Her presentation came about after a chance meeting during Labor Rights Week at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, where she happened to strike up a conversation with a member of the Concord Police Department who does community outreach for Meadow Homes. When Sager delightedly told the woman about her own roots at the school, the conversation took a turn toward what she could do to help.
Said Sager: “I presented in Spanish to around 30 moms whose children attend Meadow Homes. We discussed many topics, including the challenges one faces as an immigrant, bullying, deportation fears in light of the current political climate, discrimination, my being a partner at a wonderful law firm, my parents, my husband, and of course workers’ compensation law. The two hours flew by. Wonderful experience. I emphasized to them that they can make it in this country. I too, came from humble beginnings. ”
A week later, Sager addressed another of her alma maters: the Golden Gate School of Law, where she discussed workers’ compensation law with a defense lawyer from another firm in front of law students during a noon-hour seminar.
Sager is a certified workers’ compensation specialist who joined Boxer & Gerson in 2003 and was named a partner in 2011. She is among the bilingual attorneys and other staff members who serve Spanish-speaking clientele.
Boxer & Gerson LLP’s stately headquarters office in the Rotunda Building at Frank G Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland will play host to Centro Legal de La Raza’s “Mentorship Kick-Off” event for its Youth Law Academy (YLA) on October 12. The reception will take place from 5-7 p.m. and feature guest comments by Wilma Gandoy, consul at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco..
Centro Legal de la Raza is a nonprofit legal aid, support and advocacy organization offering bilingual services to low-income, underserved Bay Area residents. Boxer & Gerson Partner Maria Sager serves as chair of its board of directors. Complementing its emphasis on workers’ rights, immigration issues, homelessness prevention, and education is a robust Youth Law Academy program that supports young people of color in pursuing academic excellence and career opportunities in the legal field.
The program pairs experienced legal mentors with young members of the YLA. Boxer & Gerson attorneys Warren Pulley, Jenny Jerez and Dikla Dolev will be among the mentors assisting the program this year.
In addition to the mentorship program, YLA members can also pursue summer internships at participating law firms. Boxer & Gerson began offering such internships at its offices in 2011, and takes every opportunity to support the organization’s many other goals of service to the community.