George Cohen

GEORGE COHEN: A Career of Extraordinary Accomplishments

“I never had a dull day.” That has been George Cohen’s mantra throughout his professional career. His outstanding career spans six decades and the breadth of his activities and accomplishments cut across both the private and public sectors.

Cohen devoted forty years to the practice of labor law at the Washington, D.C. firm of Bredhoff & Kaiser. During this period, he became recognized as an authority concerning: appellate court advocacy, collective bargaining negotiating, and mediation. In addition, he made unique contributions to the development of federal labor laws concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the sports and entertainment industries. Cohen has argued five landmark labor law cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

There are two accomplishments that stand out, Cohen’s successful representation of thousands of workers in the cotton textile industry who were exposed daily to toxic chemicals (American Textile Mfrs. Inst., Inc. v. Donovan, 452 U.S. 490 (1981)), and another in a completely different context. Cohen represented the Major League Baseball Players Association before then-federal District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor in a successful decision enjoining baseball owners from unilaterally rewriting long-established collective bargaining processes in Silverman v. Major League Baseball Player Relations Comm., 800 F. Supp. 246 (S.D.N.Y. 1995), aff’d 67 F.3d 1054 (2d Cir. 1995).

Cohen retired from private practice in 2005 at age 72 and began a new career as a mediator. In April 2009, he received the highest honor of his career when President Barack Obama nominated him to be the 17th Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. In this role, Cohen devoted the next four years personally mediating an array of high-profile disputes.

Cohen has served for many years as an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown Law School teaching courses in the Art of Collective Bargaining, the Occupational Safety and Health Law, and Labor Law in Professional Sports. He was also appointed by the ABA as the Union Co-Chair of its first committees on the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the sports and entertainment industries.

Cohen has also participated on the several non-profit organization boards such as the Theatre Lab, National Symphony Orchestra, and Athletes for Hope assisting young people, in their respective underserved communities.

Enjoy the full version of Cohen’s interesting and extraordinary oral history here.