George Cohen, Esq.
Biographical Sketch
George Cohen’s impressive career as a labor lawyer spanned six decades (1960-2014).
He initially got his “feet wet” at the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. (1960-
1966). First, as an attorney-advisor to member Gerald A. Brown, and then as an appellate court
advocate in the Office of the General Counsel.
Thereafter, Mr. Cohen entered private practice with the Washington, D.C. firm that
became known as Bredhoff & Kaiser. He was recognized as one of the nation’s leading labor
lawyers representing a wide array of private and public sector unions.
As a senior partner, Mr. Cohen developed three special fields of expertise (1) appellate
court advocacy, (2) negotiating collective bargaining agreements, and (3) specific substantive
subjects – the law of occupational safety and health and sports and entertainment law.
High spots of his accomplishments include arguing five landmark cases before the
Supreme Court and nearly 100 circuit court of appeals cases (25 or so before our home circuit,
the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit).
Mr. Cohen’s major clients were the United Steelworkers; the AFL-CIO; the American
Federation of Musicians (General Counsel 1986-2005); the Major League Baseball Players
Association; the National Basketball Players Association; and numerous public sector unions
representing teachers, firefighters, and police.
After retiring from Bredhoff & Kaiser in 2005, Mr. Cohen commenced a career as a
mediator. He began by serving in a pro bono capacity for the prestigious Mediation Panel of the
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In recognition of his skill in performing that
all-important function, President Barack Obama nominated him to be the Director of the Federal
Mediation and Conciliation Service, an independent agency established by Congress in 1947. He
was confirmed by the Senate and served from 2009 to 2014. Throughout that period, he
successfully mediated a number of high-profile disputes that posed a significant threat to the
nation’s economy – the International Longshoremen Association’s dispute with the shipping
industry; Verizon’s major dispute with their major unions, the Major Soccer League dispute with
the Players Association, and the threatened strike to shut down the BART system in
San Francisco, to name a few.
Mr. Cohen’s extracurricular activities are likewise notable. He served as adjunct professor
at Georgetown Law School teaching a variety of subjects, and he served as the Union Co-chair in
both the first ABA Committees on Safety and Health Law and Sports and Entertainment Law.
The number of awards he received parallel his career: A Legend of the D.C. Bar, the
Sports Lawyers Association Award of Excellence, the Cornell Law School Exemplary Public
Service Award, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award. He was also listed in the Best
Lawyers in America for 25 consecutive years.
Mr. Cohen graduated from Long Beach High School, Cornell University (BA), Cornell
Law School (LLB), and the Georgetown Law School (LLM).
Mr. Cohen’s wife of 61 years, Phyllis (deceased in 2020), was a world-class color
woodblock printmaker and civil libertarian. His son Bruce Cohen is a successful motion picture
producer (“American Beauty,” “Milk,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “Rustin.” He was named
by President Biden to co-chair the reestablished Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Bruce is
married to Gabriel Catone, and they have one five-star daughter, Ilaria.
Daughter Julie is a highly-respected documentary film producer and director; her works
include “RBG,” “Julia,” “My Name is Pauli Murray,” “Every Body,” “Gabby Gifford Won’t
Back Down.” Julie is married to Paul Barrett.