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Jon Karmel Joins SSDS; 5th Circuit Affirms NLRB Ruling; Project Scientists Join UAW, L. 5810

Jon Karmel added to SSDS’s Employee Benefits Team

Jon Karmel joins SSDS to serve as Of Counsel to its federal Employee Benefits practice. He is a seasoned attorney with decades of experience representing Taft-Hartley pension and welfare funds in the Midwest. He is licensed only in Michigan, Illinois, and the Federal Bar. Jon is the latest addition to a growing bench of ERISA attorneys: partners, Richard M. Swartz, and Amy M. Cu, senior associate, Judy H. Lee, and associate, Eric Markovits.

You can reach Jon at

Stachs-Eaze Cannabis Delivery Drivers in Venice Vote to Unionize with UFCW Local 770

The new unit includes 30 delivery drivers and delivery depot staff and is the second Stachs-Eaze Los Angeles-area delivery depot since March to vote to unionize with Local 770. Delivery drivers and depot staff are unionizing to address workplace issues including employee safety, scheduling challenges, pay, access to affordable health insurance and other benefits. Two other Los Angeles-area Stachs-Eaze depots are set to vote on unionization in the coming weeks.

Attorney Spotlight: Melanie Luthern Allen

In January, Melanie Luthern Allen became the newest partner at SSDS. She joined SSDS in March 2016, after working for several years as a political organizer and strategic researcher at Unite Here Local 11. She opted to work in the labor movement as a non-lawyer right out of law school, and the experience was a valuable one. “At Local 11, I was able to witness firsthand the power workers gain by organizing—personally, professionally, and politically. It’s a lesson that is difficult to learn elsewhere.” Melanie recalled being moved to tears while attending a worker delegation at the Holiday Inn LAX. “I grew up poor. My family’s income rarely broke the federal poverty line. At 14, I started waiting tables and continued through law school. I understood what those workers were putting on the line when they stood up to their boss.”

Indeed, Melanie’s life experience brought her to the labor movement. She grew up in and around Youngstown, Ohio, in the decades following the economic disaster known locally as Black Monday. “Living in poverty was a radicalizing experience for me. I wanted to do something to address the systemic injustices that I had experienced. In my opinion, every other cause was just treating the symptoms of a larger disease. The labor movement is the only organized group empowering communities and getting them out of poverty.”

Today, Melanie is happy to do her part assisting unions in the good fight. Among other practice areas, she works closely with Margo Feinberg to help clients in the drafting of policy. She also brings her strategic campaigning experience to any conversation she is having with a client.

Margo Feinberg remarked that “We are so lucky to have Melanie as our partner. Her commitment to the labor movement, combined with her creativity, compassion, research and legal skills not to mention her sense of humor serves our firm and our clients well.“

In the coming weeks, Melanie will also be admitted to practice law in the State of Nevada. She currently serves on the City of Santa Monica’s Personnel Board as well as the advisory board for Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). She lives in Santa Monica with her husband, Ben, and her four-year-old son, Ezra. She thanks all the partners at SSDS for creating a professional space where working mothers can thrive.

Fifth Circuit Affirms NLRB Ruling Against Tesla

In March, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in the first of the two Tesla cases before it. The Court upheld the NLRB’s rulings (1) that Musk’s tweets were unlawful threats, rejecting Tesla’s First Amendment arguments, and (2) that Tesla had unlawfully fired Richard Ortiz for exercising his rights to organize a union.

“This is a happy day where my rights were finally vindicated. I look forward to returning to work at Tesla and working with my co-workers to finish the job of forming a Union,” stated Richard Ortiz, who was unlawfully terminated from Tesla for union activity.

In May 2018, during a UAW organizing campaign, Elon Musk tweeted, “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.” Tesla argued that the tweet wasn’t a threat and was protected by Section 8(c) of the NLRA and the First Amendment. The Court disagreed finding that Tesla’s history of labor violations and substantial evidence support the NLRB’s finding that the tweet was an implied threat to end stock options. The Court also found that substantial evidence supported that Mr. Ortiz was fired for lying about protected union activity, and not job performance.

SSDS attorneys Dan Curry and Margo Feinberg represented UAW before the Fifth Circuit.

Project Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory join UAW Local 5810

Project Scientists at LBNL have unionized and joined UAW Local 5810, following a six-month fight with the University of California. A supermajority of LBNL Project Scientists signed authorization cards seeking representation by UAW Local 5810, leading the Union to file a unit modification petition with the California Public Employment Relation Board (PERB). This type of petition permits California public-sector employees to join existing unionized bargaining units comprised of co-workers with shared interests.

PERB issued the order to add the LBNL Project Scientists to the Academic Researchers bargaining unit represented by UAW Local 5810 on May 18, 2023. SSDS attorney Daniel Curry handled the PERB unit modification litigation on behalf of UAW Local 5810.

UAW Local 5810 represents approximately 4,500 Academic Researchers at the University of California, who hold the job titles of Academic Specialist, Project Scientist, Professional Researcher, and Coordinators of Public Program. UAW Local 5810 also represents approximately 6,600 Postdoctoral Scholars at the University of California, including Postdoctoral Scholars working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Congratulations to Lovelace Lee, SSDS Associate, who was sworn into the California Bar by the Honorable Dolly M. Gee!

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