Jay Smith

Jay Smith

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Fax: (323) 937-9139
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Jay Smith is a shareholder in Gilbert & Sackman, and joined the firm in 1993. He has represented labor unions and their members for over 33 years. He was previously a partner in the Birmingham, Alabama law firm of Cooper, Mitch, Crawford, Kuykendall & Whatley, and before that he was a jury trial plaintiffs’ lawyer for a brief period at Higgs and Conchin, P.C. in Huntsville, Alabama. After finishing law school and passing the bar, Mr. Smith served for a year as a VISTA Volunteer, where his project was to launch the Old Firehouse Homeless Shelter in Birmingham, which still serves homeless people today, thirty-five years later. He comes from a working class family in Gadsden, Alabama, where his union-member parents involved him from a young age in very active opposition to George Wallace and other segregationist reactionaries in state and local politics. He served as a patient escort at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, helping women in need of medical care get past screaming, taunting protesters who were trying to frighten them.

Mr. Smith has represented the United Steelworkers for almost his entire legal career, and serves as USW’s District Counsel for the eleven western states. He is also greatly honored to represent other militant and excellent labor organizations, including UNAC/UHCP, IATSE Locals B-192 and 768, AGVA, UFCW Local 324, many USW local unions and other local unions. For several union clients, he serves as chief outside counsel in Southern California or the entire state, and for USW, in the western region of the country. He appears regularly in federal and state courts, before the NLRB and PERB, before arbitrators, and in collective bargaining negotiations. He also represents plaintiffs in class action litigation, primarily in claims involving employee benefits and wage and hour laws. He has participated in special litigation projects in the firm’s Taft-Hartley/ERISA benefits practice. Finally, Mr. Smith frequently provides training in labor and employment topics to unions’ professional staffs, local union officers and stewards.

Jay Smith has a long history of successful bargaining and litigation in many tribunals for labor unions and their members. In litigation, he has won several hundred million dollars in back pay, employee benefits, and damages for his clients.

He secured injunctive relief for hundreds of retired industrial workers restoring health insurance that was abruptly cancelled by a bankrupt employer, piercing the corporate veil to secure liability against a solvent defendant. He used the doctrine of mutual mistake in contract formation to secure reformation of a collective bargaining agreement, securing over ten million dollars in back wages for hundreds of members. He secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in pension benefits for workers in both arbitration and federal court ERISA litigation.

Mr. Smith has repeatedly enforced in federal trial and appeals courts the obligation of employers to submit their union disputes to binding arbitration, and has secured confirmation and enforcement of labor arbitration awards. He has also conducted hundreds of successful labor arbitration hearings, from discharges to facility-wide contract enforcement claims. Mr. Smith successfully petitioned a federal court to hold an employer in contempt for refusing to abide by a confirmed arbitration award.

He helped NLRB attorneys secure Section 10(j) injunctive relief against several employers in union organizing campaigns. Mr. Smith has represented unions, their members, and joint labor-management trust funds in bankruptcy courts across the nation, securing millions of dollars in pay and benefits for workers. He has won many unfair labor practice cases at the NLRB and PERB, winning millions of dollars in relief for workers. He has successfully represented unions in numerous pre-election and post-election hearings in representation matters before the NLRB.

Mr. Smith has successfully defended labor unions in scores of lawsuits and administrative claims, including fair representation claims in state and federal jury, non-jury and appellate proceedings and at the NLRB, and has defended unions against discrimination and other employment-law claims in state and federal court and administrative agencies, including before state appeals and supreme courts. He has on many occasions represented unions as employers in dealing with their staff unions and other personnel issues, and in other situations, has represented staff unions as well.

Mr. Smith has concluded scores of bargaining tables, for first and successor collective bargaining agreements. In bargaining, he has served on many occasions as chief union spokesperson and on many others as co-spokesperson and legal advisor. He has provided successful counseling and litigation in courts and agencies to mount and win many strikes, and to turn many lockouts into victories their corporate perpetrators.

Mr. Smith has represented unions in disputes over internal union elections and other union governance issues based on the federal Landrum-Griffin Act (LMRDA). These matters have included successful representation of an international union in a month-long federal court trial, a victory we retained on appeal. He has also represented a union in federal litigation brought against the union regarding a contested election, by the United States Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Mr. Smith has represented unions dealing with DOL investigators in several types of matters, including election investigations, corruption matters brought to DOL by our firm’s union clients to seek recovery of stolen assets, and CAP audits.

Jay Smith has on many occasions represented international or other parent unions in placing local affiliates under trusteeship, and has advised them on and directly handled many of the complicated steps needed to navigate that process to a successful conclusion.

Jay Smith derives his greatest professional satisfaction from the fact that as a union lawyer, he is merely one part of a team animated by worker solidarity and led not by lawyers, but by the democratically elected leaders of working men and women. It is that teamwork and collaboration that sets union lawyering and worker advocacy apart from other types of law practice, and Mr. Smith would never want to practice law for any other kind of clients. He is also proud of our law firm’s volunteer work in Nevada during federal election years, helping to elect progressive candidates to state and federal office.


  • University of Alabama School of Law (J.D.,1983)
  • Harvard University (B.A., 1980)


  • Contributing author of Employee Benefits Law, 2d Ed. (BNA and ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law, 2000)


  • AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee
  • California and Alabama State Bars
  • California State Bar Labor and Employment Section
  • Los Angeles County Bar Association Labor and Employment Section
  • National Lawyers Guild

Teaching Experience and Speaking Engagements

  • Jay is a frequent lecturer in topics involving private-sector labor law, employment law and ERISA. He has spoken at seminars sponsored by the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the State Bar of Alabama, the Orange County Industrial Relations Research Association, the United Steelworkers, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the Cumberland School of Law, and Los Angeles Trade and Technical College.
  • Lawyers Coordinating Committee of the AFL-CIO

Jay Smith

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