Association for Women Lawyers Letter From the President

It has been an honor to serve as AWL’s President. I am inspired every day by the women of this organization. They are strong, smart, passionate, committed, and they seem to do it all. Tricia Scaglia will take over as President in 2018. She is one of those women. She is a fantastic leader and I am truly excited to see what she brings to this position.

The year 2017 was a year that women will never forget. I daresay it was a year that the world will never forget. I have heard the events of this year described as “a reckoning,” a “cultural shift,” and a “revolution,” the likes of which have not been seen since the Civil Rights Movement. On January 21, 2017, millions of people all over the world marched in protest of inequality. This was the largest worldwide coordinated protest in history. These people came together in a historic display of unity to protest the discrimination, degradation and marginalization suffered by women for decades. Merriam‐Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is “feminism.” Time Magazine’s Person of the Year was the “Silence Breakers.” These are the courageous women who told their story of sexual abuse or harassment in the hopes that they would finally be heard. When I look back on this year, I am very sad about the stories of pain and injustice. But, I am also filled with hope and encouraged by the strength of those that opened our eyes. We are inspired. We are angry. We are galvanized. And now that the world is finally listening, we can do something about it.
We are in the middle of a collective identity crisis that I believe will result in a long over‐due cultural and societal shift in the way women are viewed, heard, and treated in the workplace. These stories have spurred a dialogue among men and women that has never before taken place.

A lot of changes need to be made; from how we raise our sons and daughters to how we see ourselves as women and the role of men in our lives. This is a long discussion and the resolution will not take place overnight. In short, we need more women in positions of power and influence. Not just in the name of “gender equality,” but to eliminate the economic disparity that perpetuates the uneven power dynamic between men and women. Most, if not all, of the women that have come forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment or abuse identified themselves as victims but felt that they must suffer in silence because the men that they would be telling on were very powerful men  ‐ they made more money, they made more important decisions, had incredible influence and they could ruin these women’s lives.

It’s happening. Now is the time. To the women reading this, it is time to take that risk. Run for office. Take the job. Try that case you’re afraid of losing. Take the promotion. Take a seat at the table. Put yourself out there. Be heard. Do it. We need it. We need women running companies and law firms. We need women in the boardroom and our clients need women representing them in courtrooms. Perhaps some of these stories would not have needed telling and the consequential pay‐offs wouldn’t have silenced so many if a woman had been in the room when these decisions were being made.

She Should Run is a non‐partisan 501(c)3 with a mission of increasing the number of women in politics. It has a goal of 250,000 women running for office by 2030. More women than ever are seeking political office according to Axios. I hope the shift that is happening in politics transcends the law and our profession.

AWL has many powerful women to celebrate this year. Jalilah Otto was appointed as a Jackson County Circuit Judge. Phyllis Norman won a seat on the 16th Circuit Judicial Commission. Kate Noland won a runoff election for her seat on the 7th Circuit Judicial Commission. Nikki Cannezzaro is the incoming KCMBA President. AWL proudly supports these women. But we need more like them. Women are still underrepresented in top positions in law firms, on the bench, on boards, and as trial lawyers.

In 2018, we will be launching a new initiative in partnership with the Women’s Foundation to (1) help get more women appointed to civic boards and commissions; and (2) help get women into positions of power, whether it be first chairing jury trials or obtaining positions on for‐profit boards or law firm compensation committees.

One part of this initiative is our collaboration with the Women’s Foundation’s Appointments Project™ which is designed to increase the number of women serving on civic boards and commissions in both Missouri and Kansas. This is a unique opportunity to elevate the women in our organization who are ready and willing to serve the public. The Appointments Project™ aims to increase the diversity of boards and commissions and improve public policy outcomes. We will have more information on how to apply in the coming weeks.

We will be calling on the great women and men of this profession to help implement this ambitious collaboration. I’m hopeful that it will change the landscape for our legal community, this organization, and the women that it serves.

Here’s to continuing the conversation.  We have a lot more to discuss and a lot of work to do.

The Deadliest Risk for Firefighters, Video by KMBC 9 News

We are proud to represent the families of fallen heroes, and in particular, Stacy Byrne. Her driving concern is that through making public her husband’s struggle with cancer, it will serve to shed light on the risks that firefighters face every call. We as a community want them protected so that there are no more preventable deaths. Chief Jeff Johnson, in the video clip, describes one device which saves lives of our firefighters.

To view the full KMBC 9 News clip, click here.

A Veterans’ Day Message from John B. Boyd

Thinking about Veterans’ Day and how I feel about it caused me to remember some Vets in particular, each of whom is a hero to me.

First up is my friend Ron Stites, who as a member of the 101st Airborne, served in Vietnam. He was exposed to Agent Orange, and later in life had a lung transplant and severe heart damage. Ron passed away silently within the past two years. One of the finest trial lawyers I know, Ron was an early champion of women’s equality before it was openly discussed much less promoted. He is why I became active in our state trial lawyers association. There, I met the finest champions of justice, who like Ron, sought to protect the rights of citizens to a fair day in court. A great outdoors man, we fished and sometimes, hunted together. The demons of war caused him to suffer from PTSD, yet he kept that part of his life quiet to many.

My brother in law, Harold Straka, served as a Military Police officer in Vietnam. His luck held out for he had a temporary-duty assignment to transport prisoners to Ft. Leavenworth about the time that his first child was born. His good fortune stayed with him throughout his service as he avoided being wounded despite the risks of war. In his civilian life, he became a senior partner with what is now  PriceWaterhouseCoopers, retired to Florida, and became as diametrically opposite me as can be  imagined when it comes to politics. We still fish and play golf, while routinely jabbing each other with the needle about the politics du jour. He is my brother from another mother.

Jim Ellenberger, a graduate of OCS, served as an officer in Vietnam. He rarely ever spoke about his experiences to me. A private man, he stands as a giant in my eyes. Jim’s career was devoted to public service. As a safety and health expert with the national AFL-CIO, he worked with labor and management organizations to reduce the risks of injury and the losses sustained by families when a member was injured at work. He held public office in Virginia, and was a founding member of a non-partisan national organization, to which national elected officials look for advice, on matters of social insurance–Medicare, Social Security, Unemployment, and Workers’ Compensation. Stepping out of character, Jim co-authored a spy mystery with two of his closest friends, which I hope becomes a national best seller and Matt Damon stars in the movie some day.

The fourth is a former client, whose name I won’t share. He was a decorated veteran of Vietnam, wounded in separate firefights three times. I tried a case for him some years ago, where his PTSD from Vietnam was significantly aggravated by his job as a firefighter. After witnessing a particularly gruesome death, the stress caused him to tell his Chief he couldn’t work anymore. A firefighter for 30 years, he was rejected for a duty related retirement, rejected for worker’s compensation coverage, and left without hope. He was one of the soldiers who was spat upon when coming home through San Francisco. He felt like his community did the same when it wouldn’t support his cry for help. While he was ultimately successful through the courts, it cost him marriages, damaged his relationships, and but for a terrific counselor at the VA, he would not be alive today.

My Uncle, Charles Lynn, served in the Air Force and was a Korean War Veteran. Charlie raised three boys whom he taught to be men of character. He never missed a chance to go fishing with family, including his brothers-in-law, my Dad and Porter. His life after service was one of peaceful grace. He always had a smile, a laugh, and made me feel important whenever I saw him. Like many veterans, he chose not to speak about his personal experiences from war. He was a solid example of a life well lived, respectful of his God, a loving husband and father who led by example.

Another friend that I thought about on this day, set aside to honor those who served, is John Schiefelbein. John’s Vietnam era service still has missions which have not been declassified. A fixed wing pilot, he flew RP-2E Neptune aircraft of the 156th Army Security Agency Aviation Company. His civilian life has gravitated from being a pilot with Braniff Airlines to his current love as a wilderness outfitter for those who enjoy primitive camping and canoeing in the BWCA and Canada. John has over 30 years in that job, and countless Boy Scouts, families, Astronauts, and military brass have enjoyed his desire to make their trips memorable. But John’s service to those in need has seen him spend weeks in hurricane damages areas of our nation on numerous occasions. He doesn’t do that for acclaim, but his sense of duty to his fellow man exemplifies what is so worthy of emulation.

My friend, Sharon Martin, is a fire truck driver, and, a Colonel in the Army National Guard. She  has been cleared by Congress to become a Brigadier General. Sharon’s been deployed in the Middle East war zones and was in command of the Missouri national guard MP’s when they were called to action in Ferguson, Missouri. Quiet, unassuming, and always serving the community, state and nation, Sharon’s devotion is remarkable.

Bill Clinton – not that one – “Top” to his friends, is a Marine Corp Master Sargent retiree, saw action in Vietnam, and served his country honorably for a career. I got to know him through his tireless efforts with the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. Together with my other brother-in-law, Bill Straka, we joined with Top to raise scholarship monies for use by the children of Marines and Fleet Marine Force Navy Medics who are KIA. Top has spent another twenty-five years of service to Toys For Tots as well as just about any charity besides the MCSF, yet again demonstrating the desire to serve doesn’t end with separation from active duty.

My Dad, George A. Boyd, was a WWII veteran who entered France at Omaha Beach. I think about him every day, but thought about him differently today as he was an older soldier than the 17-18 year olds he served with then, for he was 31 when he enlisted. As an “old” man, he was looked up to by these boys, and Dad received a field promotion to Corporal as units were put together on that beach as they fought inland. One of the very few stories he ever told me about his service was how that promotion was for a day or two. When I looked at his DD-214, I asked him “Were you busted?”. His reply was simple: “The rigors of command were too much for me.” Dad returned home from the war with the residuals of his feet damaged by trenchfoot and severe cold. He took me to my first union meeting, as he was an officer in an IBEW local. I was about 7 or 8 years old. He instilled in me the values of brotherhood, and first taught me that an injury to one is an injury to all.

Each of these men and women are everyday heroes to me. They helped shape me and those around me in so many ways. I’m grateful for their service, for what they continued to do in their lives, and for the memories which they have left me.

An Article By John B. Boyd

“Union bosses…”. Representative Holly Rehder uses that phrase in her attempt to denigrate over 310,000 Missourians whose efforts to repudiate once and for all the misnamed Right to Work law through the initiative referendum process.  These citizens recognize  that out of state influence and greedy billionaires and their “pay to play” money buy the allegiance of Rehder, Governor Greitens, and their ilk, who collectively aspire to line the pockets of their most wealthy donors.


Rehder , Greitens and their minions prefer cutting wages, eliminating pensions, and doing away with rudimentary workplace protections to “attract business.”  Why hasn’t Kansas, Arkansas, and Tennessee prospered?  Do they want our state to be like Alabama or Mississippi?

 

To apply Rehder’s and Greiten’s logic, my business should be able to take the benefits from a membership in the Chamber of Commerce but not pay for the services it provides its members.  Someday when I need a new roof, I may want Tamko products overhead, but I shouldn’t have to pay for their shingles.  (I wouldn’t really want their product even if free, but you understand the point.)

 

Employers enter into contracts with labor unions.  The union must represent everyone in the bargaining unit.  Those members wouldn’t pay for the representation if Rehder, Greitens and their disciples have their way.  That representation has secured Improved wages, health insurance, a pension, training and safety.  If a member is unjustly terminated, the union pursues a process for resolution.

 

I suppose it is ok for businesses to collectively belong to associations to advance their agendas, but dare those associations exist without payment for their services by the very businesses who derive benefit?
Big Money buys influence, and we Missourians say to Rehder, Governor Greitens, and their minions who are responsible for “right to work” legislation and who continue to hide their biggest donors :  “SHOW ME THE MONEY”  Let Missourians see who is financing your campaign to lower wages and take away the ability of labor organizations to exist.  Who are your bosses?

Possible Reduced Safety Standards for Self-Driving Vehicles

This act could lead to federal law overruling state law that has higher safety requirements or common law protections for citizens.  It does not make sense that a driver-less car should have fewer safety requirements that cars driven by voters. Please see the article below on the issue. My $.02. – Mark Parrish, Firm Partner

July 17, 2017 U.S. House Panel to Consider Self-Driving Car Legislation

A U.S. House subcommittee will vote on Wednesday on a sweeping proposal to allow automakers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards and bar states from imposing driver-less car rulesClick here to read the rest of the article from Reuters.

Beware of Employee Waiver Tactic

As organized labor leaders negotiate new contracts, they should be wary of an emboldened employer tactic seeking waivers of employee participation in class actions against the employer. Here’s a prime example of how elections have consequences, which many members likely never considered how policy changes in Washington can affect their and their families’ lives. With the election of Donald Trump, the National Relations Board has done a 180 degree turn in construing labor policy now upsetting precedent which protected workers. Secondly, the composition of the US Supreme Court makes the odds favorable for no longer banning this employer practice. But collective bargaining agreements need not agree to take away the rights of the unit members to participate in these class action lawsuits. A prevalent use of this litigation is over wage and hour disputes, as one example.

The United States Department of Justice announced last week it will switch over its support in the upcoming Supreme Court case, NLRB v. Murphy Oil, from the National Labor Relations Board to Murphy Oil. The issue, set for the 2017 October Court’s term, is whether arbitration agreements with individual employees that ban employees from pursuing employment claims on a class or collective basis (class action waivers) violate the NLRA. Under President Obama, the DOJ wrote an amicus brief (friend of the court brief) in support of the NLRB, which had ruled that such arbitration agreements did indeed violate the NLRA. But, as the DOJ states in its re-filed brief, “after the change in administration, the office reconsidered the issue and has reached the opposite conclusion.” The DOJ now argues that “nothing in the NLRA’s legislative history indicates that Congress intended to bar enforcement of arbitration agreements like those at issue here.” (Thanks to Vivian Dong)

Click here to read more.

From the USSCT’s blog.

 

Letter to the Kansas City Star Editor

This letter to the editor from John B. Boyd appears in the Kansas City Star.

Right to work

When Missouri’s legislature passed a bill with the false slogan “right to work,” it was not representing the interests of working Missourians. It attacks everyone with one purpose: destroy your chances to achieve success. It limits your civil rights and destroys the freedoms of association that have resulted in improved safety and training, reasonable working conditions and fair pay without regard to sex or ethnicity.

Concerned citizens, community leaders and businesses are standing up to this punitive law. Signatures are being gathered on an initiative petition, which would allow registered voters to decide the future of our state. Will we be allowed to reject a law that attacks the civil rights of all?

You, your family and your friends can participate in the process to secure a citizens vote throughout Kansas City and Missouri. Call a union office, your church or your state representative’s or senator’s office for directions.

Should the wealthiest control your ability to provide improved opportunities for your family? When was the last time a millionaire looked out for your best interests?

John Boyd

Lee’s Summit