EJC Board Members
(Affiliations are listed for informational purposes only.)
EJC Board Biographies
Robert Kurnick is a labor lawyer. He has been representing unions for over thirty-five years. He is a partner in the law firm of Sherman, Dunn, Cohen, Leifer & Yellig, P.C. And, he is the General Counsel of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, a position he has held since 1997. Mr. Kurnick is the author of an article, published by the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee, entitled Hiring Halls in the Building and Construction Trades, and he is a frequent lecturer at the Building Trades Academy. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the George Washington University Law School.
Miles Sedgwick provides digital communications support through the use of technology, social media, video, and storytelling for clients in the Washington DC region. He has a background in international development, IT, and video production. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, Mr. Sedgwick has lived and worked around the world in South America, Africa, and the Middle East, producing snapshots of international development success stories in health, governance, microfinance, and other technical sectors. He was awarded the 2011 Society for International Development Andrew E Rice Award for producing and sharing the stories of USAID’s efforts in the West Bank using social media platforms and video. Miles received a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies from the George Washington University.
Keith Mestrich is President and CEO of the Amalgamated Bank. Prior to joining the Bank, Mestrich served for 4 years as the Chief Financial Officer for the Service Employees International Union. In his capacity at SEIU, Mestrich served as a trustee on three separate Taft-Hartley funds and on the Investment Committee for the SEIU Master Trust. Mestrich is a 25-year veteran of the labor movement having worked at Workers United, UNITE HERE, UNITE and the AFL-CIO. He is currently the Treasurer of the Union Health Center in New York City a. Mr. Mestrich received his degree in Political Science and Public Policy from Kalamazoo College where he graduated magna cum laude and was inducted as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Orrin Baird has been an Associate General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union, CTW, since 1990. He is the union’s chief counsel to its Property Services Division. Before that, he was a partner in the Washington, D.C., labor law firm of Connerton, Ray & Simon from 1980 to 1990. He also worked for the legal department of the Laborers’ International Union, AFL-CIO, from 1977 to 1980. His practice has been restricted exclusively to representing labor unions, their members and individual workers. Prior to attending law school, he was a community organizer and an organizer for the United Farm Workers in Florida. He received a J.D. degree from Antioch School of Law in 1977 and a B.A. degree from Wesleyan University in 1969.
Barbara Kagan is the Public Service Counsel at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, and was among the very first attorneys in the country to hold such a position. In this role, she works to develop the firm’s pro bono policies, broaden the scope of its pro bono practice, and continuously increase the amount of pro bono work engaged in by the firm. On a day-to-day basis, Ms. Kagan screens potential pro bono matters, places pro bono representations with firm attorneys, supervises pro bono cases, and serves as a liaison with the public service legal community.
Ms. Kagan graduated from the Cornell University School of Law in 1978 and received her BA from Cornell University’s College of Arts & Science, with Distinction in All Subjects, in 1975. Before joining Steptoe in 1992, she was in private practice, representing clients in civil and criminal matters, and prior to that, served as an attorney in two federal agencies.
George Murphy has represented unions for over 40 years. He is consulted nationally for his expertise. He joined the legal staff of the Retail Clerks International Association in 1967, which later merged to form the United Food and Commercial Workers, a union representing more than 1.2 million workers. Mr. Murphy served as General Counsel for the UFCW for more than 20 years, and was involved in every important legal and political event affecting the union.
Upon retiring from that position, he entered private practice where he continues to assist unions in all aspects of labor and employee benefits law.
In 2008 Mr. Murphy was honored by the Peggy Browning Fund for his lifetime of service to working people.
Gaynell Nixon-Davis has been an Injured Worker Advocate (IWA) with EJC since 2003. Prior to being injured on the job and beginning her activism with IWA, she worked as a Housing Manager for the DC Housing Authority from 1988 until 1995. Ms. Nixon-Davis was shop steward in her union, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), from 1988 to 1992, as well as the Woman’s Coordinator for AFGE. She became the First Vice-President of AFGE local 2725 in 1990 and then became the President from 1992 until 1995. Ms. Nixon-Davis graduated from UC Berkeley in 1972.
Christy Setzer has served as spokesperson for three presidential campaigns—including as Iowa press secretary for Vice President Al Gore, spokeswoman for former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, and national press secretary for Senator Christopher J. Dodd. In each of these roles, Christy garnered national media attention for her candidates, resulting in coverage on CNN, MSNBC, and ABC’s “Good Morning America”; and in the pages of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.
Christy founded New Heights Communications in 2010 to help drive strategy and tactics for progressive organizations working to promote democracy, establish equality and broadly secure social justice. She plays a central role in shaping national discourse, making frequent appearances on programs including “Fox and Friends” on Fox News Channel, “The Big Picture” with Thom Hartmann, and CNBC’s “Kudlow Report.”
Omar Melehy is the principal of the law firm of Melehy & Associates, is a highly experienced trial and appellate attorney who practices employment, real estate, civil rights, and corporate law throughout Maryland (including Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard, and Charles Counties) and Washington, D.C. In 2014, the EJC recognized Mr. Melehy with the William W. Anderson co-counsel Attorney of the Year Award. He has also achieved an AV – Preeminent (5 out of 5) rating from Martindale-Hubble Peer Review Ratings, which is the highest rating available and is based upon Mr. Melehy’s exceptional legal knowledge, analytical capabilities, judgment, communication abilities, and legal experience.
Virginia Diamond is a labor lawyer specializing in wage and hour litigation. She is General Counsel to the VirginiaAFL-CIO and the Virginia Building Trades Council, and is legislative counsel to the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters. She served as Chair of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission for six years, and is currently Of Counsel with Ashcraft & Gerel, LLP. She began her career as an organizer with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and was Assistant Director of the AFL-CIO Organizing Department. Publications include “Organizing Guide for Local Unions,” “Numbers that Count: Guide to Internal Organizing,” and “Reaching Higher: A Handbook for Union Organizing Committees.” She is a graduate of Yale University and U. Va. Law School.
Andrea Ferster is an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C. Her law practice focuses on litigation to enforce environmental and historic preservation laws, transportation advocacy, tax exempt organizations, enforcement of local zoning and land use ordinances, and trail and greenway planning. Her clients include the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, where she serves as general counsel, the Sierra Club, and numerous D.C.-based neighborhood and community organizations. She is a leading national authority on federal historic preservation law and on the legal framework governing “rails to trails” conversions, and has written and lectured extensively on these topics. Andrea received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in 1979 and her J.D. from the George Washington University National Law Center in 1984, and is also a graduate of the District of Columbia public schools.
Ann Hoffman has been working on behalf of workers and unions for more than 40 years, as an organizer, a lawyer, an educator and a lobbyist. She retired from full-time work with Unite, the garment workers union, in 2001 but has continued to be a leader in the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981; a member of the DC Public Employee Relations Board; a consultant to a philanthropist; and a frequent volunteer.
Ann was a co-founder of the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, an advocacy and litigation center, in Baltimore in 1971. She also helped to organize the Metropolitan Women’s Organizing Project, which Judy Conti transformed into DCEJC.
The criteria for selection to the board are commitment to workers’ rights, the time and willingness to serve on the board, and the ability to make a meaningful contribution to the direction and well-being of the D.C. Employment Justice Center.