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Taking an Active Approach to Giving Back
It’s all about community—working together to educate, help, share. Lending an ear when someone needs you to listen, lending a voice when another person’s troubles have gone unheard. Sometimes it’s just being there.
Over the years, the staff of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein has not only talked the talk but has also walked the walk. Sometimes literally as we have pounded the pavement to raise money for AIDS research or driven in mock funerals to pay tribute to workers who have been killed or injured on job.
This community activism has also taken an educational tack wherein the firm’s attorneys teach a wide variety of Southern California’s workers—from electricians and steelworkers to grocery store clerks and deli managers—about their rights and what to do if they are injured on and off the job.
We are dedicated to giving back by sharing knowledge, resources and time.
Spinning To Find a Cure for ALS
In speaking about his disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—ALS), Lou Gehrig said, "I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for."
Howard Krepack, retired partner at the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK), has that same fighting spirit as he battles this dreadful disease.
It was that tenacity that motivated Howard's family (his wife Vivian and children Michael, Geoffrey, Adam and Rachel) to create an ALS Charity Ride in Howard's honor.
Howard Krepack enjoys some pre-spinning banter at the ALS Charity Ride at SOULCycle that his family created in his honor.
This is how Michael put it in his e-mail invitation:
"As most of you know, my father was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) nearly three years ago. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects motor neurons controlling voluntary muscle movement, leaving a patient during the later stages of the disease completely paralyzed. With no known cure or drug to slow the progression, most patients live two to five years. My father lost the ability to communicate, move on his own and eat all within the first year of the disease. For the past year he has lived with the support of a ventilator breathing for him. Yet, his will to live and spirit remain firmly intact along with his incredibly sharp mind!
"As we approach the third- year mark, we decided as a family to create a charity event in his honor to benefit the largest and best non-profit for ALS research—ALS TDI. My father was an avid cyclist so we thought what better way to celebrate than to do a SoulCycle ride in his honor."
And, that is exactly what they did. On a beautiful Southern California Sunday, Howard greeted family and friends at SoulCycle, a bicycle spinning studio, as people stopped by for just a visit or to spin along with Howard's children, friends, colleagues and family members. Not only was a great time had by all, but they have already raised nearly $25,000—and counting—for ALS research.
Friends and family gather outside of SOULCycle for a post-spinning photo at the Howard Krepack ALS Charity Ride.
Michael's reaction? "My family and I are blown away by everyone's support and generosity."
Members of Howard's "GEK family" were also on hand to spin and visit.
"It was a truly inspirational event," says GEK partner Adam Dombchik who, along with GEK colleagues Amy Leung, Joanna Sacavitch and Lisa Waring, enjoyed a 45-minute spinning adventure filled with booming music, glow bracelets and plenty of encouraging shout-outs.
"Everyone had a great time," says Adam. "They raised a lot of money for a very worthwhile cause, which is fantastic. But, the best part of the whole day was knowing how proud Howard must feel about the unwavering support from his family and friends."
(If you would like to donate to support Howard and other ALS patients, please go to Howard's ALS TDI webpage link (http://community.als.net/soulcycle) and click the "Donate Now" tab on the page. This page will remain active indefinitely. Every little bit counts and all donations are 100% tax-deductible.)
Scholarships Available for Children of Injured Workers
Investing in education—a wise choice that pays interest for generations. This was the impetus behind the formation of Kids' Chance of California, a non-profit organization that provides need-based scholarships to children of California workers who have been fatally or seriously injured on the job.
"As Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury attorneys, we are constantly aware of how devastating a serious workplace injury can be," says Richard Felton, a partner at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton and Goldstein, LLP (GEK). "When such injuries occur, there is a ripple effect within the family that can make the future difficult, particularly for children. After all, their welfare is priority number one. Thus, we are excited and honored to be involved with and be a sponsor of Kids' Chance of California."
Kids' Chance of California provides scholarships for children of injured workers.
Felton and GEK Communications Director Lisa Waring are members of the organization's Scholarship Committee, which reviews the applications and provides recommendations to the Kids' Chance Board of Directors, who make the final determination. Scholarship amounts range from $2,500 to $10,000.
Applicants must be between 16 and 25 years of age, and have achieved a high school diploma by the time of the first disbursement of the scholarship award. In addition, applicants must be enrolled, accepted or applying for acceptance as a full-time or part-time student at a university, college or technical school, and may not have already attained a bachelor's degree. Applicants and/or their injured or deceased parent are not required to be a legal resident of California.
Kids' Chance was founded in 1988 in Georgia, and has expanded to 28 states in the last 25 years, including California in 2012.
"Kids' Chance of California opens up a world of options for those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and pursue their goals," says Felton. "Learning a trade or earning a degree is a great step in the direction of a positive future."
Learn more about Kids' Chance of California's by clicking here, or calling Maria Henderson, President of the Board of Directors, at 415-973-1881.
Bar Association Attorney Volunteers Make a Real Difference
Equal access to justice is the cornerstone of our nation’s judicial system, but what happens when you need legal counsel, and you can’t afford it? The Ventura County Bar Association (VCBA) tackled this dilemma head-on in December of 1996, and hasn’t looked back since. In the ensuing years, the VCBA’s Volunteer Lawyer Services Program, Inc. (VLSP) has handled approximately 12,530 calls from low-income individuals and families requesting advice, referrals, consultation or representation. This equates to about 2,000 hours of direct client contacts each year.
“I find the VLSP attorneys’ compassion and commitment inspiring,” says attorney Jill Singer from the Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK). “They give of their time, their resources, their knowledge… for the honor of giving, and to fight against injustice.
Ventura’s Volunteer Lawyer Services Program, Inc. provides pro-bono legal services.
“We are proud to be supporters of this wonderful non-profit organization. GEK has spent 30 years fighting for the rights of people who are injured on and off the job, and we know first-hand the ripple effect injuries can have on family members. And though our practice areas are contingency-fee based, we understand how facing legal challenges with little or no financial resources can literally change the course of someone’s life.”
Those who qualify for VLSP’s services are families and individuals who cannot afford an attorney, and whose monthly gross income is at the state poverty level. Potential clients are screened for income eligibility by VCBA staff, and are then connected with a volunteer attorney to consult or represent the applicant. Typically, 155 lawyers per year accept a pro-bono matter.
Most recently the VLSP helped a young woman with two children living in California. Her children were taken from her by family members from Nevada. The family members took the youngsters to Nevada and filed an action in that state for custody. Through the actions of the VLSP pro-bono attorneys, the children were recovered. By order of the California Court, the mother was awarded total custody of the children and the Nevada action was dismissed.
“This is what it’s all about,” says Singer. “Protecting and enhancing the quality of life for members of our communities and working tirelessly to maintain and advance the legal rights of those we represent is why we—as attorneys—do what we do.”
Helping Teens Learn About Workplace Safety
Every year the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation holds its Young Worker Leadership Academy (YWLA), which provides young adults (ages 14 to 17) with a unique opportunity to become leaders and advocates for teen labor rights and workplace health and safety. And, it works. As one participant put it: “I actually didn’t believe that the lessons we were taught would stick with me, but the exact opposite happened. Every time I walk into a store or business, I’m constantly looking critically at the work area and conditions. I truly want more youths of this generation to know their rights.”
GEK sponsored these Carter High School students’ participation in the Young Worker Leadership Academy at UC Berkeley.
This sentiment echoes the mindset of the attorneys at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK), which is precisely why they sponsored a team of young women from Carter High School in Rialto to attend YWLA’s three-day training program at the University of California, Berkeley. These participants are part of Carter’s GEMS (Girls Encourage and Motivate Self); they were among the six teams to participate in the 2013 YWLA.
“Youth is definitely not wasted on the young men and women who participate in the YWLA,” says Adam Dombchik, a Workers’ Compensation partner at GEK. “They are tomorrow’s leaders, and the fact that they are willing to learn and obtain the tools necessary to help reduce on-the-job injuries is a positive step toward increased workplace safety for future generations. The YWLA is a very worthwhile program, and we are proud to support it.”
In addition to teaching participants and brainstorming about workplace health and safety, the Academy helps those involved develop specific action plans to promote young worker health and safety in their own communities. They also learn about others’ perspectives, experiences and cultures, and the types of health and safety challenges faced by working teens in other parts of California.
When the teams return to their schools or community organizations following the Academy, they create campaigns and activities that are launched during Safe Jobs for Youth month in May. The YWLA teams’ campaigns have run the gamut from informational bookmarks to a workplace health and safety video.
“Not only does the YWLA instill occupational safety into the minds of the participants, but it also helps them realize that their voices can be heard, they can—and do—make a difference,” says Dombchik.
The YWLA is part of the Worker Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program (WOSHTEP), which is designed to reduce job-related injuries and illnesses among California workers. WOSHTEP focuses much of its efforts on workers in industries with high injury rates, as well as those for whom English is not their first language, workers with limited literacy, young workers, and those in other traditionally underserved industries.
GEK Is Honored to Support Worksafe
Workplace safety requires foresight, diligence, knowledge and conviction on the part of every employer. Unfortunately, when you consider that every year four million people in this nation suffer a workplace injury from which many never recover, it is obvious that many employers don’t have a safety mindset.
A construction worker ensures that all the rebar is capped to help ensure a safe worksite.
This statistic from the U.S. Department of Labor, and many others just as alarming, is precisely why Worksafe was formed 30 years ago. This group of labor, community and occupational health educators and activists is dedicated to eliminating all types of workplace hazards. Worksafe advocates for protective worker health and safety laws, and keeps a focused eye on government agencies to ensure they enforce these laws.
“Everyone not only has the right to work, but also the right to work in a healthy and safe environment,” says David Goldstein, a partner in the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK). “Because Worksafe’s mission—safety, health, and justice for workers—echoes ours here at GEK, we are honored to support their efforts.
“Lilia Garcia-Brower, Executive Director of the Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund, is well aware of our work on behalf of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign and car washers’ efforts to unionize and, thus, enjoy safer and more just working conditions. She knew that we would be a perfect fit to participate in the Worksafe’s 30th Anniversary Celebration.”
The event will celebrate three decades of improving workplace safety and health, and will also serve to renew the focus on the Warehouse Workers United Campaign, which is dedicated to improving the conditions of the 85,000 warehouse workers in California’s Inland Empire.
“On a daily basis, we at GEK see the impact an on-the-job injury can have on a worker and his or her family. It is our hope that organizations such as Worksafe continue to fight the good fight on behalf of all workers in California.”
GEK Participates in 11th Annual Shop with a Cop
It’s amazing how far $200 can go if you have a plan, which is precisely what Andreas Bonilla had when he participated in this year’s Shop with a Cop program. The 18-year-old high school senior from Barstow had a bit of guidance on his shopping adventure, however. Steve Scardino, an attorney with the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton and Goldstein, LLP, his wife and their son were along to offer some tips.
GEK attorney Steve Scardino with his Shop with a Cop companion, Andreas Bonilla, and his son.
“Andreas bought an outfit for church, clothing for school, and cold-weather gear; he really stretched his money, and was able to put an entire new wardrobe together,” explains Scardino.
“We spent about an hour and a half carefully selecting items that were both practical and stylish. He really thought his purchases through, and appreciated our ideas very much.” And, Andreas also found room in his budget to buy gifts for his brother, sister and mom.
This was the 11th annual Shop with a Cop event, presented by the Safety Employees Benefit Association (SEBA), which represents more than 3,000 law enforcement professionals who serve and protect the people of San Bernardino County. Each year SEBA makes it possible for hundreds of deserving youngsters to be paired with public safety chaperones who take them on a shopping spree.
Children are nominated by members of the law enforcement community, and about 100 foster children also participate. Over the past 11 years, more than 4,000 children have participated in the program.
“This event is wonderful not only for the children, but also for those of us who are fortunate enough to enjoy the experience with them. My son had a great time with this amazing young man. Andreas was very kind, mature and gracious beyond his years. He has great priorities, including finishing high school and continuing his education beyond that.
“Andreas’ terminally bright and charming personality really made the whole event seem like Christmas.”
Krepack’s Krew Walked for Howard
“WeHoward.” So read one of the signs that team members from Krepack’s Krew carried along the two-mile route at the recent Walk to Defeat ALS event held by The ALS Association Golden West Chapter. Friends, family and colleagues of Howard Krepack, a partner in the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK), gathered at Exposition Park in Los Angeles to support him in his fight against this dreadful disease. Often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. The life expectancy of an ALS patient averages two to five years from the time of diagnosis.
Members of Krepack’s Krew—Howard Krepack’s colleagues, family and friends—enjoy a post-walk moment at the Walk to Defeat ALS event in Exposition Park.
Krepack’s Krew walked and raised money—a total of more than $7,000—to help fund research to find a cure for ALS. This crippling disease can strike anyone. Presently there is no known cause, though support is bringing researchers closer to an answer. It is that hope, and the love and admiration for Howard, that inspired his Krew to lace up their sneakers and join with 1,500 other people on what was much more than just a walk in the park. Here’s what some of Howard’s colleagues had to say about the experience:
“I participated in honor of my boss whom I respect and care for very much. I hope that one day a cure is found for this horrible disease that afflicts people from all walks of life, robbing them of all the simple things we take for granted. I was touched by the support everyone exhibited and it made me happy to see Howard smile at seeing us there supporting him.”—Liz Kaletta
“I walked as a tribute to my friend and colleague Howard Krepack. I was motivated to keep going—even as my knees were giving out—by the thought that I have legs that still get me places. I have no reason to complain. After the walk, seeing Howard out there made it all worthwhile.”—Gary Stern
“I participated in the walk to honor Howard because after working at GEK for a long time you become family, and it hits us all. I think Howard was very happy to see the support he has, and it was encouraging to me to see those with ALS come out and see the support they have.”—Hilda Martinez
“I felt honored to have participated in this event. I could not stop thinking about how devastating ALS must be not only for Howard, but also for his family. I hope with the money that was raised and will continue to be raised, someday a cure will be found for ALS! I am proud to work for a firm that puts their energy and spirit behind one of OUR own!”—Lydia Wood
“It was not even a question of IF we would participate; as my husband said, it was a matter of when and where. It was great to see so many people come out and support Howard and the fight against ALS. It made me appreciate life and all of the precious moments.”—Erika Vargas
Krepack’s Krew won’t let it end there. They keep Howard and his family in their minds and their hearts every day. And hope that he finds some comfort in the precious moments like the ones at Exposition Park.
(If you would like to make a donation to find a cure for ALS, you may visit the ALS Association Golden West Chapter website or the Howard D. Krepack Fund page on the ALS Therapy Development Institute website.)
It Takes a Team
The Dorsey Dons is one of the winningest football teams in the Southland. For the past 23 years, they have played in 23 post-season tournaments and advanced to six championship games, winning four times. But, when it comes to team pride, this isn’t the whole picture. Equally as important is the fact that team participation has increased the high school graduation rates and decreased juvenile delinquency among the members.
The Dorsey High School football team stands before an on-campus mural depicting Kevin Copeland, a Dorsey High football player who died of a cardiac arrest during a game in 1989 at the age of 17.
This focus on education and maintaining a high moral character is not easy when you consider that the school’s population is defined as Title I, meaning that 60 percent of the students reside in low-income, single-parent households or are in foster care or extended-family situations.
Nirmala Whitney, a paralegal at the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK), is a parent volunteer for the Dons; her son Noah, a junior, is the varsity back-up quarterback.
“We feed the boys a good meal on game day, and for some of them that’s the only substantial meal they have all week,” she explains.
The problem is that the school budget is strapped with no wiggle room for game-day meals, let alone “basics” like new jerseys or warm-up gear. So, every season, Whitney and her fellow volunteers pound the pavement for financial support.
In one case, she didn’t have to travel too far—she solicited support from the law partners at GEK to provide a hearty meal for all 60 players.
“I realize how lucky my kids are, and I know that there are plenty of others who aren’t as fortunate. When we feed these boys, it touches my heart. It’s such a great way to give back to them, to show them that we appreciate what they do on and off the field.
“Football builds character, it teaches them teamwork and leadership skills. The team is like a brotherhood; they look out for each other. Not everyone is going to get a scholarship, but by being on the team, they build relationships that carry on for the rest of their lives.
“We want them to achieve everything they want in life, and if feeding them a meal on game day helps their performance on the field and that opens doors for them, it’s worth all the effort.”
Which is why supporting the Dons was a no-brainer for GEK. “I and several of my partners played high school football, and we have great memories of those times,” says GEK attorney Richard Felton. “When Nirmala asked if the firm would be willing to support the team, we didn’t think twice. Sports can be a huge motivating factor for kids to stay in school and stay out of trouble, which can go a long way toward ensuring a bright future for these student-athletes. We are honored to help.”
Honoring and Remembering—Workers’ Memorial Day 2012
GEK attorney Al Lizarraga speaks with a worker at the 2012 Workers’ Memorial Day event.
Armando Ramirez, 16, and his brother Heladio, 22, went to work at a recycling and resource recovery facility on October 12, 2011, and never made it home alive. They were cleaning out a storm water drain; Armando collapsed, and Heladio went down an eight-foot-deep drain hole to rescue him. They both died from inhaling hydrogen sulfide gas in the confined space.
These two young men were among the estimated 500 workers who died on the job in 2011, according to estimates from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).
Each of them was remembered recently at the Workers’ Memorial Day event in Los Angeles presented by SoCalCOSH and UCLA-LOSH (Labor Occupational Safety & Health Program).
“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living is the rallying cry at this annual event, which is always so moving,” says Al Lizarraga, an attorney at the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK). “We have fully supported all the efforts of SoCalCOSH and UCLA-LOSH for many years, but this day always seems to really emphasize the mission of these two organizations. Although it is a very sad event in many ways, it is also life-affirming when you see so many people who truly are fighting like hell day in and day out to keep workers safe. All of us at GEK applaud their efforts.”
The somber tone was set at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center as members from the Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras performed an interpretive “dance” regarding the plight of today’s workers who risk their health and safety each day they’re on the job. “Let me tell my story so you know you’re the same as I am,” they sang. But there was hope as they donned protective gear—a sign of what could be if the fight for workers’ safety gains momentum.
Such a positive movement cannot come too soon. According to CalOSHA’s statistics, in 2010 there were 30,700 cases of non-fatal work-related illness and 102,480 injury- and illness-related cases serious enough for workers to miss days of work.
“To think of so many people dying—and countless others injured or becoming seriously ill—because workplace safety took a back seat to economics, expediency or whatever else is unfathomable in this country, yet it happens daily.
“At GEK, we see the devastating toll on-the-job injuries have on workers and their families. We are committed to fighting for justice on their behalf so that they receive the full range of benefits to which they are entitled.”
Many stories were shared at the Workers’ Memorial Day event, with a call to action to never give up. In the words of Sumaq Alvarado-del Aguila, SoCalCOSH Coordinator: “We are the protagonists of this struggle, we are the protagonists of this fight.”
Shedding Light on Hope
GEK attorney Gary Stern, back row holding balloons, and the other Team Joel walkers at the Light the Night event.
A wise person once said, we can live about a month without food, and a few days without water, but only a few seconds without hope.
Helping to shed light on hope is what Gary Stern, an attorney with Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK), did recently when he participated in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night® Walk at Warner Center Park in Woodland Hills.
On the evening of the Walk, participants carry illuminated balloons—white for survivors, red for supporters, and gold for individuals or teams walking in memory of someone.
It is an annual nationwide event that raises money for research to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
Stern was joined on the two-mile walk by his wife, Sandy—captain of “Team Joel”—and Joel’s widow, Paula Rogozenski, as well as thousands of others.
“Our friend Joel battled leukemia for 14 years and was on the front lines in the development of new medications to combat blood cancers. It was sad to see that so many people, including many children, suffer with forms of blood cancer, but I was proud to be able to help with fundraising that goes to research.”
Stern is very appreciative of his GEK colleagues who helped him raise $200; the entire event raised more than $1 million thanks to the efforts of thousands of walkers, including corporate-sponsored groups of participants.
Walking for a Cause—Autism
GEK Legal Assistant Ruby Hernandez and her godson, Sonny, participate in the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event.
Wearing “Team Sonny” T-shirts, Ruby Hernandez and her family—12 strong—were among the more than 25,000 Angelenos who gathered recently at the Rose Bowl to participate in the annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks event. Hernandez, a legal assistant for the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, walked to support her godson, Sonny Aleman, 4, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3.
“It’s amazing how much he has progressed in just a year’s time with the help of therapists and his school. An event such as this is so vital because every child with autism can benefit from the money that’s raised.”
The event, just one of 90 that take place nationwide, raised more than $1.4 million. Hernandez, who collected several hundred dollars herself, feels good about “helping to make a difference.”
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, funding research into the causes, prevention and treatment, and advocating for the needs of individuals and their families. It was founded in 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, grandparents of a child with autism.
“While we were walking, it was so great to see how involved everybody was, from the t-shirts and posters participants created to the informational booths. It means a lot to me and my family that there is so much support out there; we definitely know that we are not alone. Sonny had such a great time; we all did. It was a joyful, happy event.”
GEK Attorney Meets with California’s Chief Justice
GEK attorney Adam Dombchik (back row, right) is pictured with California’s Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (front row, center) and the rest of the CAAA Executive Board.
The $350 million slashed from California’s judicial branch plus unprecedented funding cuts for infrastructure projects weigh heavy on the minds of judges and attorneys alike.
In fact, it was the topic of conversation recently when attorney Adam Dombchik, a partner in the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, met with California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
“I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the Chief Justice at a recent California Applicants’ Attorneys Association Convention, and gained some insight as to how she feels about the challenges these cuts present. Unfortunately the difficult economic times suffered by our State have extended to the civil court system. But, I was encouraged by the Chief Justice's understanding of the situation and was encouraged that she and her team will work tirelessly to ensure access to the courts and justice, despite the economic climate.
“Also, I appreciated the opportunity to share with her some of our concerns regarding the current Workers' Compensation system."
A Day to Honor and Remember
“An injury to one is an injury to us all. We are here to mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.” Kent Wong, Director of the UCLA Labor Center, spoke these words to the crowd that gathered—men, women and children—in Los Angeles recently for the 2011 Workers’ Memorial Day. The event was presented by SoCalCOSH and UCLA-LOSH (Labor Occupational Safety & Health Program); both non-profit groups are dedicated to workers’ health and safety.
GEK Attorney Al Lizarraga answers a question at Workers’ Memorial Day.
Those in attendance—including Al Lizarraga, a Workers’ Compensation attorney with Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP—came to honor and remember not only the workers who have died in the past year, but also those who died 100 years ago in The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911, which killed 146 factory workers in New York’s Lower East Side.
“One hundred years later there are still sweatshop conditions here in Los Angeles for women, minorities, immigrants and people of color,” Wong said. “We are here to put an end to the sweatshop conditions. We are proud of the hotel workers, laundry workers, day laborers, carwash workers. We are here to celebrate them and what they do day in and day out.”
This day of celebration and remembrance also marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation.
“As we stood by the altar of remembrance honoring those who have died, I couldn’t help but think that even though we still have a long way to go in terms of protecting workers’ safety, many more people would have been killed or injured on the job if OSHA hadn’t been established,” said Lizarraga.
“We were there not only because we have long been a sponsor of the event and support the wonderful work done by SoCalCOSH and UCLA-LOSH, but also because we want workers and their families to know that they are not alone. We will help them fight for justice for themselves and their loved ones if they suffer an injury on or off the job.
“When you consider that 12 workers die on the job every day and more than three million workers are injured every year in the United States, that’s a lot of families whose lives have been turned upside down. As much as possible, we want to right the wrongs.”
Expanding Life Experiences
GEK Attorney Howard Krepack, right, and Rick Finkelstein celebrate after a successful run down Snowmass Mountain.
There is joy on Howard Krepack’s face as he speaks of his latest skiing trip. It’s not remembering the exhilarating black diamond runs that brings his happiness into clear focus, but rather the time he spent on Snowmass Mountain in Colorado helping his dear friend Rick Finkelstein reconnect with his love of the sport.
Krepack, a partner in the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, is no stranger to the enjoyment of the “winter experience,” complete with powder-packed days, and nights of dining with family and friends.
But this year, the experience was an inspirational one. For five days in December, Krepack helped and watched as Rick, who is paralyzed after a skiing accident six years ago, skied once again. “This was his first trip back to the snow; it was a hard decision for him emotionally and physically,” Krepack explains.
Rick learned how to use a Sitski with the help and encouragement of ski instructors from Challenge Aspen, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing meaningful recreational, cultural and competitive experiences to individuals facing cognitive or physical challenges. “They help disabled people open new doors and enjoy activities that were at one time unthinkable,” says Krepack.
Also on hand to help were Chris Waddell (the most decorated male skier in Paralympic history) and Matt Feeney (recognized as one of the top disabled ski instructors in the world).
“Not only were Chris and Matt there to offer pointers, but they were also such an inspiration,” says Krepack. “They are shining examples of what can be accomplished and how you can overcome a disability.”
The whole experience was captured on film as part of a documentary short—“The Movement”—produced by Kurt Miller. According to Miller, “the film is about people getting back their freedom and letting others know that there are opportunities after they become disabled.”
“It was amazing to see what Rick could accomplish,” says Krepack who acted as part of the “support team,” helping his friend get on and off the chairlift, get up when he fell and get in and out of the Sitski.
Krepack’s amazement extended to everyone who was involved in the project. “All of the people I met were doing great things. The crew members—the cameraman, the sound man and the director—were very kind and obviously dedicated to getting the message across. The Challenge Aspen people were all so giving and so considerate. They are dedicating their lives to helping those who have suffered injuries or were born with physical challenges. They give people an opportunity to expand their life experiences.”
(Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP has made a donation to Challenge Aspen to help further the great work they are doing, including welcoming a group of newly injured soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in March for spring skiing and snowboarding at Snowmass Mountain.)
Helping Students Understand the Wonders of Reading
There’s nothing like a captivating story about a curious monkey named George who is taken from the jungle by a man in a yellow hat to pique children’s interest. But when the tale is read aloud with enthusiasm and flair, the adventure comes alive even more. Such was the case recently when Amy Leung, an attorney with the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP participated in a “Read Across America” event at the invitation of the Compton Education Association.
GEK Attorney Amy Leung participates in “Read Across America” with students from Compton Unified School District.
Started in 1998 by the National Education Association as a way to get children excited about reading, “Read Across America” is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of children’s book author Dr. Seuss.
“I had a great time reading Curious George to the children from local schools,” says Leung. “It was fun to see them get excited about reading and be encouraged to read. Celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday in this way is so fitting because his books embody a love of children and learning.
“I represent teachers in the Compton Unified School District so it was particularly special to interact with their students. I found the event very rewarding, and I look forward to participating again next year.”
Perhaps a little Green Eggs and Ham is in her future.
GEK Participates in “Shop With a Cop” Program
Attorneys Al Lizarraga (right) and Steve Scardino, along with Steve’s son, Reed, and their Shop With a Cop companion.
Money can’t buy happiness, but for the children who are selected to participate in the Shop With a Cop program, $200 can go a long way toward making the holiday season a more cheerful one. Attorneys Steve Scardino and Al Lizarraga, associates with the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, were on hand in 2010 to witness the joyful experience for themselves.
This was the ninth year that San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputies, District Attorney Investigators, Probation Corrections Officers and other volunteers made it possible for hundreds of deserving children (mainly ages 10 to 17) to be paired with public safety chaperones who take them on a holiday shopping spree.
The two Gordon-Edelstein attorneys as well as Scardino’s son, Reed, joined sheriffs from San Bernardino County during a shopping expedition in Fontana. “We shopped with a lovely 15-year-old girl who had a wonderful attitude and was very appreciative,” says Scardino. “She focused on buying useful things—clothes, accessories, makeup. It was satisfying to see a young person make such practical selections.”
The day was also a positive one for Scardino’s son. “I’m glad Reed was able to experience the importance of giving back and of public service. He saw how involved law enforcement is in the community, and I think it made a lasting impression.”
This sentiment was echoed by Lizarraga. “I really enjoyed seeing how many police officers were there to support the program. They were all so welcoming and outgoing and helped to make the event special for everyone involved.”
Shop With a Cop events are held at more than 10 locations throughout San Bernardino County to enable as many children as possible to participate and enjoy the unique shopping experience.
Giving the Gift of Joy
For the past five years Veronica Vogt, a paralegal at the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, has been volunteering her time to help those less fortunate than she share in some of the joy of Christmas. But, she feels she receives much more than she gives.
GEK paralegal Veronica Vogt, right, and Robbin Andersen spread holiday cheer at Christmas at The Oaks.
Vogt marks her calendar every year for the first Saturday in December when she and others from her church join families in need for a day of crafts, nature and fun at the Oaks Camp and Conference Center at Lake Hughes.
She teaches them to make crafts—ornaments, jewelry, frames—and revels in the sense of pride they feel when they have created something they never thought they could make. And then there is the generosity of spirit she experiences. “So many of these boys and girls say they’re going to give what they have made to a brother or sister. Here are kids who don’t have a whole lot and they’re more concerned about giving to others. It makes me feel fortunate for what I have.”
Vogt felt particularly fortunate when speaking with a girl who had just finished making a Christmas tree ornament and didn’t know what to do with it. “I told her to take it home and put it on the tree. She said, ‘I don’t have a tree.’ She didn’t even have a home.”
But, for a day at least, the experience at Christmas at The Oaks enables participants to leave the realities of everyday life behind and also enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature. There are hay rides and zip-lines to experience, plenty of space to hike and even arrows to shoot on the archery range.
“This day always makes me happy. It’s wonderful to see people who may not otherwise have an opportunity like this really enjoying themselves. I plan on coming back every year.”
Helping Police Officers Understand the Legal Landscape
Associate Joanna Sacavitch discusses a legal issue with a visitor to the GEK booth at PORAC.
It has been said that police officers may drive "black and whites," but their jobs are filled with a lot of gray. When it comes to protecting their legal rights if they’re injured, that gray area makes it essential for police officers to be represented by effective, knowledgeable lawyers.
That is precisely why Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury attorneys from the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP were on hand once again at the PORAC Convention in Las Vegas, NV., dispensing dependable advice and tips.
“This was our second year at PORAC; it was great to see so many familiar faces and to hear that we are making a positive difference by providing officers with information about their legal rights when they are injured on or off the job,” says Adam Dombchik, a partner at the firm.
“Police officers put their lives on the line every day to ensure our safety, and in doing so they face some very unique challenges. Our goal is to empower them with knowledge so that they understand the full spectrum of benefits to which they are entitled. There is a lot of camaraderie among officers, but they shouldn’t rely on their friends for advice when it comes to such matters as the ever-changing Workers’ Compensation laws,” says Dombchik.
Partners Adam Dombchik, left, and David Goldstein man the GEK booth at PORAC.
“As we mentioned to those who visited our booth, we are always more than happy to meet with members of groups or associations who want to learn more about their rights as they pertain to Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury law. It’s an honor to serve those who protect and serve us."
Another Year, Another Walk for a Cause
Strength in numbers. That’s how Glenda Jackson, a legal file clerk for Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, describes the 26th Annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles. “The more people you see out there walking and participating, the more support you feel for the cause. There is so much camaraderie it’s amazing. You’re walking besides people from all different walks of life and all different ethnicities. You get such a hopeful feeling.”
Joining file clerk Glenda Jackson, right, at the recent AIDS Walk Los Angeles are her granddaughter, K'lema Burleson, left and Constance Hartwell.
Such a positive atmosphere is precisely what the organizers of AIDS Walk Los Angeles visualized. In their minds, the participants enable the pain of vulnerability to meet the comfort of hope and action.
“Nothing’s going to get done if you keep quiet. We have to replace fear with facts. Ignorance isn’t a bad word; it just means you don’t know. Stupidity, on the other hand, means you know but you won’t do anything about it. I have no time for stupidity.”
Jackson has made time to participate in the 6.2-mile walk for 15 straight years. And, for the third time she was joined by her granddaughter, K’lema Burleson.
“You can’t help but learn about HIV/AIDS when you’re on this walk. There are people handing out all kinds of literature. There are speakers…you can even learn something new by talking to the person walking next to you.”
Approximately 60,000 people in Los Angeles are affected by HIV/AIDS, and more than 33 million suffer from the pandemic worldwide. Continuing to get the word out about the disease is more important than ever in light of the $52 million budget cut to California’s HIV/AIDS care and prevention programs for the disease.
“I’m very proud to have raised money from my colleagues; every little bit helps.”
GEK Attorneys Volunteer Their Legal Services
Alina Azizian, Dickran Tevrizian Fellow, Neighborhood Legal Services, and GEK Associate Amy Leung
It has been said that by helping others, you help yourself. Workers’ Compensation attorneys from Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton and Goldstein (GEK) are experiencing that firsthand as they volunteer their legal services to low-income workers who have been injured on the job.
Their efforts are a part of the Worksafe Legal Support Services, a non-profit organization dedicated to safety, health and justice for California’s workers. The GEK team of attorneys—Adam Dombchik, Amy Leung and Al Lizarraga—lends its expertise to the Neighborhood Legal Services (NLS) Worker’s Rights clinic in Glendale, one of the legal clinics in the Southland that’s associated with Worksafe.
“We see a variety of individuals at the NLS clinic, including factory workers, delivery people, food service employees, loading dock workers…who are seeking advice regarding work-related injuries,” says Leung. The clinic provides services for many non-English-speaking individuals who are seeking information about their legal rights. “By providing them with information about Workers’ Compensation laws, they are empowered with knowledge to pursue the medical treatment and benefits they are entitled to, either on their own or through legal representation.”
That positive impact is also felt by the GEK attorneys. “When you can use your knowledge and experience to help someone else, someone truly in need, you can’t help but feel a sense of personal satisfaction,” says Lizarraga.
That sentiment is echoed by Dombchik: “Our firm has always held that knowledge is power. By empowering the people we speak with at the clinic, we are not only putting our ideals into practice, but we are also creating change in ourselves.”
They Came, They Raced, They Talked About Safety
GEK attorneys Noah Green (left) and Howard Krepack at the firm’s booth.
The spirit of competition was alive and well during the recent Raymond Fouquet Brentwood Grand Prix. Competitors of all ages gave it their all in their respective races, trying their best to achieve the personal goal they set for themselves.
“It was great to see seasoned bicyclists out there competing, but it was equally as inspirational to see the boys and girls participating in the kids races—their enthusiasm is what bicycling is all about,” says avid cyclist and Personal Injury attorney Howard Krepack.
“Bicycling means different things to different people—recreation, competition, transportation, community. Responsibility also needs to be thrown into the mix particularly when it comes to being role models for the next generation of bicyclists. This includes understanding the rules of the road and following the safety protocol when it comes to such things as wearing helmets, using hand signals and staying out of the door zone.”
Krepack’s firm, Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton and Goldstein (GEK), is a sponsor of Velo Club La Grange, the bicycling club that hosts the annual race in Brentwood.
GEK Attorney Howard Krepack with the Men’s Cat 3 winners, from left, David Robertson, Jack Lindquist and Wilson Blas. GEK sponsored that race.
“Because we had a booth at the event we were able to speak to a lot of people about the law as it pertains to bicycling, lane positioning, what to do in case of an accident, and riding defensively. We also listened to a lot of stories about cyclists’ serious accidents or near misses. It’s amazing how many people have been involved in bicycle accidents, many of which have impacted them permanently.
“It’s clear that great strides to enhance safety for bicyclists have been made—in large part because of the hard work done by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition—but we still have a long way to go. This includes reminding people that motorists and bicyclists share equal rights to the road, which means both groups must act respectfully and responsibly.”
It was obvious that those racing got the memo about good sportsmanship. Camaraderie was the name of the game, and it started with the first race of the day as two bicyclists participated in the Women’s Cat 3/4 race riding a beach cruiser and a mountain bike. They were welcomed by their fellow competitors and cheered by the crowd.
(As part of GEK’s commitment to advocating for the rights of bicyclists, the firm has created a Facebook page—Bicycling Justice—to inform and educate bicycling enthusiasts.)
Law Firm Participates in the President’s Mandated Listening Session
They were sent to Los Angeles by President Barak Obama to listen. And that’s exactly what senior leadership members from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Interior and Defense did recently at the public listening session for America’s Great Outdoors Presidential Initiative.
They expressed their views and listened to suggestions from the capacity crowd at Occidental College’s Thorne Hall regarding the nation’s conservation and environmental agenda for the 21st century. This feedback will help shape the report they send to the president in November.
Among those addressing the audience was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who spoke of the “emerald necklace” of parks and open spaces that bring a city together. “Change is in the air, it’s in the environment, it’s in the Los Angles River.”
Panel members (from left): L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army, Ken Salazar, Secretary, Dept. of the Interior, Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Harris Sherman, Undersecretary, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
That change, however, doesn’t come easy, and it starts, according to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, with expanding our definition of the great outdoors to include everything from wide-open spaces to dense urban areas.
Ken Salazar, Secretary, Department of the Interior, dug a bit deeper as he outlined what he sees as the key components to the initiative. “Great urban parks need our attention.
Rivers—we turned our backs on rivers in the past, but when we turned to face them again, we found they had become the hub of vitality for great cities.” He also stressed the need for historic and cultural preservation, identifying great landscapes and preserving wildlife habitat.
According to Howard Krepack, a partner in the firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton and Goldstein (GEK), “It was important for GEK to be present at this unique event. We are committed to advocating for the rights of bicyclists to enjoy the great outdoors in a safe and sane way. Transportation—be it labeled recreation as in the case of bicycling, or necessity as in the case of increased public transit—has to be a priority of this new environmental agenda.”
The revitalization of the L.A. River is one example of how communities are conserving outdoor spaces.
Incorporating transportation issues such as bicycling was one of the suggestions from the audience. In addition, there was mention of the missing education component and the need for a hands-on approach to getting students outside. Renewable energy and not allowing our deserts to become “parking lots for solar panels” was also a concern. As was the need for a smart, green infrastructure with collaboration that would champion multi-issue projects, and the need to create jobs through the initiative. Representatives from the off-road industry, the equestrian community and recreational fishermen also expressed their concerns.
“The conservation challenges we face in the 21st century are complex,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality. “They cry out for new and innovative solutions. We are here to identify new opportunities.”
Paying Tribute to Fallen Workers
Photographs of workers killed on the job adorned a flower-laden altar in front of the UCLA Labor Center at a recent Workers’ Memorial Day event. Each killed worker memorialized on that altar had a story, for instance:
- Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez was 17 and pregnant when she died of heat stress after eight hours of pruning grape vines with no access to shade or water.
- James Strickland, 44, was fatally struck from behind by a train while performing his duties as a train inspector for BART.
- Hugo Bustamante, 46, and Kelly Hales, 56, were both victims of workplace violence.
Thousands of workers in the United States are injured or killed on the job each year as a result of “preventable incidents,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Latino workers suffer higher rates of workplace injuries and deaths than all other workers.
“Today we are here because work is dangerous,” Pastor Bridie Roberts told those in attendance—workers, families, community groups, union members, policy makers and advocates—as she began the prayer ceremony. After 40 names of the 404 people who died on the job in California in 2008 were read aloud, Roberts told those assembled to “Remember them, remember their lives, their families and that they had dreams for the future.”
“This is a solemn event, but it’s also very inspirational because these fallen workers are not forgotten, and the people who gathered together to pay homage are also working hard day in and day out so that each subsequent year there will be fewer names to read,” said attorney Amy Leung, an associate at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP.
Speakers, including Representatives Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach) and Judy Chu (D-32nd District), urged passage of strong state and federal occupational safety laws, including HR 2067, the Protecting America’s Workers Act. Referencing the bill, Chu said, “It will go a long way in strengthening worker protection, and OSHA will truly have some teeth to go after those who are breaking the law. There’s a new sheriff in town. We will change things for the better to keep workers safe.”
Altar of Remembrance—paying tribute to fallen workers.
The event was presented by SoCalCOSH and UCLA-LOSH (Labor Occupational Safety & Health Program); both non-profit groups are dedicated to workers’ health and safety.
It included a four-mile commemorative funeral procession through central Los Angeles, with cars displaying posters in English and Spanish with such messages as “Work kills more people than wars” and “No job is worth more than our lives.” The procession helped spread the word to the community and called attention to issues of workplace deaths and the importance of safety measures.
“We have been a proud sponsor of this event for years because we believe in the work of SoCalCOSH and UCLA-LOSH,” Leung said. “As Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury attorneys we constantly see how unsafe work conditions can devastate the lives of workers, their families and their colleagues.”
Attorneys Participate In Launch of New Community Organization
Attorneys Vincent Vallin Bennett, Gary Stern and Noah Green, associates at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton and Goldstein, recently attended an event for the launch of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE).
“Our firm is proud to participate and work with an organization such as ACCE that recognizes the importance of preserving social justice for all of us in our communities,” Bennett said.
Attorney Vincent Vallin Bennett addresses those attending a fundraising event for the launch of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.
“For over 25 years, we at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton and Goldstein have recognized the need to protect and enhance the quality of life for the members of our communities and have worked tirelessly to maintain and advance the legal rights of our clients who have been injured in and out of the workplace.
“Because we understand the daily struggles of working families, particularly in these economic times, our proven commitment to delivering outstanding legal services and results is as strong as ever.”
ACCE is an independent, statewide organization created to empower low-income Californians in a variety of ways, including understanding their legal rights. To learn more about ACCE, visit their website at www.calorganize.org.
Meeting with Representatives from the California Teachers Association
Jesús Escandón, CTA Regional UniServ staff member, left, discusses a workers’ compensation issue with Attorney Richard Felton.
Teachers continue to face unprecedented challenges on the job—exposure to toxic materials, repetitive motion damage, assaults—physical and verbal—and high blood pressure caused by stress. And so it was fitting that Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Sherry Grant and Richard Felton addressed representatives from the California Teachers Association about a wide range of issues at the group’s recent regional staff meeting.
Grant and Felton, partners at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, covered such topics as temporary disability, medical treatment, permanent disability and dependent benefits.
“Because we have a lot of experience representing teachers, we understand the wide variety of issues you face,” Felton told the audience. “As a firm, we pool our collective efforts and resources to ensure that our clients receive the full range of benefits to which they are entitled.”
In so doing, the firm’s workers’ compensation attorneys thoroughly educate their clients about what’s involved when it comes to medical treatment for a workplace injury.
“One way to ‘break free’ from your employer’s Medical Provider Network is by pre-designating your own doctor in writing before a workplace injury,” said Grant. “This right is a powerful tool, and enables injured workers to be cared for by a doctor who knows their medical history and with whom they have built a relationship. In many cases, this physician can provide effective treatment, enabling the injured worker to return to his or her job more quickly.”
Attorney Sherry Grant, left, and CTA Assistant Executive Director Robin Rose.
Acting proactively is also the key to keeping injured workers from feeling like “rats in a maze” when it comes to the myriad procedural timelines involved in pursuing a workers’ compensation claim, according to Grant. “If you don’t respond ‘correctly’ you may have waived your rights. It’s important to act early when you are injured; call us and we will advise you.”
Felton discussed recent court decisions that have taken some of the sting out of the Workers’ Compensation “Reform” of 2004. Given the complexity of this developing law, it is more important than ever to consult any attorney early on in the process.
“We have been and will continue to be deeply involved in the development of legal arguments that affect California’s workers,” he said. “Because Workers’ Compensation Laws are constantly changing, it is vital for injured workers to have effective legal representation to fight for their rights. The good news is that with our help, seriously injured people have a better chance of receiving the benefits to which they are entitled under the law.”
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