Government, Labor Law Lawyers, Lobbyists - Albany N.Y.
Thomas F. Hartnett - In Memoriam
Thomas Hartnett, Co-Chair of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C.’s Government Relations practice and a part of the firm’s Labor practice, passed away on August 28, 2012 after losing his fight with cancer. He was 67.
“Tom waged a courageous battle against his illness with grace and dignity. We have lost a colleague who cared deeply about the needs of others and worked hard to improve the human condition. His friendship and wise counsel will be deeply missed by our firm,” said Lois Carter Schlissel, Managing Attorney of Meyer Suozzi.
Harold Ickes, Co-Chair of the firm’s Labor and Government Relations practice groups, stated, “We have lost a wonderful colleague, who, for many of us, was an extraordinary, loyal and discrete friend. Tom's wide experience, his great good sense and judgment, his sensibilities, provided a long view and stability that are hard to come by. He will be greatly missed.”
“As a friend and law partner of Tom’s for over two decades, I loved and admired him as a human being and professional “accomplisher,”” said Richard Winsten, Co-Chair of the firm’s Government Relations practice. “I marveled at his skill in bringing labor and management together for mutual benefit.” Richard also noted that Tom held jobs as a bouncer and a cabdriver before becoming an attorney. "He knew what it was like to work for a living, and never forgot where he came from," Winsten said.
Prior to joining Meyer Suozzi in 1991, Tom served as director of then-Gov. Mario Cuomo's Office of Employee Relations from 1983 until 1987. As the state’s chief labor negotiator, he conducted collective negotiations with public employee unions representing over 200,000 state workers in twelve bargaining units. He negotiated health insurance benefits for more than 400,000 state and local government employees, introducing various innovations in cost containment. During his tenure, Tom designed and successfully negotiated implementation of the state’s first major restructuring of its health insurance program. Tom held the position of Deputy Director for Contract Negotiations and Administration for the Office of Employee Relations from 1979 until 1983. Previously, he held management positions in personnel and labor relations for the New York Telephone Company, and was a union representative for the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO.
As Cuomo's chief negotiator, Tom played a critical role in ending an 11-day strike by LIRR workers in 1987.
"He was a pro," Cuomo said. "He was extremely bright and a very hard worker. He was a really good public servant for a long time and we are indebted to him."
Later in 1987, Cuomo promoted Tom to be New York State's commissioner of labor, a job he held until 1991. In that post, he helped reform state child labor laws and increased the state minimum wage and unemployment insurance benefits.
During the period of 1991 through 1995, while Of Counsel in Meyer Suozzi’s Albany office, served as permanent neutral arbitrator for the New York City Transit Authority and the Transport Workers’ Union. Tom most recently represented the Shinnecock Nation in its bid to open a casino on Long Island.
Tom graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1972 and received a law degree from Seton Hall University in 1976.
Tom negotiated the first Classification and Compensations Study review of the state’s compensation system in more than thirty years. He also has been a principal figure in the settlement of major labor union work stoppages, including the following:
Mediated settlement for New York Post labor negotiations, which enabled the newspaper to continue operations in 1990.
Mediated settlement in the Long Island Railroad Strike with management and twelve unions to restore service to 100,000 commuters in 1989.
Settled the 39-day strike between Local 1199 and the League of Voluntary Hospitals in New York City in 1986.
While serving as New York State Commissioner of Labor, he worked with Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to:
Reform New York State child labor laws.
Restructure the department, expanded jurisdiction, streamlined management structure and implemented one-stop employment and training services.
Increase the New York State Minimum Wage and Unemployment Insurance benefit.
Consolidate education and training initiatives within the department.
Institute the Governor’s Excelsior Awards program to recognize total quality management in the state.
Head a delegation of prominent New York State educators, elected representatives and private sector executives to study productivity issues in Japan.
He will be greatly missed and long remembered by all who knew him.