Michael was more than just our attorney for over 35 years; he was a huge part of our UFCW family. Personally, he was my mentor and my very dear friend. He was such an extraordinary person with a unique combination of personality traits that made him the one and only Michael Four.
I first met Michael in the late 80’s when I was a law student clerking at Schwartz, Steinsapir, Dohrmann & Sommers. For the 6 years that I worked at SSDS as a law clerk and associate, Michael was the best boss without exception (no offense to the other SSDS attorneys all of whom I love). His direct style, supportive nature and approachability made it easy for a young associate to ask questions, debate ideas and strategies and come to a thorough understanding of the task at hand. This made it so Michael rarely had to make corrections to my work although, according to him, he always had to find at least one thing to correct on every brief I wrote so he could justify signing his name to it.
Michael was a dedicated and steadfast advocate for working people. Our union representatives always requested Michael to handle their discipline arbitrations because, in the end, win or lose, the members felt the best possible case was presented to the arbitrator. The members especially liked to see their managers squirm under Michael’s cross-examination. Michael has also been the one constant in our industry-wide arbitrations since the early 80’s. His knowledge of our industry history is irreplaceable. Michael was incredibly liked and respected by opposing counsel and all the arbitrators we work with.
Michael always wanted to be in the mix because he truly cared about every development impacting our organization and our members. During our most challenging negotiations, he called frequently for updates and was always available to offer bargaining advice or emotional support. Particularly, during our 2003/2004 strike, which until now was the most difficult time in my career, Michael handled all of the litigation and was still available to take calls whenever anyone needed his support or encouragement. After the strike, Michael worked to recover $70 million for our Ralphs members who were unlawfully locked out.
Over the 30 years I’ve known him, Michael became a very dear friend of mine. We shared a life-long love for the Grateful Dead and went to shows together frequently, including “Fare Thee Well” in Chicago in 2015. We first went to a Dead show together in 1990 and our last show was this last July when Michael was thrilled to be at the show with his sons.
Michael and I also shared a love for our families and constantly up-dated each other about our kids successes and challenges. Michael even brought his mother to Chicago in 2015, not to the Dead show, but so she could visit her family in Chicago. When Michael’s parents moved to Los Angeles, he struggled with the challenges of helping to care for his parents, but he never failed to take them shopping on Saturdays. Michael loved his family. Even though I didn’t spend much time with Michael and Karen together, Michael talked about Karen frequently and I always felt a part of their lives. He spoke proudly about Karen’s career achievements and shared other interesting details about their lives, including their plans to retire in Santa Fe.
Michael’s unique personality included anxieties and some neurotic behaviors but he dealt with them with such an honest and upbeat self-deprecating humor that they were endearing rather than annoying. His intelligence and dedication made him the best attorney while his humility and humor made him fun to work with and a pleasure to be around.
Last week, Michael and I had planned to prepare for an upcoming arbitration after I chaired my first executive board meeting. Rather than coming after the Board meeting, Michael came in the morning to watch me chair the meeting. He said, jokingly, that John wanted him there to make sure I didn’t do anything crazy but I’m sure he was there to share that milestone with me. He genuinely cared about people both personally and professionally. Literally everybody liked Michael. He will be remembered lovingly and profoundly missed by so many.
—Kathy Finn, Secretary-Treasurer, UFCW 770