Remembering Harold Newman

Mentor and ILR friend honored by Scheinman Institute
Remembering Harold Newman
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Harold R. Newman knew how to tell a story, how to hold a room spellbound.

He was also a treasured mentor and a self-taught scholar of labor relations.

"Even though he never had a college education, he was truly an intellectual," said David Lipsky, director of the ILR School's Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution.

By the end of 2009, the Scheinman Institute's Harold R. Newman Conference Room is slated to open and the first Harold R. Newman Internship will have been awarded.

Named in honor of a labor relations icon, the internship and conference room will help facilitate the education of the newest generation of neutrals, some of whom are being trained by the people Newman coached.

Settling a dispute, or deciding a case correctly and fairly would provide fulfillment and satisfaction – "cosmic rewards" -- beyond anything else in professional life, Newman told students and professionals.

Newman served as chairman of the New York State Public Employment Relations Board from 1977 to 1990.

He was associated with ILR for 30 years, serving on the school's Advisory Council and as a visiting lecturer. He died in 2005.

Newman's regal bearing and sense of humor make him unforgettable, said Richard Curreri, director of conciliation for the New York State Public Employment Relations Board, known by many as "PERB."

"He was the elder statesman, even when he was not elderly. He commanded respect, but at the same time, had an unexpected wit," said Curreri. It was Newman, he said, who encouraged him to leave litigation for a career in conciliation.

Much of Newman's career was hinged to the Taylor Law, which gave public employees in New York state the right to collective bargaining. PERB was created in 1967.

The next year, Newman became PERB's director of conciliation.

Although he had never met Lipsky, Newman began assigning him cases, including a dispute involving Lackawanna city employees in western New York and one with schoolteachers in Honeoye Falls.

Lipsky, then teaching at the State University of New York at Buffalo, was new to public sector collective bargaining, as was just about everybody else.

"It was sink or swim," said Lipsky.

He swam and Newman assigned a dozen or so cases every year to Lipsky, now ILR's Anne Evans Estabrook Professor of Dispute Resolution.

Newman oversaw about 8,000 cases during his nine years as director of conciliation. Some of the cases went to Marty Scheinman '75, MS '76.

Scheinman was a 22-year-old graduate student when Newman assigned him to a mediation involving a dozen cafeteria workers from the Mount Markham School District.

"The assignment came in late Friday afternoon. I was excited and scared the entire weekend. I planned to call the parties sometime on Monday to arrange a session in the next few weeks," recalled Scheinman. The Scheinman Institute is named in honor of Scheinman and his wife, Laurie Scheinman.

"However, early Monday morning, Harold called. He said the circumstances had changed since the employees had struck that morning. I sensed I was about to lose my first case before it started."

"But, Harold said, 'I trust you. Get over there fast and try to resolve it,'"Scheinman said.

"Fortunately for me, and I guess for Harold -- as his then boss PERB Chairman Robert Helsby thought Harold had lost his mind letting me do the case alone -- an accord was reached that day. And, a career as a neutral was born thanks, in large measure, to Harold Newman."

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