Kenneth Grace

Kenneth Grace

Labor Guild Board of Directors

Cushing-Gavin Awards Logo

Cushing-Gavin Award Recipient

Labor Attorney Award, 2012

Ken Grace has represented unions from the Berkshires to the Cape including police and firefighters throughout the state. Graduating from Cornell’s School for Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) in 1973, Ken Grace earned a Master’s in Labor Studies at UMass/Amherst in 1974. Joining AFSCME District Council 93 as a business agent on the North Shore, Ken negotiated and serviced close to 50 contracts as well as regional organizing. Working fulltime, he attended New England Law School at night, graduating magna cum laude. In 1982, he became Attorney Joseph Sandulli’s his first associate, and his partner in 1985. Today, Sandulli Grace’s twelve attorneys represent unions exclusively. Ken’s unique contribution to that growth is his humane and gifted ability to hire, manage and coach the firm’s attorneys, support staff and law interns. Some of his firm’s major clients include the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association, the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Boston EMTs. Since 1982, hundreds of students have enjoyed Ken’s “Survey of Labor Relations” one of the Labor Guild’s popular, core courses. Throughout his career that commitment to labor relations has inspired and energized others.

Kenneth A. Grace, Esq. Acceptance Speech Cushing-Gavin Award Dinner December 7, 2012

Good Evening. Bishop Dooher, Distinguished Guests, Friends and Family.

First, I want to thank Allyson for her kind words of introduction.  As I was sitting here listening to her description, I was thinking, “Hey, I’d really like to meet that guy!” 

I also would like to thank the Selection Committee for choosing me to receive this Award.  It is such an honor to be recognized out of so many exceptional labor union attorneys in this area.

My interest in labor unions goes back to when I was growing up in Athol, Massachusetts where there were 2 major manufacturing plants which employed a very high percentage of people in the town.  One was unionized and the president of the other was vehemently anti-union.  As a high school kid, it seemed pretty simple: a union gave the workers a necessary collective voice over their workplace…Yet, in Athol, the non-union employer always stayed one step ahead of the union shop in wages and benefits, no doubt as an effective method of union avoidance; and it was only the non-union shop that has survived to this day.  This whole labor-management dynamic led me on the path to study labor relations at Cornell University and the University of Massachusetts Labor Center, and later to work as a union organizer and business agent.

It was at UMass that I first met Father Ed Boyle back in the early 1970’s when we were graduate students there together.  Father Boyle was a good friend to me as I’m sure he was to many of you out there.  He married my wife and me, baptized our sons and remained a close friend of our family for the rest of his life.  I know we all miss him, particularly on a night like this.

Some of you may know that Father Boyle was a pretty good athlete.  At UMass, we put together an intramural basketball team made up of labor students, and we called ourselves the “Wobblies”.  Of course, this was the name for the Industrial Workers of the World back at the turn of the last century….but it pretty much described our basketball style as well!

It was through Father Boyle and also Father Mort Gavin that I was given the opportunity in 1982 to teach at the Labor Guild.  They explained to me that the students were mostly labor union people who worked all day and then made their way through Boston traffic at night to the school on Harrison Avenue for 3 hours of labor education on 9 successive Monday nights.  My first thought was how in the world was I going to keep these people awake, much less teach them something!  But I soon learned there was no cause for concern.  The students came to the program extremely motivated and willing to share their own unique work experiences and problems.  For 30 years, they have energized me, and I love teaching at the Guild because of their personal commitments for those 9 Monday evenings each year.  For any Guild students out there in the audience, I want to sincerely thank you for your inspiration.

It also was 30 years ago when I joined Joe Sandulli to build a union-side law firm (and Joe had the good sense to hire me).  We now have 12 lawyers who have exceptional problem-solving skills.   Any management person or arbitrator who has dealt with the members of my firm can attest to their professionalism.  More importantly, though, they are all good people.  We work together not only to create a proper balance between work and family, but also to help each other in times of personal need.

We have enjoyed this same sense of family with our clients as well.   Over the summer I had a difficult medical problem that has since resolved.  The support from our clients was overwhelming.  For example, the President of the Boston EMS Union, Jamie Orsino, offered their ambulance services to drive me to medical appointments.  I didn’t need that help, but I really liked the offer.  I received numerous cards and good wishes from Boston police officers and EMTs, and particularly from members of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police and locals like Peabody, Brookline and Weymouth.  The President of Mass COP, Hugh Cameron, would call me periodically just to see how I wasfeeling without bringing up any business whatsoever.  One of the other attorneys for the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, Tom Drechsler,even offered to rake my leaves!  (I didn’t ask him his hourly rate, though!)  All of this support meant so much to me, and I feel very fortunate and blessed that our firm is included in the families of our clients.

Lastly, permit me to briefly mention a number of my own family members.  I want to thank my brothers Steve, John and Don and my niece Whitney for coming across the country to be with me tonight.  I also want to recognize the love and support I have from my two sons, Mike and Matt, and my wife, Peggy.  My boys are true gentlemen and in my book, that says a lot.  Peggy is the love of my life and simply is the best.

In closing, I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening catching up with old friends or making new ones, and I want to thank you for your support of the Labor Guild.  The Guild is the longest active continuing labor education program in New England.  If you have not already done so, I encourage you to become a member of the Guildand take a more active part of this important labor-management community.

Thank you.