Alumni News

January 14, 2016 at 12:57 pm

CLJC Spotlights HTC Alum | Stember Practices Labor & Employment Litigation, Teaches Law

John Stember

John Stember

Center for Law, Justice & Culture Alumni Spotlight

A native of Brooklyn, NY, John Stember was a Cutler Fellow when he was an Honors student at Ohio University. He was in the last class of Cutler College, a 1960’s era program for self-designed majors.

He graduated in 1972 from the College of Arts & Sciences cum laude. He attended the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, earning a J.D. in 1976.  Upon his admission to the bar, Stember worked as a legal services lawyer, representing low-income workers. During this time, he served as a local union president and as National Secretary of UAW Local 2320, the nationwide union of Legal Services Workers.

Currently, Stember a partner in the law firm of Stember Cohn & Davidson-Welling in Pittsburgh. His practice focuses on litigation in the areas of labor and employment law, where he represents both executives and unions, such as the Arena Football Players Union and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. From 1993-2010, he represented United Steelworker and UAW retirees in multiple retiree health class actions against major corporations such GenCorp, Rexam, GM, Ford and Chrysler.

Stember also serves as Adjunct Clinical Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where he directs the Unemployment Insurance Practicum. He is a published author and lecturer and has appeared on national television and radio programs, including with Al Franken and Oprah Winfrey.

What brought you to Ohio University?

I came to Ohio University for the Journalism School and because I was interested in living in a rural area.

What is your current occupation? What is a typical day?

I am a practicing attorney and partner in the law firm Stember Cohn & Davidson-Welling in Pittsburgh. We represent employees and unions in individual and class actions, in employment and labor matters, including sexual harassment, pension and health benefits, and ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 19074). There really is no such thing as a typical day.  Some days, I could be all day in front of a computer, meeting with clients, on the road or the phone, or in court.

How did you become interested in that field?

The political upheaval of the Vietnam War era led to an interest in the labor movement.

Was there a particular topic or field of law that got you interested in it in the first place?

Union-side labor and employment law.

What’s your favorite part of being a labor and employment lawyer?

I enjoy being my own boss, being engaged, and only working on cases we like.

What are you passionate about?

Workers’ rights and the labor movement are passions of mine.

How did your Ohio University experience prepare you for law school and shape your career path?

Ohio University shaped my career trajectory in a number of ways. Certainly, the student activism and the anti-war movement helped prepare me to be an advocate.  Additionally, an unanticipated stay in the Athens County Jail led me to seriously consider law school.

What are most the important things you did as an undergrad to get you prepared for law school?

Political involvement, studying history and philosophy, and a brush with the legal system.

Do you have any advice for students interested in law?

Take a year off, work in a law office first, and consider the debt and time commitment.

What is your favorite Ohio University memory?

I can’t narrow it down to just one. Living for several years on a small farm in Amesville (without indoor plumbing), maintaining a 70-mile per day “tube route” delivering the Athens Messenger, Chuck Berry duck-walking at the Athena, spring in Southeastern Ohio, and Appalachian Lighthouse.

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