MONTHLY ROUNDTABLE BREAKFAST
The Association for Conflict Resolution
of Greater New York
The CUNY Dispute Resolution Center at John Jay College
Coffee and networking 8:00 AM.
Program begins promptly at 8:30 AM.
A LIFETIME IN DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Long before Alternative Dispute Resolution gained popularity, George Nicolau was laying the groundwork. He became a Major League Baseball arbitrator, described by one of his colleagues as "the foremost and most respected arbitrator in the field of sports arbitration in North America," although that hardly describes his professional path.
Read of Nicolau's extraordinary journey, below, and come be part of a conversation with this revered pioneer in our field.
GEORGE NICOLAU, returning after service in World War II, entered the University of Michigan in 1945 and graduated in 1948, with a degree in Political Science and Economics. Hearing the difficulties that his father, a Greek immigrant, had in his early days in the United States, Nicolau, hoping to be a Union Lawyer, went to New York and enrolled in Columbia Law School. While there, he worked part-time for locals of the Teamsters Union and the Textile Workers Union of America. Upon graduating in 1951 as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, he went to work for a Union law firm and in 1954, joined another firm that represented, among others, the National Maritime Union, Actors Equity Association, the Communication Workers of America, the Newspaper Guild of New York and the Gas, Coke & Chemical Workers.
In 1963, Nicolau temporarily left labor law and joined the staff of the Peace Corps, where he was the Deputy Director of Special Projects. In 1965, as the national anti-poverty program was beginning, he returned to New York at the request of Sargent Shriver as the Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity for the Northeast Region of the United States. Shortly after John Lindsay was elected New York’s Mayor in 1965, Nicolau was asked to run the City's anti-poverty program and became the first Commissioner of the City's Community Development Agency.
Leaving CDA in 1968 after expenditures in the Vietnam War had drastically cut funds for anti-poverty programs, Nicolau became the first Executive Director of the Fund for the City of New York, an organization funded by the Ford Foundation to seek innovated ways to assist the City's Government.
In 1970, two well-known arbitrator/mediators, Ted Kheel of New York and Ronald Haughton of Detroit, established the Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution (IMCR) and Nicolau became its Vice President and Executive Director. Though he had mediated a number of conflicts during his union lawyer and anti-poverty days, this was his first opportunity to teach the subject. Discovering that no one had written a teaching manual or guide on mediation, he and Columbia Law School Dean Mike Sovern wrote one. During the course of ten years at IMCR, Nicolau taught mediation, using televised role plays and other techniques, to countless government and community leaders. In addition to these bi-annual Seminars in Community Disputes and the Resolution of Conflict, IMCR trained the first Task Force of the Department of Justice's Community Relations Service and the entire Community Affairs and Precinct Command Force of the New York City Police Department. Beyond this, Nicolau, in conjunction with Washington's Center for Community Justice, established inmate grievance procedures ending with advisory arbitration in prison systems in California and New York.
Among the disputes Nicolau mediated during his time at IMCR was the 1972-74 Seward Park controversy on the Lower East Side between Hispanics and the Orthodox Jewish community. He and colleague Arthur Barns were also involved in the 1975 clash between African Americans and the Hassidic community in Brooklyn's Crown Heights.
In 1980, after leaving IMCR, Nicolau became a full-time arbitrator and some-time mediator of labor-management disputes across the United States. He is the long-time Industry Chairman of the League of Voluntary Hospitals/ 1199, SEIU, Health Care Workers East, has served as Impartial Arbitrator in Basketball, Baseball, Indoor Soccer and Hockey, was an Impartial Member of NYY's Office of Collective Bargaining for twenty seven years, and has been arbitrator for all of the major airlines and networks and, though he once represented unions in the television, newspaper and the theatrical fields, he now serves, at the request of both sides, as Impartial Arbitrator in those areas.
In the 1990's, he taught at Cardozo Law School in New York and Pepperdine Law School in California and has published numerous papers in the field.
Nicolau was President of the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (1987-88), President of the National Academy of Arbitrators (1996-97), Recipient of the Distinguished Service Wise Owl Award of the American Arbitration Association (Arbitration Day, New York, NY, May 1987), a Participant in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyer's Video History Project (2008) and CLEL's film, the Art and Science of Labor Arbitration (2013), Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Peggy Browning Fund (2011), Recipient of a Proclamation in recognition of his public service, in which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declared April 4th, 2012 George Nicolau Day in the City of New York, and the only Recipient of a Life time service to the Field Award of the National Academy of Arbitrators (2016).