Levy Ratner, P.C. - New York Attorneys Advocating for Unions and Workers for over 40 Years

“It’s a privilege and an honor to do this kind of work -- helping people who really need it.”

Carl J. Levine


  • On the bulletin board behind his desk, Carl J. Levine keeps several letters from clients to remind him of the purpose of his work – helping workers, primarily at colleges and universities, to improve their lives. One such letter reads: “We owe you so much for your hard work on this case, your consummate professionalism, your attention to detail, your wit and courtesy that helped us through this whole process.  This decision clearly shows sometimes nice guys do finish first.”

    Carl is happy to accept the “nice guy” reputation. “I’m not a table pounder unless I really need to be. I’m good at working with witnesses and letting their voices be heard.” 

    Many of the cases Carl has worked on have changed peoples’ lives. One, in particular, allowed chronically underpaid, private-sector teaching assistants at New York University to unionize and gain health benefits and higher wages, providing the groundwork for what is becoming accepted practice a decade later.

    Carl and partner Dan Ratner won a major victory for graduate teaching assistants at NYU in 2000, following two years of organizing. The NLRB approved their right to form a UAW chapter and begin collective bargaining -- the first time graduate instructors at a private university were allowed to unionize. It was a short-lived victory: The Bush Administration-era NLRB reversed the decision in a similar case involving Brown University, which led to the dissolution of the NYU union in 2004. In an article for the Minnesota Review in 2006, Carl dismissed NYU’s argument that the union stood in the way of academic freedom, writing: “If there is to be a space for open intellectual discourse at American universities, it will be because academic workers at all levels, and the students they teach, unite to demand, create, and protect such space.” After policies began to shift in favor of workers during the Obama years, NYU and a new generation of graduate workers reached a settlement that reinstated the union Carl had worked so hard to help establish.

    Since then, unionization of university employees has grown significantly. Carl currently represents full-time faculty, adjuncts, graduate student employees and professional staff members at New York University, the New School, Barnard College, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Union County College. He has also assisted individual faculty members in employment disputes at Columbia University, Cornell University, Fordham University, Seton Hall University and others.

    Active in the labor movement since his days as an undergrad at the University of Michigan, Carl continues to enjoy giving day-to-day counsel to these unions, especially the smaller ones. “I’m in the thick of it, helping those who administer those unions, often giving advice even before conflicts rise to the level of grievances.”

    Carl has written numerous articles, and conference papers addressing topics on the labor and employment rights of graduate student employees and faculty members. In 2008 he was named a “hero” of the City of New York by the Village Voice for his pro bono work fighting to oust the Genovese crime family from ATU Local 1181, a local that represents school bus and paratransit drivers in the New York City area.

    Prior to practicing law, Carl Levine was a Chief Steward and union reform leader in AFSCME Local 1583 and taught elementary special education in the Ann Arbor, Michigan Public Schools. While at Yale Law School, he served as Student Director for the Disability Law Clinic of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization and successfully argued before the Second Circuit to uphold a motion for summary judgment in Skubel v. Fuoroli, which gave disabled youth the right to home health nursing services outside their homes so they could fully participate at school. Immediately after graduating, he clerked for Judge Robert Patterson of the Southern District of New York, from 1997-1998.

    Partial List of Presentations

    • “Union Rights or Peonage: What’s Next for Graduate Assistants at Private Universities? A Legal Update,” 9th Annual Human Sciences Conference: Academic Labor and the New Politics of Consensus, George Washington University, February 2003.
    • “Organizing: Who is an Employee? Units with Students, Guards, Employees of Joint Employers, and Others in Legal Limbo,” AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee, Northeast Regional Meeting, October 26, 2001.
    • “Building a Better World: Why Unions Are More Relevant Than Ever,” May Day Presentation, Judson Memorial Church, New York City, May 2008.
    • “14 Penn Plaza v. Pyett: The Union Perspective,” College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, May 2009.
    • “Negotiations 101, National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education,” Annual Conference, April 2011.
    • “Graduate Employee Organizing: Special Issues and Topics, National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education,” Annual Conference, April 2011
    • “In Celebration of International Labor Day: Working Together to Transform the World,” Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, May 1, 2011.
    • “Negotiations 103: Collective Bargaining and Governance,” National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education, Annual Conference, April 2012.
    • “Graduate Employee Organizing in the Private Sector,” National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education, Annual Conference, April 2015.
    • Contingent Faculty and Shared Governance,” National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education, Annual Conference, March 2017.
  • Practice areas
  • Education

    Yale Law School, JD, 1997

    Eastern Michigan University MA, Special Education, 1992

    • Circle of Excellence Award for completing degree with a 4.0 average

    University of Michigan, BA, Psychology, 1981

  • Admissions

    Admitted to Practice in New Jersey and New York