Attorney Michael G. Okun is a Partner at Patterson Harkavy, LLP. Mike represents unions and individuals with labor and employment problems. He has represented local unions affiliated with more than two dozen international unions, as well as the internationals themselves, in hundreds of arbitrations, NLRB proceedings, contract negotiations, and related matters. He has represented unions and workers across North Carolina, as well as in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia , West Virginia, and Maryland. He has successfully argued cases in the state Supreme Court and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Eleventh Circuits.
Mike serves as general counsel to the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, and as Special Counsel to the Board of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, the organization of musicians from the 50 largest orchestras in the United States. From 1997-2001 Mike took leave from the firm to serve as one of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO’s two full-time elected officers, the first private practitioner in the country to be elected to such a position.
He has taught courses in Labor Law, Employment Law, and Alternative Dispute Resolution as an adjunct, visiting professor, and visiting scholar at the law schools of Wake Forest, UNC, the University of Tennessee, and Elon. He has lectured for a number of other law schools, including Cornell, Duke, and William & Mary. Before entering private practice, he clerked for the Honorable J. Dickson Phillips of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and worked as a litigation attorney in the Appellate Court Branch of the Enforcement Division of the National Labor Relations Board in Washington.
Mike studied art at Antioch College, graduating in 1977, and law at the University of North Carolina School of Law, graduating, with honors, in 1980. During law school he was selected as the James O. Bowman Scholar, served on the Law Review, received the Order of the Coif Award for Legal Writing, and captained Willie and the Poor Boys, the school’s undefeated championship softball team. In the decade before graduating from college and attending law school, he worked as a graphic artist, a rehabilitation therapist, a cab driver, and, mostly, an ironworker, working out of Local 63.
Mr. Okun has served as Chair of the Labor and Employment Section of the North Carolina Bar Association; on the Board of Directors of the Lawyers Coordinating Committee, the national organization of union attorneys; on the Executive Board of the National Employment Lawyers Association, the national organization of attorneys representing employees; and as regional co-chair of the ABA Section on Labor and Employment Law’s Committee on Practice and Procedure Under the NLRA. He serves on the North Carolina Commission on Workforce Development and has served on numerous state legislative study commissions, and has consulted and conducted educational programs for the ABA and the Free Trade Union Institute in Belarus, Lithuania, and Russia.
Mike is listed in Best Lawyers in America, North Carolina Super Lawyers and Super Lawyers Corporate Counsel, Corporate Counsel, in Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite, and identified by Lawdragon as one of the 500 Leading Plaintiff Employment Lawyers in the country. In 2016, Business North Carolina reported that Mike was selected by the state’s lawyers as the top lawyer in the field of Employment Law. Mike has been selected to be a member of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and the National Academy of Social Insurance, and as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. His work has been honored by, among others, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project, the North Carolina Justice Center, the North Carolina Association of Retired Americans, the Triangle Native American Association, Southerners for Economic Justice, and the National Employment Lawyers Association. In 1995, Mike was among the North Carolina lawyers selected to be interviewed about his career for the Southern Oral History Program, an interview subsequently archived in the Southern Historical Collection at UNC. In 2011, Mike was awarded The Order of The Long Leaf Pine.