Standing firm-ish | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

When the University of Pittsburgh held a symposium on "sustainable high-end outsourcing," state Sen. Sean Logan (D-Monroeville) was clear: American companies should be employing American citizens. But financial records show the Monroeville Democrat has connections to a local law firm recently accused of helping clients do just the opposite.

According to an Aug. 2, 2006, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, Logan criticized a University of Pittsburgh symposium on "sustainable high-end outsourcing."

"I'm upset that Pitt ... would even consider participating in a venture that would move high-end job opportunities overseas," Logan was quoted in the P-G. "That's a slap in the face to every worker and taxpayer in the state."

Logan graduated from Pitt in 1993.

But Logan participates in a venture that, judging by its own rhetoric, helps takes jobs away from local workers: Cohen & Grigsby, one of Pittsburgh's largest law firms.

Logan lists Cohen & Grigsby as a source of income on his 2006 statement of financial interest, though his salary and job description are not disclosed on the form. He also received $500 from the law firm in 2002 and 2004, and $3,900 in 2003.

Cohen & Grigsby made headlines in June thanks to a video clip uploaded on The video of the law firm's "Seventh Annual Immigration Law Update," held May 15 at the Pittsburgh Hilton, Downtown, sparked controversy when viewers heard members of Cohen & Grigsby seeming to discuss how they helped clients hire foreign-born workers.

By law, companies are required to show they tried to find qualified American workers before hiring non-US citizens. But on the clip, Cohen & Grigsby representatives seem to mock the idea of making a good-faith effort.

"Our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker," said Vice President of Marketing Lawrence Lebowitz on the video. "And, you know, that in a sense that sounds funny, but it's what we're trying to do here."

While Lebowitz's remarks have touched off national controversy -- Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley has urged federal officials to look into the firm's practices -- Logan has been much less vocal than he was about the Pitt event. He did not return more than a dozen phone calls made to his Harrisburg and district offices over a week.

Cohen & Grigsby referred questions regarding the video to Elias/Savion Public Relations. Jeff Donaldson, from Elias/Savion, said Cohen & Grigsby has no comment on either the video or the firm's relationship with Logan.

In the wake of the YouTube uproar, ties to Cohen & Grigsby might not be something a Western Pennsylvania Democrat wants to advertise. Logan has ties to organized labor, which contributes heavily to his campaign and which has professed outrage at the video. As recently as July 11, Richard Stanizzo, the business manger for the Pittsburgh Building and Construction Trades Council, decried the firm in a letter to the P-G. In the letter, which derided a roofing-company owner who employed non-citizens as "an insult to every person living in Pittsburgh," Stanizzo wondered whether the roofer "utilize[d] the recruiting tactics recently espoused by the law firm of Cohen & Grigsby."

Reached by phone, Stanizzo expressed surprise at Logan's affiliation with the firm, but said he still regarded Logan as a staunch ally on the Senate floor.

"I haven't seen anything in his voting records that would seem to conflict with what he said" about the University of Pittsburgh symposium, Stanizzo said.

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