Michaelson, Julius C., 1922-2011
A champion for human, civil and labor rights, Julius C. Michaelson spent a decades-long long career of public service, fighting for social justice. He was best known for the “Michaelson Act," requiring school districts to bargain in good faith with teachers, ending the long-standing practice of ignoring teachers to put force them to givie up or participate in forbidden strikes.
Born in Salem, Massachusetts on January 25, 1922, and educated in Providence public schools, Julian Michaelson went on to earn a degree at Boston University Law School. He later earned a master’s degree in Philosophy at Brown University. Michaelson began his law career as a partner in the firm of Abedon, Michaelson and Stanzler. He practiced law as public counsel within public utility rate cases; served as general counsel to the state AFL-CIO and as a delegate to the Rhode Island Constitutional Convention.
In 1962 Michaelson turned his attention to politics. He was elected state senator and served with distinction until 1974. Michaelson served as president of the Rhode Island Bar Association, and was nominated as Deputy Majority Leader for the incumbent Democratic Party in 1969. He then served as general counsel to the AFL-CIO, and a chief mediator in teacher – committee disputes.
He was elected State Attorney General and served two consecutive terms from 1974 until 1979. As Attorney General, Michaelson expanded the office to provide greater protection for consumer rights. Michaelson spearheaded one of the country’s first Consumer Protection Divisions in 1974. He fought for consumers against predatory utilities and banks. As a member of the General Assembly and as Attorney General, Michaelson achieved passage of the Fair Housing Act; the so-called Michaelson Act, which allowed for teacher collective bargaining rights and added amendments to the Workman’s Compensation Act.
He served as an advocate for social justice and stronger consumer protection laws, and was also an environmentalist, pushing for anti-pollution laws, pesticide bans, and conservation of waterways. He was dedicated to helping the disadvantaged, banning anti-discrimination in housing, and addressing deception in supermarket price-fixing and unfair utility rate increases and fees. Most notably, he persisted in the effort to establish a state Ombudsman and supported open meetings. In 1982, Michaelson ran for U.S. Senate in an attempt to unseat Republican Senator John Chafee, losing by a very narrow margin.
After leaving elected office, turned to public serve on the international level as a delegate in Madrid to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in 1980, and again in 1988 as a representative to the US-USSR Bilateral Information Talks in Moscow as a member of the USIA Book & Library Advisory Committee. He was appointed by President Carter to the National Institute for Democracy, serving a two-year term under Madeline Albright. Michaelson came to the attention of the Reagan Administration and was then appointed to the Foreign Service Grievance Board.
He was honored for his efforts in serving the public by the Rhode Island Education Association, winning the Charles Carroll Award in 1970. He was also awarded the Dressler Family Memorial Award in 1976, and named Outstanding Award Recipient for Help for Jewish Education. After a long career of public and community service, he died on November 11, 2011.