Al Meyerhoff, 61
Legal voice for poor
Al Meyerhoff, a leading labor, environmental and civil rights lawyer who brought a landmark case to stop sweatshop conditions for 30,000 workers on the Pacific island of Saipan, died n Sunday in Los Angeles, where he lived. He was 61.
The cause was complications of leukemia, his wife, Marcia Brandwynne, said.
Meyerhoff, a loud, friendly bear of a man with a thick mane of tousled hair, rose to prominence in several legal fields. As a civil rights litigator, he successfully challenged a California law that prevented illegal immigrant children from attending public school. As an environmental lawyer - he worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council for 17 years - he challenged the continued use of cancer-causing pesticides.
As a labor lawyer, he was co-lead counsel in suing Gap, Nordstrom, Ralph Lauren and 20 other retailers, accused of obtaining garments from Saipan factories that used guard dogs and had barbed-wire fences. Many of the workers, some of whom Meyerhoff said were indentured servants, were immigrants from China who had paid several thousand dollars to work in Saipan and were forced to toil 12 hours a day, seven days a week, often without overtime pay.