Elliot Bredhoff, 83, who for decades was one of the nation's leading labor lawyers, died Nov. 2 at his Chevy Chase home of complications from surgery for a heart valve replacement.
As a partner in the firm Bredhoff & Kaiser, Mr. Bredhoff represented many nationally known labor unions. He was special counsel to the United Steelworkers of America from 1965 to 1991. For nearly 30 years, he also was general counsel to the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO.
He often appeared before the Supreme Court and appellate courts as a leading authority on labor law, constitutional law and civil rights issues. Three times in the 1980s, the National Law Journal named him one of the 100 most influential U.S. lawyers.
"He was known for advancing the cause of labor in a very calm, cool and collected manner," said George Cohen, a longtime colleague at Bredhoff & Kaiser.
In 1960, Mr. Bredhoff and his partners argued a set of three cases before the Supreme Court -- all brought on behalf of the United Steelworkers -- that became known as the Steelworkers Trilogy. Those cases laid the foundation for the modern private labor arbitration system by requiring federal courts to favor the arbitration process in grievances between labor and management.
For many years, Mr. Bredhoff advised labor unions on contract negotiations, benefits and arbitration matters. He was counsel for the National Industrial Group Pension Plan. From 1973 to 1993, he served on the Foreign Service grievance board of the State Department.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, he represented the United Steelworkers in negotiating collective bargaining agreements with steel companies.
"He was recognized as a premier negotiator," Cohen said. "He was an expert on benefits, health and welfare. Elliot was an instrumental force in all those negotiations."
Mr. Bredhoff was born in New York and graduated from City College of New York, where he was president of the student council. He was a communications officer with the Army Air Forces during World War II, reaching the rank of first lieutenant.
In 1949, he graduated from Yale Law School, where he was editor of the law journal. After coming to Washington, he was assistant general counsel to the Congress of Industrial Organizations, working for Arthur J. Goldberg, who later became a Supreme Court justice.
Mr. Bredhoff was active in the American Bar Association and served on the council of the association's Labor and Employment Law Section, which he chaired in 1984 and 1985. He was general counsel to the Friends of the Department of Labor, served on the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers board of governors and was an emeritus fellow of the American College of Employee Benefit Lawyers.
He supported many Jewish causes and was on the board of directors of the National Committee for Labor Israel. He also served for many years on the regional board of the National Conference for Community and Justice (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews) and received its National Brotherhood Award.
Mr. Bredhoff had lived in Chevy Chase since the 1950s and was a member of Temple Sinai in the District for more than 40 years.
A son, Michael Bredhoff, died in 1983.
Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Louise Harkavy Bredhoff of Chevy Chase; two children, Robert Bredhoff of Bethesda and Nancy Bredhoff of New York; and three grandsons.