ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

October 30, 1990

1990.10.30: ALAA Weekly Organizer #25 (PDF)

ALAA Weekly Organizer #25 — OCR

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October 19, 1990

1990.10.19: ALAA Briefing Paper – Legal Aid Bargaining 1990

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October 7, 1990

1990.10.07: Legal-Aid Labor Dispute Could Cripple the Courts (NY Times)

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/10/07/nyregion/legal-aid-labor-dispute-could-cripple-the-courts.html

New York Times, October 7, 1990

Legal-Aid Labor Dispute Could Cripple the Courts

By WILLIAM GLABERSON

A labor dispute between the Legal Aid Society and the union representing its lawyers is threatening to paralyze the New York City courts just as they are gearing up to deal more aggressively with criminal cases.

Representatives of the Legal Aid Society, a private group providing legal representation to poor people, and more than 1,000 unionized lawyers negotiated without reaching a settlement after the lawyers’ contract expired on June 30. The talks are now stalled, with each side accusing the other of refusing to return to the bargaining table and the union’s president, Michael Z. Letwin, talking about the possibility of a strike by the end of October.

”If management refuses in a general way to consider our proposals,” Mr. Letwin said, ”they will force us to strike. If that happens, the courts will not be able to function.”

Archibald R. Murray, the executive director of the Legal Aid Society, said the society is waiting for the range of expected pay increases for municipal employees before making commitments to its lawyers. Legal Aid represents indigent defendants in the city’s courts under a contract with the city, and city officials generally require Legal Aid to keep its pay increases in line with city contracts.

Mr. Murray criticized Mr. Letwin’s approach to the stalled negotiations. ”I don’t see where he gets off talking about a strike or closing the courts,” he said. ”I think that’s not responsible work or leadership.”

Legal Aid lawyers are a critical component of the courts in New York City because, under the law, people accused of serious crimes who cannot afford to hire their own lawyers must have lawyers appointed for them. In recent years, as many as 85 percent of all city criminal defendants have been judged too poor to hire their own lawyers.

Under its contract with the city, Legal Aid provides lawyers in about 60 percent of all indigent cases. The remaining cases are handled by private lawyers appointed individually.

The Strike of ’82

In 1982, a 10-week strike by the union slowed the courts and infuriated Mayor Edward I. Koch, who appointed a committee to study whether the city was too reliant on the Legal Aid Society. The committee concluded that the city’s agreement with Legal Aid ”fails” by allowing the union ”to seriously disrupt the criminal justice process.”

Mr. Letwin described the issues separating the two sides as major differences in approach over the role of the lawyers. He said the union was seeking to raise their stature through measures that would encourage them to remain longer and work in a more professional atmosphere.

”Clients should get from Legal Aid the same quality of representation they would get if they could pay for it,” Mr. Letwin said.

Mr. Murray said poor clients receive excellent representation in most cases.

The lawyers’ pay scale ranges from $29,000 for a beginning lawyer to $60,000 for those with more than 13 years experience. The union, the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, is seeking a 15 percent pay increase and changes in working conditions.

One main issue is a union demand for more minority hiring. Minority lawyers make up 18 percent of the Legal Aid staff, its clients are overwhelmingly members of minority groups.

Other issues involve concerns about office space, growing caseloads, job security and a demand that gay and lesbian lawyers receive health and other benefits for their partners.

‘Ready to Strike’ Buttons

Last week, tension on the labor confrontation boiled over in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. On Thursday, Judge George F. Roberts ordered two Legal Aid lawyers removed from his courtroom because they were wearing buttons that said ”Ready to Strike.” Senior Legal Aid officials intervened and the judge agreed to suspend his order while the society appeals, arguing that the lawyers have a First Amendment right to wear the buttons.

By Friday, Legal Aid lawyers were wearing the buttons in courtrooms all over the city. ”We’ve put out the word for everybody to wear buttons,” Mr. Letwin said.

October 6, 1990

1990.10.06: Michael Letwin, Wrong Way to Fight Crime (NY Times, October 6, 1990)

New York Times
October 6, 1990
Section: 1

Wrong Way to Fight Crime

Michael Z. Letwin; Michael Z. Letwin is president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys.

Faced with understandable alarm over rising violence, Mayor David Dinkins has proposed a $1.8 billion anti-crime plan, most of it devoted to greater numbers of police and jail cells. Even if it survives intact in the face of the city’s financial troubles, the plan is unlikely to roll back the violence that is an inevitable result of an illegal crack trade flourishing amidst deepening poverty.

As the Prohibition Era made plain, when addictive substances are criminalized, users and traders resort to violence to obtain and sell them. Unable to contain the violence, law enforcement only compounds the harm.

Today, because crack is illegal and its high is short-lived, poor users -unlike their Wall Street brethren -commit street crime and sell drugs to support habits that can cost as much as $100 a day. In addition, the immense, artifically inflated profit in illegal drugs, combined with dwindling economic opportunity, draws young people into the low-level trade.

Turf wars over those profits have turned entire inner-city neighborhoods into free-fire zones where, in the last few months, numerous victims have been small children, such as three-year-old Benjamin Williams.

Over all, fully half the city’s 1988 homicides were drug-related, and three-quarters of those resulted from competition for control of street-level drug traffic. Drug-related violence encourages the settlement of even petty disputes with guns and knives. The 1990 homicide rate is already 19 percent above last year’s record figure of 1,905, excluding the victims of the Happy Land social club fire. And while bloodshed has long plagued poor neighborhoods, roving bands of angry and alienated youths have increasingly brought it into formerly “safe” areas, an example of which was the recent murder of Brian Watkins in midtown Manhattan.

In the face of these powerful dynamics, highly touted police programs have consistently proved themselves to be impotent. Experts report that the New York Police Department’s Operation Pressure Point on Manhattan’s Lower East Side probably drove crime and drugs elsewhere; an August 1989 internal Police Department report admits that drug traffic in the target area continues indoors.

New York’s Tactical Narcotics Team sweeps have had even less success in reducing drugs and crime, despite the allocation of huge sums of money, tens of thousands of drug arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations. The drug trade simply shifts to another area. Apprehended dealers are replaced from a seemingly bottomless pool, for jail is not a deterrent to those who daily risk death in the drug trade. The Department’s recent “community policing program,” Operation Take Back, has been similarly ineffective.

Identical results have come in from around the U.S. Although the District of Columbia police have twice the officers per capita as New York City, the capital has a homicide rate three times as high. In Oakland, Calif., a frustrated police lieutenant said: “Don’t say give me more cars, give me more guns, give me more cops. That’s been tried before, and it doesn’t work.”

Escalated police programs have succeeded only in crippling the criminal justice system and assaulting predominantly minority New Yorkers with illegal searches and seizures, frame-ups, physical abuse and questionable police shootings.

As a result of these policies and racially discriminatory sentencing, almost one in four young African-American men in New York is in jail, prison, on probation or parole. Worse, such policies are paid for by cutting to the bone services such as health care, housing, sanitation, libraries, education and residential drug treatment programs.

New York and other cities can be made safer only by treating drugs as a health and economic problem. Decriminalization would dramatically curtail street crime and turf wars by deflating the price of drugs and making them legally available to those who use them. Instead of punishment, treatment could be provided for those who need it.

But decriminalization is neither a complete nor permanent solution to drug abuse, crime and violence. They will yield only when racial and economic justice offer hope to every member of our community.

October 5, 1990

1990.10.05: Weekly Organizer #23: Attorneys and Support Staff Hold Mass Rally to Support Bargaining Demands

Weekly Organizer #23 — OCR

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ALAA WEEKLY ORGANIZER #23

October 5, 1990

The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (District 65/UAW/AFL-CIO)

13 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003-6980 (212) 674-4188/673-5120/ (800) 221-5011, ext. 340

Attorneys And Support Staff Hold

Mass Rally To Support Bargaining Demands

A mass rally at Park Row on October 1st

opened the Union’s public campaign to

force management to respond to the

Association’s bargaining proposals.

Attendance and Determination

With as many as 400 people, the picket and

rally was the largest Association

demonstration in recent years. Large

numbers of those present represented

distant offices such as Queens CDD,

attorneys from the most recently hired

training classes, and the Union’s Attorneys

of Color of Legal Aid (ACLA) caucus. All

of those who came were extremely pleased

with the turnout, and made clear their

determination for significant progress in

this year’s contract.

Association Speakers

Issues were addressed by Association

speakers from across the Society, including

Azalia Torres (Brooklyn CDD/ACLA),

Les Helfman(S.I. Civil!Barg. Cttee),

Martha Conforti (Bronx COD/Secretary),

Steve Dean (Brooklyn COD/Treasurer),

Susan Levine (Manhattan CDD/Barg.

Otee), Steve Statsinger (CAB/Lesbian &

Gay Caucus Barg. Cttee rep.), David

Addams Executive Director), John

Woodruff(Manhattan CDD/ACLA), and

Michael Z. Letwin (Brooklyn

CDD/President).

(Continued on Page 2)

~~·~ . .

s 0 .a

“‘

As many as 400 members of ALAA, 1199 and other supporters rallied at Park Row

October 1st in support of Association demands to improve the Legal Aid Society.

Battle Over Judge’s Strike Button Order

On October 4th, a Manhattan

Supreme Court judge declared

war on the staff attorneys’s First

Amendment right to wear the

Union’s “Ready to Strike” button

to court.

That morning, Judge George Roberts

(Part 30), ordered CDD attorney and

Union delegate Robin Frankel to remove

her button as she stood before the bench

on a routine calendar call. When Frankel

refused, she was briefly held in contempt

before Roberts lifted the order and

proceeded to relieve her from her case.

Immediately thereafter, attorney Troy

Yancey was ordered from the

courtroom for refusing to remove her

button. The judge also announced that

beginning the next day, he would hold in

contempt anyone wearing the button.

Soon, button-wearing attorneys and

support staff from throughout

(Continued on Page 2)

Inside: Open Letter to Arch Murray, P. 3

Next EC Meeting: October 16th

Demonstration Sends the Right Message (Continued from Page I)

Particular attention was paid to

debunking Arch Murray’s memo of the

same day which grossly mischaracterized

the state of bargaining and issues such as

salaries and affirmative action in the

Society (see related article this issue).

Solidarity

Others who spoke in support of the

Association were private attorney and

former Legal Aid staff member Eric

Poulos, Legal Services Staff Association

co-president Anita Miller, Regina Little

(District 65 Vice-President), and George

Kennedy, Strike Solidarity Coordinator,

from the Greyhound strikers

(Amalgamated Transit Union local

1202). In addition, the rally was

..:ndorsed by District Council 37, the

National Conference of Black Lawyers,

and the NYC Chapter of the Coalition of

‘ Black Trade Unionists.

Messages of support were received from

State Senator David Patterson,

Assemblyman Frank Barbaro and

Transit Workers Union leader Sonny

Hall, who Mote a letter to Arch Murray

calling for acceptance of the

Association’s demands.

. Press Coverage

This rally received greater press

coverage than any other Association

demonstration since the 1982 strike,

including a lengthy and extremely

sympathetic October 3d report by Mary

Civiello on Channel 4 Eyewitness News,

and reports on CNN and in the New York

Law Journal. UPI put a substantial story

on the wire. The New York Times is also

preparing an article on bargaining at

Legal Aid.

Further Action

Be sure to see this issue’s calendar for

upcoming strike committee meetings. ·

And remember the date for the next

major action, a mass demonstration at

the Society’s Annual Meeting at Boro of

Manhattan Community College on

October 23d.

Manhattan CDD Attorneys vs. Judge Over First Amendment

Manhattan CDD, joined by Association.

president Michael Letwin, met to

organize a response.

Response

‘lociety chief Arch Murray, COD head

Bob Baum and deputy head Ivar Goldart

arrived shortly to announce their

unconditional support for the right of

attorneys to wear the “Strike” buttons in

court and that the So–:1~_._/ would file an

article 78 proceeding in order to

challenge Roberts’ ruling.

The Association of

Legal Aid Attorneys

Michael Z. Letwin!President

Annette DePalma/Vice President

Stephen Dean/Treasurer

Martha ConiortiJSecretary

R. David Addams/Executive Director

Isabel Lobelo/Office Administrator

Ron Luciano/Office Secretary

Page 2

(Continued from Page 1)

/ \

After lunch, while attorneys and support

staff packed the courtroom, management

negotiated with Roberts and other

judges. Finally, in a huge retreat,

Roberts suspended his new-found rule

pending the outcome of the Appellate

Division’s ruling on the Article 78

proceeding.

The Outlook

Roberts’ attack on the Strike button

represents both a blatant violation of the

First Amendment and an open hostility

to the Union. But when Manhattan COD

ALAA and 1199 members demonstrated

a united response, Roberts had no choice

but to back off, at least for the present.

That’s a powerful demonstration of our

AlAA Weekly Organizer

powerv.-ith great relevance to bargaining.

But ManhatLau CJD <1ttorneys are still

under the gun if Roberts or other judges

move ahead. Therefore, it is crucial that

all attorneys who are not on trial show their

support for their Manhattan colleagues by

wearing the buttons to cowt every day.

\

Moreover, if an attorney is victimized for

exercising their rights, members from

around the city must be prepared to

render assistance by immediately

reporting to the courtroom in question.

We will only be taken seriously in contract

bargaining if we are prepared to stan,f up

for each other and the First Amendment.

October 5, 1990

Dear Arch, You’ve Got it All Wrong …

The following is a reply to Arch Murray’s memo of October 1st, which complains that the Association has

misrepresented the status of bargaining at Legal Aid.

Who Suspended Bargaining?

Had you been present at the four bargaining sessions held to date, you would be aware that the Association never “mutually agreed

to suspend the [bargaining] process” until the City finalized the Legal Aid budget.

In fact, in early July we provided management with thirty-five pages of extremely detailed bargaining proposals– none of which

were accepted over the course of three bargaining sessions. At the fourth session, on August 28th, in response to our request for

counterproposals, management counsel Bob Batterman stated “you will be hearing from us,” and proceeded to lead his team out of

the room. It was not until September 26th, nearly a full month later, that we received management’s offer to reconvene. On October

3d, we agreed to meet to discUss any counterproposals that management is willing to advance.

We have requested counterproposals precisely because approval of the Legal Aid budget has little or nothing to do with such issues

as affirmative action, job security, improved case resources or objective health, safety and working conditions standards, ending

discrimination against gay and lesbian attorneys or Board representation, and we regard management’s failure to address these

crucial areas as a refusal to acknowledge their importance.

Uncompetitive Salaries

Your defense of our salary schedule as being “competitive with comparable publicly fr’l~ed organizations” is likewise contradicted

by the facts below:

Office

Legal Aid Society

DC37 Legal Services Plan (NYC)

Human Resources Administration (NYC)

18-B Office of the Appellate Defender

Alameda (Calif.) Public Defender

San Francisco Public Defender

Starting Salary

$29,000

$33,276

$34,400

$35,000

$37,460

$39,728

In contrast to our maximum 13th step staff salary of $60,000, the maximum salary in the San Francisco Public Defender Office is

$82,394. Interestingly, San Francisco’s head Public Defender makes $101,714, an amount that is surely less than the secret salaries

th.ar Legal Aid management pays itself.

Myths of Affirmative Action at Legal Aid

The facts also contradict your claim that in the area of affirmative action the Society’s ‘statistics … are second to no other even remotely

comparable organization”:

(Continued on Page 4)

October 5, 1990 ALAA Weekly Organizer Page 3

Organization

Legal Aid Society

Philadelphia Public Defender

Bronx District Attorney

Legal Services of New York

Fresno (Calif.) Public Defender

Los Angeles Public Defender

Los Angeles City Attorney

Los Angeles District Attorney

Public Defender Services (D.C.)

DC37 Legal Services Plan (NYC)

San Francisco Public Defender

% of Staff Attorneys of Color

18%

24%

28%

30%

30%

31%

33%

33%

39%

45%

45%

Organization Attorneys of Color Share in Management

Legal Aid Society 9%

Bronx District Attorney

California State Public Defender

Philadelphia Public Defender

San Francisco Public Defender

DC37 Legal Services Plan (NYC)

Los Angeles City Attorney

20%

21%

‘22%

27%

31%

31%

The absence of meaningful affirmative action at Legal Aid is of concern to each of our members. First, it is morally inexcusable that

the Society, which purports to champion justice in the courts, has not done more to overcome ongoing exclusion of people of color

from the legal system, particularly in this period of great attention to racial injustice in New York.

Moreover, in light of the fact that our clients are 85 to 90 percent people of color, the Society’s failure to make significant affirmative

action progress undermines our very mission. As Judge Wachtler’s Judicial Commission on Minorities has pointed out, the gross

racial imbalance between those who work in the judicial system, and those who are subjected to it, li1 ‘s “~T]J–~ perception” of ‘a

predominantly wuite .::ourt system meting out ‘justice’ to litigants who in significant numbers are Black, Hispanic, Native American

and Asian American .. .” Until by its deeds the Society clearly distinguishes itself from that perception, many of our clients, and the

communities from which they come, will inevitably tend to view all Legal Aid attorneys as co-conspirators in injustice. The resulting

threat to attorney-client trust cannot but jeopardize high quality representation.

Precisely because the Society is not in the lead that the Association has submitted a detailed program to improve affirmative action

at Legal Aid, including a very moderate initial goal of33 percent people of color among the ranks of staff attorneys and management,

and to realize that goal through full involvement of staff attorneys in the affirmative action process.

Earlier this year, we criticized the Office of Court Administration for failing to carry out its affirmative action responsibilities in

connection with the contract for juvenile representation in Manhattan. It would be hypocritical not to address the same injustice

closer to home.

We trust that the above information sets the record straight.

Page 4 ALAA Weekly Organizer October 5, 1990

6:30p.m.

1p.m.

5 p.m.

6:30p.m.

1p.m.

6p.m.

6:15p.m.

6:30p.m.

6:30p.m.

9a.m.

6:30p.m.

ALAA October 1990 Calendar

Tuesday, October 9

Board liaison Strike Committee meeting, union office

Wednesday, October 10

Manhattan CDD Affirmative Action Meeting, 9th Fl. Con£. room

District 65 Legal Division Health and Safety meeting, union office

Community Outreach Strike Committee meeting, union office

Thursday, October 11

Bronx CDD delegates and interested members meeting

Civil Division Affirmative Action meeting, 11 Park Place

Attorneys of Color of Legal Aid meeting, union office

Finance Strike Committee meeting, union office

Monday, October 15

Bargaining Committee meeting, union office

Tuesday, October 16

Union presentation at Society Board of Directors meeting, Paul Weiss

Executive Committee meeting, union office (everyone welcome)

(Continued on Page 6)

October 5, 1990 ALAA Weekly Organizer Page 5

Thursday, October 18

1 p.m. Criminal Appeals Bureau Affirmative Action Committee welcome party for new attorneys

12 p.m.

2p.m.

Saturday, October 20

FYI: “Brings the Troops Home” demonstration, Columbus Circle, 59th Street & Broadway

Conference: “Building Communities of Trust: Inside and Outside Prison Walls,”

sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. Workshop on the drug wars

Letwin. 15th Street Friends Meeting House, 15th Street and Rutherford Place, Man.

(212) 598-0958

Monday, October 22

6 p.m. Picket/Phone Tree Strike Committee meeting, union ofuce

Tuesday, October 23

After work: Mass bargaining demonstration at Legal Aid Society annual meeting

6:30p.m.

Evening:

Page 6

Wednesday, October 24

Inner-City drug wars conference planning meeting, Lawyers Guild, 55 Sixth Ave.,

Manhattan. Call office for details

Thursday, October 25

National Lawyers Guild Forum on Rikers Island, NYU Law School. Speakers to include

AlAA member and Prisoners’ Rights Project attorney John Boston and Michael Letwin

ALAA Weekly Organizer October 5, 1990

or ~intes

October 6, 1990, p. 23, col. 2

Wrong Way to Fight Crime.

By Michael Z. Letwin

Faced with understandable

alarm over rising

violence, Mayor David

Dinkins has proposed a

$1.8 billion ami-crime

plan, most of it devoted

to greater numbers of police and jail

cells. Even if it survives intact in the

face of the city’s financial troubles,

the plan is unlikely to roll back the

violence that is an inevitable result of

an illegal crack trade flourishing

amidst deepening poverty.

As the Prohibition Era made plain,

when addictive substances are criminalized,

users and traders resort to

violence to obtain and sell them. Unable

to contain the violence, law enforcement

only compounds the harm.

Today, because crack is illegal and

its high is short-lived, poor users –

unlike their Wall Street brethren –

commit street crime and sell drugs to

support habits that can cost as much

as $100 a day. In addition, the immense,

artifically inflated profit in

illegal drugs, combined with dwindling

economic opportunity, draws

yow~~ people into the low-level trade.

:f wars over those profits have

turned entire inner-city neighborhoods

into free-fire zones where, in

the last few months, numerous victims

have been small children, such

as three-year-old Benjamin Williams.

Over all, fully half the city’s 1988

homicides were drug-related, and

three-quarters of those resulted from

competition for control of street-level

drug traffic. Drug-related violence

encourages the settlement of even

Michael Z. Letwin is president of the

Association of Legal Aid Attorneys.

The Dinkins

plan won’t

curb viblence.

petty disputes with guns and knives.

The 1990 homicide rate is already 19

percent above last year’s record figure

of 1 ,905, excluding the victims of ·

the Happy Land social club fire. And

while bloodshed has long plagued

poor neighborhoods, roving bands of

angry and alienated youths have increasingly

brought it into formerly

“safe” areas, an example of which

was the recent murder of Brian Watkins

in midtown Manhattan.

In the face of these powerful dynamics,

highly touted police programs

have consistently proved

themselves to be impotent. Experts

report that the New York Police Department’s

Operation Pressure Point

on Manhattan’s Lower East Side

probably drove crime and drugs elsewhere;

an August 1989 internal Police

Department report admits that

drug traffic in the target area continues

indoors.

New York’s Tactical Narcotics

Team sweeps have had even less success

in reducing drugs and crime, despite

the allocation of huge sums of

money, tens of thousands of drug arrests,

prosecutions and incarcerations.

The drug trade simply shifts to

another area. Apprehended dealers

are replaced from a seemingly bottomless

pool, for jail is not a deterrent

to those who daily risk death in

the drug trade. The Department’s recent

“community policing program,”

Operation Take Back, has been similarly

ineffective.

Identical results have come in from

around the U.S. Although the District

of Columbia police have twice the

officers per capita as New York City,

the capital has a homicide rate three

times as high. In Oakland, Calif., a

frustrated police lieutenant said:

“Don’t say give me more cars, give

me more guns, give me more cops.

That’s been tried before, and it doesn’t

work.”

Escalated police programs have

succeeded only in crippling the criminal

justice system and assaulting

predominantly minority New Yorkers

with illegal searches and seizures,

frame-ups, physical abuse and

questionable police shootings.

As a result of these policies and racially

discriminatory sentencing, almost

one in four young AfricanAmerican

men in New York is in jail,

prison, on probation or parole. Worse,

such policies are paid for by cutting

to the bone services such as health

care, housing, sanitation, libraries,

education and residential drug treatment

programs.

New York ?nd other dties can be

made safer only by treating drugs as

a health and economic problem. Decriminalization

would dramatically

curtail street crime and turf wars by

deflating the price of drugs and making

them legally available to those

who use them. Instead of punishment,

treatment could be provided for those

who need it.

But decriminalization is neither a

complete nor permanent solution to

drug abuse, crime and violence. They

will yield only when racial and economic

JUStice ·offer hope to every

member of our community. 0

THE A!>SOCIATION OF LEGAL AID AnORNEYS.

OF THE CITY OF NEW YORY., DISTRICT &5 U.A.W.

13 Astor Place New York. NY 10003

She Ne\tt Uorl( SinteB

_____ !!_Ui__NE_ _v y_yo~I:S TIMEs METROPOLITAN suNDAY. oCTOBER 7, I99o 41

Legal-Aid Labor Dispute Could Cripple the Courts Legal Aid provides lawyers In about 60 to remain lonR”r and work In a more

percent of ali indigent cases. The re- profe.slonal atmosphere.

malnlng cases are handled by private “Clients should get from Legal· Aid

By WILLIAM GLABERSON

A labor dispute between the Legal

Aid Society and the union representing

Its lawyers I~ threatening to paralyze

ltM! New York City courts just as they

liN! ~ring up to deal more aggresalvt”

fy with criminal cases.

R~~tatlves of the Legal Aid

Sodety, a private group providing legal

N!~latlon to poor people, and

n\ore than 1,000 unionized lawyers neIOf.

laled without reaching a set!lement

al’ter the lawyer~· contract expired on

June 3ill. Tile talks are now stalled. with

each side accu~lng the othn of refusln&

to return to the bargaining table

lllnd the union’~ president, Michael Z.

Letwln, talking about the possibility or

a strike by the end of October.

“If manag(‘ment refuses In a general

way to consider our proposals,” Mr.

Letwln said, “they will force us to

strike. If that happens, the courts will

not be able to function.”

Archibald R. Murray, the executive

director of the Legal Aid Society, said

the society Is waiting lor the range of

expected pay Increases for municipal

employees before making commitments

to Its lawyers. Legal Aid represents

Indigent defendants In the city’s

courts under a contract with the city,

and dty orf!ciais generally require

L~gal Aid to keep Its pay increases In

line with city contracts.

Mr. Murray crlt!clzed Mr. Letwin’s

approach to the stalled negotlatlom •. “I

don’t see where he gets off talking

about a strike or closing the courts,” he

said. “I think that’s not responsible

work or leadership.··

Legal Aid lawyers are a critical com·

ponent of the courts in New York City

because, under the law, people accused

or serious crimes who cannot afford to

hire their own lawyers must have lawyers

appointed for theln. In recent

years, as many as 85 perc~nt of all city

criminal defendants have been judged

too poor to hire their own lawyers.

Under its contract with the city,

lawyers appointed Individually.’ · the same quality of representation they

The Strike ol ’82 would get If they could pay for It,” Mr.

Letwtn said.

In 1982, a 10-week strike by the union Mr. Murray said poor clienu receive

slowed the courts and Infuriated Mayor excellent ~resentatlon In most cases.

Edward I. Koch, who appointed a com· Tile lawyers’ pey ..:ale ranges from

mittee to study whether the city was $29,000 for a beginning lAwyer to

too reliant on the Legal Aid Society. ~ 000 for thrnoe with more than 13

The committee concluded that the years experlenao. The union, the Ascity’s

agreement with Legal Aid !!oclatlon or Legal Aid Attorneys, Is

“falls” by allowing the union “to serl- seeking a 15 percent pay Increase and

ously disrupt the criminal justic”‘ pro- changes In working rond!tlons.

eess.” ‘ ~main issue Is a union demand for

Mr. Letwln de•crlbed th~ Issues more minority hiring. Minority lawseparating

the two sides as major dlf- yers make up 18 percent of the Legal

ferences in approach over the role of Aid staff, IU clients are overwhelmthe

lawyers. He said the union was ingly membefll of minority groups.

sPeking to raise their !tature through Other Issues Involve concerns about

measures that would encourage them office space, growing case loads, job SPOf

THE CITY OF” ‘i(W YORI’:. DISTRICT e,5 U A..W

13 Astor Place New York. NY 10003

.,

curlty and a demand that gay !Mid le•blan

lawyers receive health and-.other

benefits for their partners.

‘Ready to Strike’ Buuom

Last week, tension on the labor confrontation

boiled over In State Supreme

Co\]rt In Manhattan. On Thursday,

Judge George F. Roberts ordered two

Legal Aid lawyers removed from his

courtroom becaus~ they were wearJng

buttons that said “Ready to Strike.”

Senior Legal Aid officials Intervened

and the judge agreed to suspend his order

while the society appeal•, srguing

that the lawyers have a First Amendment

rtght to wear the buttons.

By Friday, Legal Aid lawyers were

wearing the buttons In courtrooms ali

ovf’r the city. “We’v~ put out the word

for everybody to wear buttons,” Mr.

Lf’twin said.

THE ASSOCIATION OF LEGAL AID ATTORNEYS

(District 65/UA W)

13 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003-6980

(212) 674-4188/673-5120 (800) 221-5011, ext. 312/ FAX: (212) 475-6091

~lichael z. Letwin, President Annette DePalma, Vice President Martha .c.oniorti, Secretary, Stephen Dean, Treasurer

R. David Addams, Executive Director Isabel Lobelo, Office Admmzstrator Ron Lucmno, Office Secretary

(9/4,190)

WELCOME TO NEW ATTORNEYS!

Introduction

Attached are orientation materials compiled for you by the

Association of Legal Aid Attorneys. The Union represents the

attorneys at Legal Aid, and nearly all attorneys are members.

We believe the representation it provides will lead you to join

them.

Why Do Legal Aid Attorneys Need a Union?

In theory, The Legal Aid Society is committed to providing

quality legal representation to poor people in New York City.

In reality, however, Legal Aid management — and the legal

system of which it is a part — has all too often put ruantity

representation over quality representation.. The Uruon. was

formed in 1%9 in order to ensure that the mterests of clients

NO! WAtT! LETS IAI<E A

CLOS~.R LOOK .~T THIS,

come first. Thus, in the early seventies, we twice went on strike

to establish “vertical representation,” so that clients could count

on having the same attorney throughout their case.

To enable our members to seek justice for our clients, the Union

has also fought for and won improvements in salaries and

benefits, caseloads, working conditions, affirmative action and

other areas. (See enclosed Union history). We have also

addressed issues of concern in the City and beyond that are of

concern to our members and clients. In short, the Union is

widely recognized as the “conscience” of Legal Aid.

Who is in the Union?

We come from all of the Society’s divisions: Civil, Criminal

Defense (CDD), Criminal Appeals (CAB), ,Juvenile Rights

(JRD) and Volunteer. We are of different racial and cultural

backgrounds. We are of different genders and sexual

preferences. We do not always agree .. But t~e~er we s.trive ~o

provide the best possible representation for mdigent clients m

the face of the same — often miserable – conditions. More

broadly, we are a self-governing affiliate of the Legal Division of

District 65, UAW, AFL-CIO. We staunchly support each other

as union brothers and sisters guided by the principle of

Solidarity.

Are There Other Unions at Legal Aid?

Legal Aid support staff (including secretaries, word processors,

receptionists, switchboard operators, social workers, clerks and

paralegals) are represented by our sister union, Local 1199.

Although management does its best to keep attorneys and –

support staff apart, we regard 1199 members as our brothers and

sisters. We must diligently apply mutual respect to each other

and work out any differences between ourselves. United We

Stand, Divided We Fall.

.Do We Have a Union Contract?

The Union Contract (and sideletters) is your Legal Aid Bill of

Rights. For your own protection, learn it like a statute and

always keep a copy handy. You’ll need it. But like all freedoms,

our contract rights will atrophy if they are not enforced. If our

rights are violated, we bring grievances, file for arbitration and

take all other n~ action.

What Has the Union Done Lately’?

New York City’s court system increasingly resembles an

assemblyline gone berserk. Because the Union has consistently

insisted on quality rather than quantity, our members have come

under increasing attack from both management and the courts.

In 1990, for the first time in fifteen years, our members were laid

off from the Juvenile Rights Division (JRD). Only the

determination of Association and 1199 members won the

affected attorneys transfers to other divisions, and prevented the

st-ate from dismantling the entire Manhattan JRD office. ·

Also in the last year, we fought against oppressive “quotas” in the

Criminal Appeals Bureau (CAB), for decent health and safety

in Manhattan CDD and Bronx Civil offices, for affirmative

action in Civil Division and protested police and correction

officer brutality against our clients. (See enclosed leaflets and

clippings).

What is Bargaining About This Year?

We are now in the midst of contract negotiations with

management to win improved salaries and benefits, affirmative

action, working conditions, client representation, job security,

dependent care and a wide variety of other important advances.

How is the Union Organized?

Nothing is won simply because we ask. Ulilinately, our ability to

move forward depends on the power of an organized and active

membership. For .this reason, ours is a profoundly democratic

union and we invite your participation at every leveL

Delegates

Each unit and/or office (depending on size) elects a Union

delegate. The delegate brings the unit’s concerns to the Union

as a whole, brings Union information and decisions back to the

unit and organizes the Unit’s members. Units alsoelect one or

more alternate delegates. Delegates and alternates are subject

to recall by the Unit.

A key part of your delegate’s job is to represent you in any

disciplinary proceedings brought by management. So,

remember that you should always have a delegate present if your

supervisor wishes to discuss problems with your work. Always feel

free to approach a delegate for help.

The Union Office

The office is conveniently located in Manhattan at 13 Astor

Place, Room 901. (N or R trains to 8th Street, #6 to Astor

Place). The fulltime staff includes Michael Letwin (president),

David Addams (executive director), Isabel Lobelo (office

administrator) and Ron Luciano (office secretary). If your

delegate cannot help with a problem or question, call us or come

by any time. Regular office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The E+ecutive Committee

Composed of delegates: and officers, the EC is the governing

body of the Union. All members are encouraged to attend and

participate in these meetings (but only delegates or substituting

alternates may vote). Meetings are held at the office, usually on

the third Tuesday of the month.

The Bargaining Committee

The Bargaining Committee exists during contract ;-t:;.us tu

negotiate with management. It is made up of the ulficers,

representatives of each major office and/or division, and

11embers with special knowledge in areas such as affirmative

action, health and safety, gay and lesbian rights, and health

benefits. The Committee will bargain to its best ability and bring

to the entire membership its recommendations. The last strike

was in 1982 and a strike is possible this year. All members should

put aside some extra savings and join a strike committee to

prepare for every eventuality.

The Officers

In addition to the president, the Union has a vice president .

(Annette DePalma/Chelsea Civil), treasurer (Steve

Dean/Brooklyn CDD) and secretary (Martha Conforti/Bronx

CDD). These officers are fulltime staff attorneys. Officers are

elected at the annual membership meeting in January. In 1991,

the current positions will be replaced with. a structure of

president, secretary-treasurer and seven vice presidents, one

from each major division and/or office.

Union Publications and Information

The office publishes the ALAA Weekly Organizer, which is

distributed each week by your delegate. From time to time, the

Union also publishes a longer .newsletter, TheALAA Organizer.

(Copies are enclosed). These contain essential information and

if you aren’t receiving it, let your delegate and/or the Union

office know. Each delegate is also charged with maintaining a

unit Union bulletin board on which relevant articles and

announcements are posted.

Union Sub-Committees and Caucuses

Ongoing Union committees address various issues, including

affirmative action, aid to other unions, political action and drug

policy. The Attorneys of Color of Legal Aid, the Women’s

Caucus and th~ Gay and Lesbian Caucus also invite your

participation. Fill out and return the enclosed activity sheet or

call the office for information.

r_vx.A _\. I :– –... ., ~~

~

·~~,”~~-. ·n ….

“It’s settled. If they go on strike, we’ll operate the plant ourselves.

Anyone know where it is?”

What’s The Bottom Line?

Your colleagues invite you to fill out ana return the enclosed

membership form ana dues checkoff authoriuJtion. Join and be

active in your Union.

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