ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

January 1, 1991

1991.01.30: Legal Aid Lawyers Take One-Day Walk (Newsday)

Newsday, January 30, 1991

Section: NEWS

LEGAL AID LAWYERS TAKE ONE-DAY WALK

Anthony M. DeStefano. STAFF WRITER; Leonard Levitt contributed to this story.

To chants of “defending the poor requires more” and “no contract, no work,” Legal Aid Society attorneys picketed city courthouses yesterday in a one-day strike seeking better wages and more aggressive hiring of minority lawyers.

The attorneys, who make an average salary of about $35,000, have been working without a contract since June, 1990. They charge that Legal Aid is in effect offering a wage and benefits package that would cut salaries.

“We believe that quality legal representation to poor people can only be maintained when those who represent them are fairly compensated,” Michael Z. Letwin, president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, said at a news conference yesterday.

The union represents about 850 attorneys who serve poor defendants in the criminal and civil courts.

Court officials contacted yesterday said the strike had a “minimal” effect on criminal court arraignments and trials.

Negotiations between Legal Aid managment and the union were scheduled to continue today. If bargaining does not produce an agreement,  union officials said more job actions could be planned.

Legal Aid officials said they were offering a wage increase of 1.5 percent. But Letwin said that the union wants wage increases in the range of 3 1/2 to 5 percent, comparable to the recent settlements the city reached with municipal employee and teachers unions.

The two sides also disagreed on health benefits. Legal Aid spokesman Pat Booth said $1 million in additional funding is needed. Letwin said a proposal to raise the money through a 2.5 percent hike in benefit contributions from union members, combined with the 1.5 percent proposed pay hike, would mean a net pay cut for the attorneys.

 

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