ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

February 28, 1991

1991.02.28: Weekly Organizer #37 (PDF)

Weekly Organizer #37 — OCR

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February 1, 1991

1991.02.01: ALAA Weekly Organizer #35 – One-Day Strike is Giant Success

Filed under: 1199 Alliance,ALAA History,Collective Bargaining,Written Report — nyclaw01 @ 12:00 am

1991.02.01- ALAA Weekly Organizer #35- One-Day Strike is Giant Success — OCR

One-Day Strike is Giant Success

In a spectacular display of unity and

determination, Legal Aid lawyers across

the city overwhelmingly observed the

Association’s one-day strike on Tuesday,

January 29th, the most dramatic union

action at the Society since the 1982 strike.

The strike lasted through COD night

court, and was highlighted by a mid-day

press conference at a rally attended by

hundreds of people at Manhattan

Criminal Court. It was followed the next

day by a bargaining session in which

management announced for the first time

that the health benefit plan is in much

worse shape than previously disclosed

[see article this page].

In every way, the strike accomplished,

and often outstripped, its immediate

goals.

Widespread Observance

Overall, approximately 895 out of 939

staff attorneys citywide (19 of whom are

not union members), or some 95%,

observed the strike. Almost all of the

remaining 5% who scabbed were

concentrated in a few relatively small

offices.

Continued on Page 2

Management Plays Health Card, Again

Management’s most immediate response to the one-day strike has been to signal

greater threats to attorney health benefits at the January 30th bargaining session.

Meanwhile, since Management has not increased its contribution to the health benefits

fund, the 20% premiums increase insisted upon by the insurance carrier has not been

paid since it was imposed in October.

As a result, the carrier, Connecticut

General (CIGNA), has threatened to cease Continued on Page 3

One-Day Strike

Continued from Page 1

Thus, management and the City hves

been effectively put on notice Legal Aid

lawyers will stick together. A divisional

summary is given below.

CDD: Only one lawyer scabbed on the

strike in the 180-strong Manhattan CDD

office; with the exception of the

11-attorney Staten Island unit, all other

CDD offices had comparably fine

observance.

Surprisingly, one of several scabs in

Bronx CDD was Jay Kisloff, one of the

union’s three pension fund trustees.

Upon the Bargaining Committee’s

unanimous recommendation, he is being

removed from that position forthwith.

CABl No one crossed the line at the

100-attorney Criminal Appeals Bureau.

Civil: No scabs were reported among

the 100 + Civil Division.

JRD: Observance in Brooklyn JRD

was complete, and nearly so in

Manhattan. However, management

successfully played on feelings of

vulnerability among probationary

attorneys in the Bronx and Queens JRD

offices.

CLO: Complete observance.

Confidence & Experience

In nearly every other area, the strike

fully accomplished its purpose. Once the

strike began, attorneys quickly overcame

lingering apprehension and gained

valuable experience and confidence in

ourselves as a group. Spirited

picketlines, often led by new attorneys,

were common throughout the City. Each

location also held a 1 p.m. rally.

The central rally in Manhattan was

chaired by Manhattan CDD bargaining

representative Robin Frankel Speakers

included Maquita Moody (Manhattan

CDD), Michael Williams (union health

February 1, 1991

trustee and bargaining representative,

Park Place Civil); Elsie Chandler

(Manhattan JRD alternative delegate);

Brigitte LaForest (bargaining

representative, Park Place Civil);

Michael Letwin (president); Akil

Al-Jundi (1199 representative);

parent-union District 65 officers Bill

Tate and Julie Kushner; a representative

of striking Daily News workers; and

Harold Mendlowitz, president of the

striking Greyhound workers in the

northeast. In addition, a message of

support was received from Frank

Barbaro, Chair of the State Assembly

Labor Committee.

Broad Support

The union also received significant aid

from Local 1199 support staff members

who joined the picketlines on their

breaks, wore ribbons in solidarity while

on the job, and spoke at local rallies

around the City. At some sites, court

personne~ private attorneys, clients and

other trade unionists also joined the line,

and in at least one bora, judges sent

coffee out to the pickets.

Press Coverage

Despite the domination of news by the

Gulf War, the strike received favorable

coverage on channels 2, 4, 7 and 9, radio

stations WINS, WNEW, WCBS, WBAI

and WNYC. Largely favorable articles

appeared in The New Yorlc Times, New

Yorlc Newsday, The New York Post and

The Law Journal.

Through the media, union members

were particularly effective in

communicating the threat of cuts in

salaries and/or health benefits, the

importance of affirmative action, and the

fact that at the heart of our dispute with

ALAA Weekly Organizer #35

management is the issue of quality

representation for poor people.

Interestingly, while in last week’s press

coverage management accused the union

membership of caring only about money,

during the strike it argued that members

wanted too much out of Legal Aid in the

area of quality representation.

Immediate Fallout

To the union’s knowledge, there has

been no management retaliation against

any attorney, including those on

probation, for observing the strike.

Nonetheless, the pressure applied by

management to probationary attorneys,

particularly in JRD, makes it essential

that they be effectively supported in

participating in future actions.

Although some attorneys expressed

concern prior to the strike over the

possibility of judicial sanctions, to date

they have been threatened against only

one attorney, Steven Pokart of

Manhattan CDD, who on Wednesday

morning was fined $10 by Judge Altmann

for non-appearance on a case which had

been covered by office head Nina

Epstein. By Wednesday afternoon,

however, the sanction was revoked.

Another issue in dispute is

reassignment of cases arraigned on

Tuesday by CDD supervisors to staff

attorneys. So far, CDD attorneys in

Manhattan and Brooklyn have agreed to

grieve reassignment for violation of

continuity representation.

Strike Benefits

The union has applied to parent union

District 65 for benefits of $20 (1!5th of

weekly benefits) for each person who

observed the strike. Before such benefits

can be received, District 65 rules require

that each delegate provide to the union

office a list of each person who observed

the strike, together with their current

annual salary level.

Conclusion

In the end, the strike was successful

beyond anyone’s hopes. It sent a strong

message, unified us, and helped to pave

the way to a fair contract. We need now

build on this victory. Membership

meetings should be held in each office to

evaluate the strike and other

developments.

Page2

Health Benefits requested an extension of this dead-line

untiiMarch 1st, arequesttowhich CIGNA

Continued from Page 1 ultimately agreed.

Meanwhile, the Union Bargaining

Committee is asking a health benefits

consultant to evaluate the options

outlined by awaiting a report from its own

health benefits consultant concerning the

options outlined by Management.

issuing claim checks after the end of

February, a fact which Management had

not brought to the attention of the Union

or staff.

“Crisis” Says Batterman

In a bargaining session on January

30th, a day after the one-day strike,

Management counsel Robert Batterman

announced to the Union that staff

attorney health benefits were in greater

danger than ever.

Although it has still not met with the

City concerning finances, he said that

Management still anticipates having only

15% to deal with this and all other wage

and benefit costs.

According to Batterman, Management

was contacted earlier this week by the

major medical insurance carrier,

Connecticut General, which said that

because of increased experience (claims

paid) premiums will go up even more

than the 20% increase that was effective

on October 1, 1990, but which itself

remains unpaid. [In fact, the letter

referred to blames the increase on the

fact that the fund’s reserve fund has been

drawn down low].

The result, he said, is that the health

fund will be unable to make its March 1st

payment. Batterman also said that a

further 20% premium increase could be

expected in October 1991. [Union

trustee Bill Rold comments that “there is

no way to know what kind of premium

increase can be expected in the fall.”)

Benefits Are “Too Good”

Batterman went on to say that Union

health benefits were too generous and

that, as Arch Murray later put it in a

January 31st memo to staff, “the Society

simply does not have the money to pay

these premiums without some

modiciation of the current health plan.”

Unless changes were made in the plan,

he said, staff would go without any

coverage, a development which

Management would not allow to happen.

Batterman then outlined several

“suggestions” made by a consultant

which Management has hired. Some

Page3

consisted of apparently innocuous

administrative changes. But others would

raise deductibles, reduce psychiatric

benefits, require employee contributions to

premium payments, and increase

coinsurance levels.

However, Batterman warned that even

if all of the consultant’s proposals were

Rational Conclusions

Seven months after it received them,

Health Insurance Increases

Amount in Arrears (10/90-1/91): $150,000

Additional Amount of Increase Thru 10/91: $800,000

Approximate Total: $950,000

Existing Legal Aid Money Which Could Be Used to Meet

Increased Costs, Not Including New City Money*

Savings from One-Day Strike: $150,000

5% Cut in Management Salaries: $700,000

50% cut in Proskauer (Batterman) fees: $100,000

Approximate Total: $950,000

Additional sources of funds, if necessary: $29,000 for each

cancelled new fall hire, e.g. 50 = $1.45m + $200,000 in benefits

*At least 1.5%, with possible additional funds for benefit increases.

adopted, there were not be enough

savings to compensate for the huge

premium increases.

Hold on Benefits Payments

On January 31st, the day after

Batterman’s presentation, Union health

trustees received a copy of CIGNA’s

January 29th letter to which Batterman

had apparently referred. It states that

Connecticut General is calling for an

additional increase because the health

plan’s Stabilization Fund had dropped

below $215,000.

The letter also announced that, the

fund is in arrears in its payment of the 20

percent increase instituted last October,

an amount which “must be paid by

February 1st to avoid a hold on claims.”

Management made no mention of the

latter information at the previous night’s

meeting.

In subsequent conversations with

CIGNA. Union and Management trustees

ALAA Weekly Organizer #35

Management has so far declined to

address Union proposals such as job

security, quality of representation and

terms of employment, among others.

Overall, it seems clear that

Management intends to punish members

for their activism, particularly as

expressed in the one-day strike, and to

use the issue to panic us into accepting a

poor contract.

In fact, however, as the adjoining table

shows, Management has a number of ways

to cover health increases and a decent

wage settlement as well. Moreover, it has

yet to meet with City officials, and fight

there for the funds necessary to cover our

health benefits.

Therefore, the challenge before us is to

remain united in order to win a fair

contract increase with no compromise of

our health benefits.

February 1, 1991

ALAA Calendar, February 1991

Monday, February 4

6:30p.m. Legal Aid Lawyers Against the War,

Union office.

Tuesday, February 5

1 p.m. Queens CDD ACLA meeting,

2d Floor Conference Room

3p.m. Health Trustees Meeting

4p.m. Bargaining Session #10

Executive Committee

Agenda

February 7, 1991

Adoption of Minutes

Bargaining

A 1-Day Strike Evaluation

B. Report on Health Benefits

C. Strategy (including future actions)

Officer Elections (Tabled from last meeting)

Civil Affirmative Action Grievance

Bronx Civil Office Condition

6 p.m. Civil ACLA Meeting, 5th Floor

Wednesday, February 6

1 p.m. Manhattan CDD ACLA Meeting,

9th Floor Conference Room

Thursday, February 7

4 p.m. Bargaining Session #11

6:30p.m. Executive Committee Meeting

” … and we are all being asked to make

sacrifices … “

February 1, 1991 ALAA Weekly Organizer #35 Page4

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