ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

October 27, 1992

1992.10.27: Michael Letwin’s Speech at LAS Annual Meeting

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

1992.10.27 Letwin ALAA speech to LAS annual meeting — OCR

Michael Letwin’s Speech at LAS Annual Meeting, 10/27/92

As you know, the entire Society has experienced tremendous tension

and strain in recent months as support staff and attorneys have worked

together to achieve fair collective bargaining agreements. Central issues

in negotiations include fair wages, decent health benefits, more aggressive

affirmative action, the right to healthy and safe working conditions,

retention of senior attorneys, and equal benefits for lesbian and gay


While we are far from satisfied with the outcome of the contract on

many of these issues, we are pleased that this was the first contract in Legal

Aid history that was settled at the point of expiration, through a process

which brought attorneys and support staff alike into active involvement in


the negotiating process.

We were also pleased to have developed a relationship of

communication and mutual respect with Board President Michael Iovenko.

Although the failure to fully address any of these issues threatens the

quality of representation we are able to provide to indigent clients, our

members wish to make you aware that no single issue does so more clearly

today than the plague of Tuberculosis.

For many years TB, a low-profile disease of poor people, was

ignored by the authorities. The result has been the development of a

potentially life-threatening drug-resistant strain affecting hundreds of

thousands of people, many of whom are our clients.


Among the most serious TB infection points are the court pens, jails,

homeless shelters and other facilities in which we work. This is so not

only because of the high rate of infection among our clients, who are not

medically screened before we see them, but also because the physical

conditions in these facilities are crowded, unventilated and altogether

inhumane in nearly every other way. Our often filthy and unventilated

offices make conditions there little better.

These conditions pose a direct threat not only to we who are the front

line — and many of us have tested positive for TB exposure — but even

more so to our clients. The Association, therefore, will pursue immediate,

dramatic, and effective action at all levels to address this issue, and we ask


you to join us in doing so.

Finally, it is with satisfaction that we are here to witness bestowal of

the Orison Marden on our colleague, friend and brother Akil Al-Jundi.

Akil represents the best in the Legal Aid tradition. He is a veteran

of the historic 1971 Attica Rebellion, where inmates issued the declaration

to the world that they were “men and not beasts,” to which the State of

New York responded by killing 43 inmates and guards.

In his sixteen years at the Society, Akil has displayed a tremendous

commitment to our clients, in whose interest he has employed his wide

range of skills.

As senior Local 1199 delegate, Akil has been an ardent advocate for


his members, and a key figure in building the deepening alliance between

Local 1199 and the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, an alliance, the

clearest result of which was our first joint strike action, held on July 15th

of this year.

We are convinced that this stronger relationship between attorneys

and support staff produced not only greater results for all staff at the

bargaining table, but that it also improved working relations in the office,

where our two memberships work together daily on behalf of indigent


We congratulate Akil and hope to work with him for many years to


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