ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

March 21, 1999

1999.03.21: Report #2 on ALAA & 1199 Contract Negotiations

Filed under: Collective Bargaining,Union Democracy and Structure — nyclaw01 @ 3:30 pm

From: MLetwin@HQWEST.WEST [mailto:MLetwin@HQWEST.WEST]
Sent: Sunday, March 21, 1999 4:48 PM
To: Everyone at the Legal Aid Society@HQWEST.WEST
Subject: Report on ALAA & 1199 Contract Negotiations
Importance: High


To:    All ALAA & 1199 Members
Fr:    ALAA & 1199 Bargaining Committees
Re:    Report #2 on Contract Negotiations
Da:    March 21, 1999

ALAA Negotiations
Summary.  The parties’ have narrowed the difference in their positions over proposed compensation increases to 1.9%, a gap that management has expressed a willingness to narrow further.  The Society has also agreed to the Union’s proposal for additional salary steps above the current 13.  Discussion is underway concerning establishment of non-cashable comp. days for all divisions, and in regard to other non-economic issues.     Bargaining Committee (BC) members will visit offices in the coming week to report on negotiations.  The next bargaining session will take place during the week of March 29.

Compensation.  As of March 3, the Society had offered Staff Attorneys a 5% compensation increase over two years, in response to which the BC had counter-offered 13.2% (each percentage point is worth approximately $400,000).

On March 8, the Society agreed to the Union’s decades-long demand for additional salary steps, offering to establish steps 14-18 at 2-3 year intervals.  The BC welcomed these additional steps, and sought common ground by reducing ALAA’s economic demand to 7.9%.  (Based, however, on strong feedback from Manhattan CDD, ALAA raised its initial demand for a $75/shift increase in lobster pay to an increase of $175/shift, the total cost of which is approximately $52,000/year).

On March 10, the Society increased its offer to 6%, stating that the higher amount derived from savings due to the unavailability of additional CDD office space, and that it was up to the union to decide how this money offer should be distributed, e.g., for higher salaries, increased lobster shift payments, etc.  Management, however, said it was reluctant to offer more because of a potential $9 million deficit in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

In addition, management asked ALAA to consider a prospective limit on the number of comp. days that could be cashed-in by current CDD attorneys when they leave the Society, in exchange for which attorneys in all divisions would be entitled to cash-in three vacation days per year.

Management said that the Union’s proposal that non-cashable comp. days be provided for assignments, other than arraignment (which would continue to quality for cash-in), which unavoidably fall on non-work time, is driven by workload problems that should be treated as such.  It also questioned whether such comp. days were appropriate given “traditional flexibility” in attorneys’ specific hours, and invited ALAA to further define the criteria under which such time would be granted.

On both March 10 and March 17, the ALAA Bargaining Committee (BC) replied by arguing that a 3% annual increase is insufficient.

First, said the BC, ALAA’s proposed increases are more than justified by the need to:  (1) ensure raises for all steps; (2) bring LG and Step 1 into closer salary comparability with ADAs; (3) eliminate salary compression at certain middle steps; (4) reduce the salary gap with runaway (RFP) defenders; and (5) more adequately fund additional steps after 13.  Even the BC’s 7.9% proposal is grossly inadequate to meet those needs.

Second, the BC stated that, as documented in official reports, it is those in the trenches of the criminal, civil and juvenile justice systems who have overwhelmingly shouldered the burden created by the Giuliani administration’s transfer of a third (or $25 million) in Legal Aid’s criminal funding to the runaway (RFP) defenders and by similarly inadequate staffing in the other divisions—as reflected in the loss of some 200 attorneys since Fall 1994.
This unfilled attrition—and the grinding, undiminished workload that it has caused—is directly responsible for the Society’s carryover of surplus funds over the past four years.

Finally, said the BC, it was the concerted campaign by ALAA and 1199 members in the last election year that convinced the City Council to increase Legal Aid’s criminal funding by $2.5 million.  While recognizing that most of those funds must be used to increase staffing, improve office space and computerization, the BC argued that it is only fair that at least some portion be used to reward and retain current staff through higher compensation.

For all of these reasons, said the BC, there must be a greater compensation increase for those who—first and foremost—do the organization’s work:  Staff Attorneys and support staff.

The BC also made clear that it the right of attorneys in all divisions to sell back vacation days could not be conditioned on any surrender of comp. time buy-back in CDD; strongly argued that diminishing flexibility in work hours make the need for non-cashable comp. time greater than ever; and clarified that qualifying work should include that which could not have reasonably been scheduled at a time other than 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, on weekends and on holidays.

In response, management stated that cash-flow made it difficult to go above its 3% offer in the first contract year (October 1, 1998-September 30, 1999) , but asked ALAA to consider “back-loading” additional funds in the second (October 1, 1999-September 30, 2000), and providing all attorneys with the right to cash-in a limited number of vacation days, without the quid pro quo of restricting comp. time buy-back in CDD.  In a written statement of March 19, management further stated that it is “prepared to narrow” the 1.9% gap between the parties’ compensation proposals.

Other Issues.  Management has said it is willing to eliminate the requirement that part-time work be limited to the scope of childcare; is “very interested” in creation of adoption leave; has expressed “substantial agreement” with ALAA’s proposals concerning affirmative action, workload and third-time bar examination; and regards the parties as “very close” in regard to a shorter probation period.  Also under discussion are training and continuity of representation.

1199 Negotiations
Management and 1199 have had discussion on a wide variety of issues and will negotiate again on March 29.

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