ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

December 13, 2004

2004.12.13: Vote No on Unauthorized and Unwarranted Concessions

From: Susan Morris
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2004 2:46 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Vote No on Unauthorized and Unwarranted Concessions

I join with Brother Zuss and those others who have spoken out against the concessions.

There are two primary reasons why this body should vote no on the proposed concessions: first, the EB did not have the authority from the membership to negotiate concessions; and second, it is simply the wrong thing to do.

The lack of authority is already outlined by Bob Zuss in the email which I co-signed. Why is simply the wrong thing to do?

There is very little to assure that we, the members of ALAA, have any impact on the decision of the Board on whether or not to file for bankruptcy. Concessions do NOT in any way provide assurances that there will be no bankruptcy. No one should make a decision on how he or she will vote on these concessions with the mistaken belief that a “yes” vote will avert this prospect.

Working-income attorneys, serving the poor of this city, are being forced by wealthy attorneys who work in wealthy law firms to take drastic cuts to our already abyssmal remuneration for the work we do. They rest on their laurels as Board members serving the poor and assauge their liberal guilt as supporters of the poor by declaring their work as do-gooders while stripping us bare of the basic essentials we need to serve our clientele – the poor of this city. These wealthy attorneys, with their wealthy firms, are willing to provide $10 million in the next year to help reduce the debt. At the same time, they are asking those of us who serve the poor directly – and suffer for it with our low pay and long hours – to give them $4.5 million between now and July 1, 2006.

$10 million from wealthy attorneys in a year; $4.5 million from union-wage attorneys in a year and a half. That’s just wrong! VOTE NO.

In solidarity,
Susan O. Morris
Brooklyn CDD
EB Member

>>> Robert Zuss 12/13/2004 2:38:04 PM >>>
Dear Fellow ALAA Members:

For the third time in less than two years, the ALAA Executive Board is urging members to vote for givebacks. VOTE NO!

There are two primary reasons why this body should vote no on the proposed concessions: first, the EB did not have the authority from the membership to negotiate concessions; and second, it is simply the wrong thing to do.

Since 2002, ALAA and 1199 have successfully won $19.6 million in new governmental funding for Legal Aid ($8.6 million in 2002 and $11 million in 2004). Nonetheless, ALAA members have repeatedly surrendered significant chunks of our hard-won compensation.

In 2003, we ratified a contract that fell short of the 3% salary increase to which management had previously agreed. In June 2004, we surrendered employer-paid TransitCheks and two-year “deferral” of the 1.5% bonus due in July.

Now, the EB is proposing to giveback still more, through: (1) Substantial increases in attorney health premium contributions; (2) A one-year reduction of employer pension contributions by more than half; and (3) Surrender of the bonus due July 2006.

Moreover, these proposed givebacks fall particularly hard on senior attorneys; indeed, the proposed pension reduction alone is equal to a 3.5% salary cut. And we may never see full restoration of the current 6.5% employer contribution – in fact, it is higly unlikely.

These proposed givebacks provide neither a guarantee against bankruptcy, nor prevent the LAS Board from seeking more givebacks in the future. Indeed, our previous givebacks have guaranteed only one thing: demand to give back more.

Rather than organizing resistance, the Executive Board has negotiated these givebacks without notifying the membership until after the fact — let alone seek its authorization to do so — even though the November 23 Delegate Council expressed a consensus *against* any further givebacks.

As a result, a disempowered membership, provided with little consistent information or analysis from the Union leadership, is presented with a predictably-bad done-deal which, if ratified, will swell the growing number of staff attorneys who have already left the Society due to prior concessions, while paving the way for still more givebacks in the future.

We have a choice. Let’s not surrender without a fight. Let’s reaffirm our union’s democratic, fighting traditions by voting no and organizing resistance: a rapidly-escalating public campaign, including a press conference and pickets at Board members’ offices.

Such resistance offers no guarantees. But isn’t resistance the reason we have a union in the first place? VOTE NO.

Robert Zuss, EB Member
ALAA Vice President, CDD–Brooklyn

Susan O. Morris, EB Member
ALAA Sgt.-at-Arms
CDD–Brooklyn

Advertisements

2004.12.13: Vote No

From: Robert Zuss [mailto:RZuss@legal-aid.org]
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2004 2:38 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Cc: 1199 Members
Subject: Vote No

Dear Fellow ALAA Members:

For the third time in less than two years, the ALAA Executive Board is urging members to vote for givebacks.  VOTE NO!

There are two primary reasons why this body should vote no on the proposed concessions:  first, the EB did not have the authority from the membership to negotiate concessions; and second, it is simply the wrong thing to do.

Since 2002, ALAA and 1199 have successfully won $19.6 million in new governmental funding for Legal Aid ($8.6 million in 2002 and $11 million in 2004).  Nonetheless, ALAA members have repeatedly surrendered significant chunks of our hard-won compensation.

In 2003, we ratified a contract that fell short of the 3% salary increase to which management had previously agreed.  In June 2004, we surrendered employer-paid TransitCheks and two-year “deferral” of the 1.5% bonus due in July.

Now, the EB is proposing to giveback still more, through:  (1) Substantial increases in attorney health premium contributions; (2) A one-year reduction of employer pension contributions by more than half; and (3) Surrender of the bonus due July 2006.

Moreover, these proposed givebacks fall particularly hard on senior attorneys; indeed, the proposed pension reduction alone is equal to a 3.5% salary cut.  And we may never see full restoration of the current 6.5% employer contribution – in fact, it is higly unlikely.

These proposed givebacks provide neither a guarantee against bankruptcy, nor prevent the LAS Board from seeking more givebacks in the future.  Indeed, our previous givebacks have guaranteed only one thing: demand to give back more.

Rather than organizing resistance, the Executive Board has negotiated these givebacks without notifying the membership until after the fact — let alone seek its authorization to do so — even though the November 23 Delegate Council expressed a consensus *against* any further givebacks.

As a result, a disempowered membership, provided with little consistent information or analysis from the Union leadership, is presented with a predictably-bad done-deal which, if ratified, will swell the growing number of staff attorneys who have already left the Society due to prior concessions, while paving the way for still more givebacks in the future.

We have a choice.  Let’s not surrender without a fight.  Let’s reaffirm our union’s democratic, fighting traditions by voting no and organizing resistance:  a rapidly-escalating public campaign, including a press conference and pickets at Board members’ offices.

Such resistance offers no guarantees.  But isn’t resistance the reason we have a union in the first place?  VOTE NO.

Robert Zuss, EB Member
ALAA Vice President, CDD–Brooklyn

Susan O. Morris, EB Member
ALAA Sgt.-at-Arms
CDD–Brooklyn

December 8, 2004

2004.12.08: Re: Membership Report: Bankruptcy and Concession Options

Filed under: Collective Bargaining,Union Democracy and Structure — nyclaw01 @ 5:33 pm

From: Azalia Torres
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2004 5:33 PM
To: James Rogers; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Re: Membership Report: Bankruptcy and Concession Options

James, one of the conditions for making these concessions per your report is that ‘”LAS stay out of bankruptcy”.  What guarantee do we have that the Board won’t file anyway?  How can we enforce that condition?  Another condition is that all parties will decide what is done with money raised through lobbying.  Again, how can we enforce that condition?  Especially since we were not able to get them to abide by our wishes for the last 10 million we raised.  I really need your answers to these questions before the vote.  Thanks.

>>> James Rogers 12/8/2004 4:46:07 PM >>>

Enclosed please find a report about the Executive Board’s decision last night to recommend a package of concessions in an effort to avoid bankruptcy.  Also enclosed is a comparison table of the concession package with the Board’s original demands, a table of deficit reductions by year and a description of the impact of health care contributions on your paycheck.

December 6, 2004

2004.12.06: Re: Let’s Avoid Bankruptcy. Support our Union Leadership

Filed under: Collective Bargaining,Funding,Union Democracy and Structure — nyclaw01 @ 10:09 am

From: Susan Morris
Sent: Monday, December 06, 2004 10:09 AM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Re: Let’s Avoid Bankruptcy. Support our Union Leadership

I have no answers.

My position is merely this: that we approach this with complete information.  That we demand to be fully informed.  That we ask questions rather than assume that we know the answers.  We cannot ask the right questions (and I have never swallowed the pap that there are no bad questions) if we are not fully informed.

To presume that we have the answers where we have been given very little information is to delude ourselves.

>>> [D.]12/5/2004 4:32:53 PM >>>

Susan – is it your position that publicity painting the Board in a negative light will decrease the liklihood of the Board’s filing for bankruptcy?

Does anyone have any other constructive suggestions of action that the ALAA members could take to insure that the board will not file for bankruptcy?  Is this something that is actually in our control?

>>> Susan  Morris 12/5/2004 4:26:25 PM >>>

The fatal flaw in this reasoning is that concessions DO NOT guarantee avoidance of bankruptcy.

All concerns MUST be addressed with the clear and unequivocal knowledge that we on the EB can spend weeks reviewing, discussing and negotiating for concessions, and the LAS BofD can STILL file.  We cannot even ask them for a guarantee as there is nothing that will legally bind them to give us one.

The impact of negotiating concessions now and the possibility of a bankruptcy filing later are complicated; the results could branch out in many forms.  But make no mistake – concessions on the part of ALAA do not in anyway mitigate the possibility of bankruptcy.

>>> [S.] 12/3/2004 5:47:22 PM >>>

[A.]:  I agree with you 100%, and thank you for your very rational analysis of the situation.  S.

>>> [A.] 12/3/2004 5:23:21 PM >>>

Dear Fellow Union Members:

Clearly the topic of interest within Legal Aid is not  recent Court of Appeals Decisions, or whether the Mets should really sign Pedro . We are all discussing amongst ourselves the potential bankruptcy threats from the Board/Management.  It should be noted, that the financial problems at LAS  have not been caused by the Union. It has been solely caused by the mavens who run this place. Unfortunately, in any bankruptcy, it is the employees who always get screwed.

I am usually a pain in the tuches to management, my union, my colleagues, and most definately the DA’s Office and the Court.  My gut opinion is to challenge and fight.  However, i view the LAS situation, and the Board threat to us, like the situation where we represent a Mandatory Persistent Felon, the case is borderline, and the DA comes in pre-indictment with an A and Year offer. Sometimes, we have to yell, scream and beg our clients, to go against their inclination and gut, and take the plea. I believe we are those clients now. There is clear distrust  by myself , and I believe all of you about the Board. However, as our Union Leadership is making clear to us, the present threat of Bankruptcy is a real one. Members of our Union who have ties to the Board Members, have I believe clearly expressed this position.  The Federal Government has clearly stated that Fed Defender’s Contract will be cancelled if we are in Bankruptcy. The City is not clear about this, however, the City has usually stopped payments for future services for those organizations  they contracted with who are now in bankruptcy ..

The Board gave us 7 conditions.. Clearly, we are not going to accept all 7, nor do I believe that the Board really expects us to accept all of them. Clearly, givebacks, if any will be negotiated by our Union Leadership. If our Union Leadership, comes to us and advises us to give back on certain issues, then without question (but with much angst) I will vote to confirm this.   As our Union’s Bankruptcy attorney (who I have heard is the Enron Employee Attorney) will tell us. Avoid Bankruptcy at all cost.

What can happen to us in Bankruptcy Court. Last night, I had insomnia, and did internet research on employee rights under bankruptcy situations. What I read, scared me.

As we all learned in Law School Bankruptcy course, employees are unsecured creditors. We are behind in preference to the secured creditors. Thus, all the banks, landlords, venders, etc. will  see money before we ever do.

If LAS declares bankruptcy, will it be Chapter 7 or Chapter 11. If it is Chapter 7, then get your resumes ready, because we will be out of business.

Even under Chapter 11, we are screwed. For those in CDD, those Comp. Days you earned because you were forced to work a night/weekend shift, will most likely be lost.  Even worse, (as I learned from a US Dept of Labor Website) is that during bankruptcy , the Court can order the termination of employer contributions to a pension plan (this happened in the United Airlines case), and terminate the plan itself. It can also terminate retiree/dependant health benefits.  Also in bankruptcy court, an employer can seek leave (and many courts have approved this) to terminate all employee medical benefits. That being, we have no health coverage.  If this happens, if you have incurred expenses at the time of the bankruptcy and termination, you will be personally liable for them.  Those factors are very scary.

In addition, during a bankruptcy, Management can clearly  fire employees in a Chapter 11 case. They can seek leave from the Bankruptcy Court, to void a contract, and keep ‘essential employees’.. Thus, management can get rid of those they don’t want, under the assumption they are not essential, or don’t carry their load.

Clearly, as we already have been advised, that in the event of bankruptcy, Management can seek leave to terminate a Union Contract. They can then (for remaining employees), cut wages, cut benefits, and eliminate all other clauses of contract  whose implementation will prevent Mgmt from getting out of bankruptcy.  Thus, to the extent, that it is not illegal, and they are not violating  Statutory and Constitutional rights, Mgmt can cut certain Affirmative Action plans, Domestic Partner Benefits, Parental Leaves, which exceed the minimum required upon them by the Law.

I understand the inclination to say to Mgmt, “F U”, I am not going to give in. You declare bankruptcy, we strike.   For those of us, who remember Eastern Airlines, that is what the employees did, and a Chapter 11, then quickly became a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.   I believe that our Members are not willing to strike, it is a hollow threat.  We were killed during our last strike, by our Members voting to go back in two days.  I believe that Bloomberg will also give us a similar threat.

1199 has been decimated by the loss of members, and givebacks. Our line supervisors have been forced to accept terrible givebacks. For our Union to take the position of not one give back is unrealistic and dangerous. The first job of a Union is to protect the jobs of our members. To date, unlike any other employee branch in LAS, not one ALAA member has lost his/her job. 1199 can not say this, nor can Management.   I rather negotiate with Management terms of givebacks which will save jobs.  If a Bankruptcy Court does it, none of our political friends can save us. We will  have no bargaining power then.

Thus, I assume sometimes soon, we will be asked to give back something. I ask you to consider the above before voting, and not unilaterally say no.

I want to again thank Jim, George and the rest of the EC for all their efforts on our behalf.  They have utilyzed the full resources of the UAW on our behalf, and for that I am most appreciative.    We all owe them our thanks..

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.