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
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

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