ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

December 22, 2005

2005.12.22: Thurs. (11/22): Urgent TWU Strike Support @ 11 a.m. & 4-6 p.m.

Filed under: Labor Solidarity — nyclaw01 @ 2:14 pm
Tags:

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2005 1:35 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Thurs. (11/22): Urgent TWU Strike Support @ 11 a.m. & 4-6 p.m.

Thurs. (11/22), 11 a.m. — TWU Leaders Face Jail at 360 Adams

The New York Times reports that New York State Supreme Court Judge Theodore Jones has ordered TWU President Roger Toussaint and the top leaders of Local 100 to appear in room 227 of Kings County Supreme Court tomorrow (Thursday) at 11:00 am. The Times reports that Judge Jones said he wants the union leadership in court tomorrow because he is considering sentencing them to jail for calling the strike.

See http://tinyurl.com/bav54/ or http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/21/nyregion/nyregionspecial3/21cnd-strike.html

WHAT CAN WE DO?

1. COME TO COURT: Room 227 is the biggest court room in Brooklyn. It seats several hundred people. The hearing is open to the public. Kings County Supreme Court is at 360 Adams Street, near Borough Hall. The main entrance is on Court Street at Montague Street. There is another entrance on Adams Street. The Court is only a few blocks from the Brooklyn Bridge. People coming from Queens, East New York or Bed/Stuy can take the Long Island Railroad to the nearby [Flatbush Ave. stop] Brooklyn Terminal at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues [one mile walk/bike].

2. COME TO COURT EARLY TO MEET THE PRESS: The media has been crucifying the union and trying to portray the image that the public is against the strike. Tomorrow will be an excellent opportunity to meet the press before the court hearing and make statements of support and solidarity with the strikers and their union and to show the transit workers that they are not in this fight alone.

3. CONTACT ELIOT SPITZER: Attorney General Spitzer is representing the state in the lawsuit before Judge Jones. According to the Times Spitzer has not yet said he supports imprisoning the union leadership. Convince Spitzer that jailing the union leaders will create chaos and make negotiations impossible. More importantly, tell Spitzer that you will not vote for him for governor if he does not oppose jailing the union officials. Spitzer’s phone number is (212) 416-8000 and his website URL is http://www.oag.state.ny.us/online_forms/email_ag.jsp

—————————

4-6 p.m., Brooklyn Bridge (Manhattan Side) — Support the TWU Demo Flyers and Details:  http://troopsoutnow.org/twu.html

—————————

More Strike Support Info:
http://nycsupportstwu.blogspot.com/
http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/2005/12/62226.html

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2005.12.22: We Have Been in the Transit Workers’ Shoes

Filed under: ALAA History,Key Documents,Labor Solidarity — nyclaw01 @ 2:13 pm
Tags:

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2005 2:51 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: We Have Been in the Transit Workers’ Shoes

As discussed below,* we better than anyone know the need for solidarity with the transit workers.  For in 1994, we too struck to defend salary and benefits — and were viciously attacked by the very same forces now trying to break the TWU.  We shouldn’t have been left to stand alone then; the transit workers shouldn’t be left to stand alone today.

[*Excerpted from History of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys UAW Local 2325 (Revised August 1999), posted at:  http://www.alaa.org/pages/History.pdf%5D

——————-
At midnight Friday, September 30, [1994], 150 ALAA and 1199 members chanting “strike” marched into Manhattan Criminal Court arraignments and escorted their working colleagues out to a candlelight vigil that continued late into the night.

On Saturday and Sunday, union members from across the city joined the Manhattan picket line. Like earlier generations of Legal Aid lawyers, the mood was grave but defiant. ALAA told the press:

“If you cannot attract and retain experienced attorneys to represent indigent clients, then the experienced lawyers will be working only for those who can pay — and that’s not the kind of equal justice we believe in. Poor people deserve no less than the Menendez brothers or O.J. Simpson when it comes to quality legal representation. Until Legal Aid lawyers are treated fairly, the highest quality legal representation is reserved for the rich”. . . .

The administration replied by threatening to wipe out both Legal Aid and the union. City Criminal Justice Coordinator Katie Lapp privately warned that Giuliani would cancel the Society’s contracts if ALAA members voted Monday for an all-out strike. She stressed the Mayor’s determination by recounting his prominent part in breaking the 1981 PATCO air traffic controller strike. Giuliani uttered the same threats publicly, vowing that “[w]hat my administration will do . . . if they refuse to go to work . . . is to cancel the [Legal Aid] contract.”

October 3 Strike Vote

It was in these circumstances that ALAA members convened at New York University on the morning of Monday, October 3. While the subsequent strike vote may, in retrospect, appear hard to fathom, the decision facing ALAA members was far from obvious. Indeed, for nearly two hours, the members freely and openly debated the choices. . . .

[A]rmed with coverage by the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike fund, members voted 482-304 on the first ballot, and 681-56 on the second, to extend the strike into the regular work week. The immediate mood was spirited, but sober. . . .  Quickly adjourning after the strike vote, 800 Staff Attorneys — surrounded by TV cameras — marched down the middle of Broadway, past City Hall, to Manhattan Criminal Court, where they joined 1199 support staff already staffing the picket lines.

PATCO Revisited: Giuliani Cancels Legal Aid Contracts

Within minutes, Giuliani boasted to live television news that “[t]he canon of ethics says that you can’t abandon cases, so I don’t know where lawyers come off striking. And here they are abandoning cases for an entire city. I’m not going to let them do that.” He then announced both termination of all the Society’s city contracts — criminal and civil — and his decision to issue requests for proposal (RFPs) for the Society’s criminal work. “Hopefully,” said Giuliani, “this will be the last time lawyers strike against the public interest.”

Joining in the attack was Paul Crotty, a recently-departed Legal Aid Board officer who had remained bitter that the 1992 ALAA contract had been too generous. Now Giuliani’s Corporation Counsel, Crotty publicly demanded that the Board “fire those lawyers for going out on strike.” While he “conceded that the courts would face disruption” if the city proceeded with RFPs, Crotty “insisted upon punishing the Legal Aid Society”. . . .

As in the past, some press reports treated the strikers sympathetically, while the city elite lined up with the Mayor. Paul Weiss partner Arthur Liman, a former LAS president and onetime Iran-Contra prosecutor, announced that Giuliani “had a responsibility” to end the walkout.

The Daily News editorialized that “[w]hile [strikers] have every right to bargain and demand higher wages, their ability to shut down something as vital as the courts gives them too much power . . . they must be held to the same no-strike law as other key city employees. . . . They must never again be permitted to hold the city hostage.”

May 4 Blacklist Ultimatum And Contract Settlement

The next day, Tuesday, October 4, ALAA sought to generate counter-momentum by bringing strikers and their allies to a press conference on the City Hall steps. Foreshadowing subsequent Giuliani administration attempts to repress First Amendment expression, hundreds of police physically blocked the media from contact with the strikers, who defiantly chanted “Rudy, Rudy is his name, union-busting is his game”. . . .

Notably absent, however, were the major city unions that Giuliani’s attack on ALAA was designed to intimidate. Publicly, DC 37 Executive Director Stanley Hill advised “[b]oth sides [to] go back to the bargaining table.” Privately, DC 37 and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) — the two largest municipal unions — conveyed to Giuliani their “neutrality,” presumably hoping to earn his favor in upcoming negotiations on his demands for $200 million savings in their members’ healthcare benefits.(12)

Sonny Hall, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100 (subway and bus workers), said “The Legal Aid lawyers’ strike was indeed a careless act, although they had an excellent case for their demands . . . Our concern is not why the mayor said no, but how he said it.”

As the New York Times explained, the municipal union leaders were unwilling to antagonize the administration:

“Whether the Legal Aid workers realized it, they had walked off their jobs at a critical point in the city’s relationship with its work force. Mr. Giuliani, having just completed a round of budget cuts and staff reductions, has now gone back to the workers, seeking more job cuts and asking them to start contributing toward their health-care benefits. . . . Until now, the municipal unions have worked unexpectedly well with the Republican Mayor, recognizing both the city’s fiscal difficulties and their own shortage of political support among the general public. But hard times and pent-up wage demands can be a volatile mix for labor leaders to handle unless they convince their members that the pain is shared and no one has a choice. The Giuliani administration seemed to fear that by striking, the lawyers threatened the spirit of collective sacrifice.”

Or, as CUNY professor Stanley Aronowitz pointed out, “[l]abor’s strategy has become Giuliani’s strategy. The big fry make their deals.” Also notably silent were City Council Speaker Peter Vallone and Governor Mario Cuomo — both Democrats.(13)

The strikers received support in some corners of the organized bar. NYCLU director Norman Siegel appeared at ALAA’s October 4 press conference.

The National Lawyers Guild/NYC Chapter offered its “support for your decision to strike over wages,” denouced “Giuliani’s decision to cancel the [LAS] contract” as being “designed to disenfranchise the city’s legal indigent defendant population and also cripple some of the most progressive elements in the New York City Bar,” and offered to cosponsor a press conference with the National Conference of Black Lawyers to back the ALAA. . . .

Many private lawyers, however, regarded the 1994 strike as an opportunity for enrichment, rather than solidarity. . . .

Late that afternoon, emboldened by this alignment of forces, Giuliani issued the public ultimatum that any striking attorney who did not return to work by the following morning would be permanently blacklisted from all future city-funded representation:

“If you want to show us that you’ll live up to your ethical obligations of not walking out on your clients, you have until tomorrow to do that. If you don’t then you’re not part of a responsible workforce that we could rely on in the future . . . There are many lawyers in the city looking for work.  Privately, he demanded that the Society’s Board avoid settlement in order to have the chance to make good on this threat.”

While most ALAA members continued to respond courageously, ALAA’s leadership realized the union could not put its very existence at the mercy of Giuliani’s escalating — albeit illegal — threats. On Tuesday evening, after learning that the Board leadership was similarly concerned for the Society’s future, ALAA met Society at the offices of New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, where they negotiated a slightly better package than that rejected by union members a day earlier.

Pursuant to this tentative agreement, the ALAA Bargaining Committee directed members to report to work the next morning, hoping thereby to deprive Giuliani of an excuse to blacklist ALAA strikers. On the evening of October 5, ALAA members convened at 1199’s auditorium and ratified the agreement by a vote of 544-150-3. . . .

But Giuliani, now robbed of an excuse for mass firings, asserted that ALAA’s settlement meant nothing without his approval, that “[t]hey [Legal Aid attorneys] have a hope, not a reality of keeping their jobs,” and that any “new [contract] between the Society and the city . . . [must] prohibit strikes in the future.” Asked about the likelihood of issuing RFPs for the Society’s work despite the strike’s brief duration, Giuliani replied, “[i]t’s very likely.”

Giuliani’s “victory” over the strikers was the subject of  widespread comment. The New York Times praised the Mayor for his “firm foundation in fiscal reality . . . . The [strike] was a foolish challenge.” Ed Koch, who had supported the 1974 strike, before unsuccessfully trying to break the 1982 strike, now celebrated Giuliani’s “courage in taking on the striking Legal Aid attorneys.”

Lawrence Kudlow, economics editor of the far-right National Review and a chief budget economist during the Reagan administration, gleefully predicted that “Giuliani’s action on the Legal Aid lawyers was a very significant development; to some extent it’s a New York City version of Reagan’s PATCO confrontation . . . I’m sure it has sent a lot of public union officials scurrying.”

Writer and former public defender James S. Kunen came to ALAA’s defense in the Times:

“The strike was fated to fail because these advocates for the indigent were demanding the one form of compensation their fellow citizens are unwilling to give them: respect.”

Labor analyst Robert Fitch concluded that “what’s surprising is not that Giuliani broke the [ALAA] strike by threatening to fire everybody and is now picking his teeth today with the attorneys’ bones. It’s that the rest of the city’s municipal labor movement — once regarded as the most militant and powerful in America — mostly looked on while the mayor gnawed away on the carcasses of their fellow trade unionists”. . . .

Quality Representation Under Increased Attack

In the days, weeks and years that followed the strike, the Giuliani administration has pressed its attack on Legal Aid and its unions. Its plan to use the strike as a cover with which to undermine indigent criminal representation was laid out in an internal memo of October 5, 1994, the day that the strikers returned to work. These included ending ALAA’s right to strike, breaking continuity of representation through an “arraignment bureau” and replacing annual salary increases with “merit” pay. Blocked by an NLRB investigation from pursuing a permanent no-strike clause, Giuliani relentlessly pursued these objectives by other means.

Within days of the strike, Giuliani announced his demand for an immediate $13 million cut in the Society’s $79 million city criminal funding. The Mayor specified that Legal Aid achieve this by drastically reducing the number of CDD and CAB supervising attorneys, thus creating a pool of experienced criminal defense lawyers, most of whom chose to blame their predicament on the Society and ALAA, rather than on the administration. While ALAA and 1199 lobbied fiercely against this cut, a fearful Legal Aid Board offered only mild resistance. Organized bar reaction was similarly meek. . . .

Faced with this fait accompli, the union was forced to renegotiate the October 5 contract settlement; on January 23, 1995, members voted by 369-88 that each CDD and CAB Staff Attorney would surrender a week’s compensation in order to protect 1199 support staff and junior Staff Attorneys from involuntary layoff. On January 30, support staff finally voted 311-59 to ratify their contract, which provided for a two percent salary increase and a $300 bonus. And in early February, the Society signed a new city criminal contract that reduced its funding by 16.5 percent, from $79 million to $66.4 million. . . .

By July 1998, the Giuliani administration had slashed Legal Aid criminal funding to $53 million, without any significant decrease in the Society’s overall workload. Some of these funds have gone to 18-B  assigned counsel, whose cost has increased since 1994 from $49 million to $62 million.

Giuliani Establishes Runaway (Nonunion) Defenders

The bulk, however, has gone to runaway (nonunion) contractors specifically established to bid for Society work pursuant to Giuliani administration RFPs first issued on October 19, 1995 for 25 percent of the Society’s criminal funding. Although the administration claimed that the RFPs introduced “healthy competition” into indigent defense representation, it explicitly barred Legal Aid from bidding. More candidly, Giuliani reiterated that their underlying purpose was to generate permanent strikebreakers so that the city would “no longer be at the mercy of one group that could decide in the future to go out on strike, and then all of a sudden you have a massive backup in the criminal justice system.”

Lurking behind administration policy was the Manhattan Institute, a Giuliani think-tank. . . .

Although the mainstream bar reacted to this attack with cowardice, others came forward to oppose the Giuliani/Manhattan Institute’s RFP agenda. El Diario/La Prensa denounced the RFPs, which “can only be interpreted as an attack against our society’s vulnerable segments.”

Gary Abramson, chief attorney of the Orange County Legal Aid Society, pointed out that Giuliani “appears to be acting more out of animosity toward Legal Aid than from a point of fiscal responsibility or honest interest in uninterrupted court operation.”

In early November 1995, City Council hearings on the RFPs, Councilmember Adam Clayton Powell IV, representing East Harlem and the Bronx, characterized the RFPs as “another vicious attack in a long line of vicious attacks on the poor, the African-Americans and Hispanics who get caught up in this system. For you [the Giuliani administration] to be taking this type of action simply as retribution for the strike that they undertook last year is really appalling.”

Columbia Law School dean Lance Leibman stated that Experts around the country have studied the best way to supply legal services to the poor, and those experts have always concluded that the methods used in New York by The Legal Aid Society supply outstanding services and quality at the right price to the taxpayer. This is a system that is working, and it would be a great mistake to change it in this way.

Maryland Law School Professor and former ALAA member Douglas L. Colbert wrote that “the lawyers’ decision to strike was intended to hold onto their most senior lawyers. Like prior Legal Aid lawyer strikes, which were necessary to accomplish reasonable caseload limitations and continuous representation by the same lawyer, last year’s strike was tied to maintaining adequate client representation.”

On November 30, 1995, a statement issued by 47 Supreme, Criminal, Civil, and Court of Claims judges said that “[w]e believe it would be a mistake for the city to fragment the representation of criminal defendants, and that such fragmentation would adversely affect the effective administration of justice for several reasons.” Similar statements were issued by former Mayor David Dinkins, the Central Labor Council. The Amsterdam News wrote:

“Giuliani has been more cruel than human, on the cutting edge of the kind of psychosis that he regards poor whites, Blacks and Hispanics as butterflies, whose wings he can tear off with impunity while has the temporary power of the bully . . . The Legal Aid Society has taken a bold step [of opposing the RFPs]. It is imperative that they be supported.”

The bluntest statement, jointly issued by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, and the National Lawyers Guild, “reaffirm[ed] our support for The Legal Aid Society and its unions in reversing Mayor Giuliani’s attacks, in particular, call for attorneys to withhold any and all aid and comfort to new strikebreaker indigent defense agencies.”

To neutralize such opposition, the administration awarded the RFP contracts to runaway shops managed and staffed by former LAS personnel, many of them well-regarded attorneys,(14) including three out of four of ALAA’s 1988-89 officers.(15)

In exchange for these contracts, the beneficiaries named themselves as collaborators willing to bestow legitimacy on the dismemberment of LAS by embracing the administration’s violation of continuity of representation, and to falsely accuse Society staff of “inefficiency” and strike-related “disruption.” Their very participation proved invaluable in confusing the loyalties and perceptions of many who would otherwise have instinctively understood and resisted the administration’s objectives.

Having obtained contracts, the runaways have acquired an urgent and independent need to elevate their “legitimacy,” particularly within the courts and the broader legal community, in order to survive beyond Giuliani’s possible year 2000 Senate Race or 2001 mayoral term-limit, whichever comes first.

Not surprisingly, the administration’s policies have inflicted severe damage on the quality of indigent criminal representation, as reflected in reports by independent agencies. In 1998, for example, the Indigent Oversight Panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, reported that the Society “is obligated to represent almost the same number of clients for substantially fewer dollars,” while the runaway defenders are abundantly funded to handle a limited caseload, thereby overwhelming Legal Aid attorneys with impossible caseloads, arraignments and other work.

Impact On Legal Aid

This asphyxiation of Legal Aid has seriously weakened vertical continuity and other essential elements of high-quality representation. Staff Attorneys’ ability to resist has been further undermined by the runaway defenders’ willingness to curry favor with the administration by abandoning vertical continuity; participating in arraignment body count contests; pandering to judges, court administration and even district attorneys; replacing seniority with “merit”-based salaries unilaterally set by management; and, in some offices, permitting part-time private practice.

Endnotes

12. Ray Markey, president of DC 37 Local 1930, recalls that when he rushed to the executive director’s office to seek support for striking ALAA and 1199 members, he found Randy Levine, Giuliani’s labor chief,  already enlisting Hill’s support. In the end, members of DC 37, the UFT and numerous other municipal unions ended up with a two-year wage freeze and replacement of union jobs with workfare participants. Collaboration with Giuliani finally caught up with Hill in November 1998, when, surrounded by the indictment of his cronies for stealing DC 37 funds, he was forced to admit that his administration had stuffed ballot boxes to ensure ratification of this unpopular contract. DC 37 is now in trusteeship and Hill has resigned.

13. In November 1994, Republican George Pataki defeated Cuomo, despite Giuliani’s support. In 1998, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vallone restored $2.5 million more to the Society than the administration had proposed. 14. The seven runaway shops are: “Appellate Advocates” in the Second Department (ex-CAB deputy chief Lynn Fahey); “Bronx Defenders” (ex-Legal Aid attorney Dan Arshack and Neighborhood Defender Services deputy chief Robin Steinberg); “Brooklyn Defender Services” (ex-Brooklyn CDD supervisor Lisa Schreibersdorf); “Center for Appellate Litigation” in the First Department (Fahey’s husband and ex-CAB manager Bob Dean); “Queens Law Associates” (ex-Queens CDD supervisor Laurie Zeno); “New York County Defenders Association” (ex-Brooklyn CDD supervisors Michael Coleman, Carolyn Wilson and Kevin McConnell); and “Battiste, Aronowsky & Suchow” in Staten Island.

15. These were: John Yong (president), Alan Rosenberg (Secretary) and Steve Dean (Treasurer). Fortunately, few other representatives — current or former — defected.

2005.12.22: Thurs. (11/22): Urgent TWU Strike Support @ 11 a.m. & 4-6 p.m.

Filed under: Labor Solidarity — nyclaw01 @ 1:14 pm
Tags:

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2005 1:35 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Thurs. (11/22): Urgent TWU Strike Support @ 11 a.m. & 4-6 p.m.

Thurs. (11/22), 11 a.m. — TWU Leaders Face Jail at 360 Adams

The New York Times reports that New York State Supreme Court Judge Theodore Jones has ordered TWU President Roger Toussaint and the top leaders of Local 100 to appear in room 227 of Kings County Supreme Court tomorrow (Thursday) at 11:00 am. The Times reports that Judge Jones said he wants the union leadership in court tomorrow because he is considering sentencing them to jail for calling the strike.

See http://tinyurl.com/bav54/ or http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/21/nyregion/nyregionspecial3/21cnd-strike.html

WHAT CAN WE DO?

1. COME TO COURT: Room 227 is the biggest court room in Brooklyn. It seats several hundred people. The hearing is open to the public. Kings County Supreme Court is at 360 Adams Street, near Borough Hall. The main entrance is on Court Street at Montague Street. There is another entrance on Adams Street. The Court is only a few blocks from the Brooklyn Bridge. People coming from Queens, East New York or Bed/Stuy can take the Long Island Railroad to the nearby [Flatbush Ave. stop] Brooklyn Terminal at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues [one mile walk/bike].

2. COME TO COURT EARLY TO MEET THE PRESS: The media has been crucifying the union and trying to portray the image that the public is against the strike. Tomorrow will be an excellent opportunity to meet the press before the court hearing and make statements of support and solidarity with the strikers and their union and to show the transit workers that they are not in this fight alone.

3. CONTACT ELIOT SPITZER: Attorney General Spitzer is representing the state in the lawsuit before Judge Jones. According to the Times Spitzer has not yet said he supports imprisoning the union leadership. Convince Spitzer that jailing the union leaders will create chaos and make negotiations impossible. More importantly, tell Spitzer that you will not vote for him for governor if he does not oppose jailing the union officials. Spitzer’s phone number is (212) 416-8000 and his website URL is http://www.oag.state.ny.us/online_forms/email_ag.jsp

—————————

4-6 p.m., Brooklyn Bridge (Manhattan Side) — Support the TWU Demo Flyers and Details:  http://troopsoutnow.org/twu.html

—————————

More Strike Support Info:
http://nycsupportstwu.blogspot.com/
http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/2005/12/62226.html

December 21, 2005

2005.12.21: Strike Solidarity Rally Tomorrow!

Filed under: Labor Solidarity — nyclaw01 @ 11:55 am
Tags:

From: Julie N. Fry
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2005 4:42 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Strike Solidarity Rally Tomorrow!

Support the TWU

Stand in Solidarity with the Transit Worker Strike!

Thursday, December 22
4-6 pm
Assemble on both sides
of the Brooklyn Bridge

Join us to stand with the TWU workers.

We stand in soldarity with the transit workers because we know that this strike represents us too.

For too long the corporate bankers and the government officials that go along with them have been robbing poor and working class people. Join us Thursday to stand with the brave working people of the TWU who have stood up to the corrupt MTA and the billionaire Bloomberg.  Bring signs, placards, noise makers, and let’s show the TWU that the people of New York are behind them.

How you can help:

1) Call to find local organizing centers where you can pick up flyers, stickers, etc.:  212.633.6646

2) Download leaflets

3) Endorse

4) Call Governor Pataki –  The TWU is asking supporters to call the MTA (212-878-7274) and Governor Pataki (518-474-7516) – The MTA and the Governor  forced the transit strike; it ‘s time for them  to stop it by  giving the workers a fair contract.

December 15, 2005

2005.12.15: Arraigning Striking Transit Workers

Filed under: ALAA History,Key Documents,Labor Solidarity — nyclaw01 @ 2:14 pm
Tags:

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Thursday, December 15, 2005 12:02 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Arraigning Striking Transit Workers

For the third time since 1999, the transit workers are under vicious attack from the MTA, the Attorney General, and the Mayor (first Giuliani, now Bloomberg) — just as we were attacked during the 1999 ALAA/1199 strike.

In light of ALAA’s support for the TWU in the 1999 and 2002 contract battles, TWU Local 100 general counsel Terry  Meginniss has asked me to convey his request for our assistance in arraigning transit workers arrested during a strike.

If you do arraign (or otherwise learn of) such cases, please promptly notify Terry at 212-228-7727 (to ensure the message gets through, explain that you have information about a TWU arrest).

December 14, 2005

2005.12.14: Last Night’s DC Vote re: Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)

From: L.Antonia Codling
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2005 5:03 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Last Night’s DC Vote re: Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)

Lisa Edwards and I are the Affirmative Action Representatives on the Executive Board of ALAA.

Upon information and belief, based upon the recommendation of the EB (which came out of an EB meeting we were unable to attend) last night’s DC vote will deny the membership the right to have a vote on whether there should be a lottery vs. a point system in regard to the loan repayment assistance program.

Last night’s DC should have been used as an opportunity to give information to the Delegates so that they could present to, discuss with and get input from their members. Allowing the DC to vote on whether there should be a lottery vs. a point system without any input from the membership represents another breakdown in the “democratic” process, and this is not how we should function.

At the EB meeting where LRAP was first discussed, I adamantly argued that the membership should decide which system should be adopted (lottery vs. point system). This was agreed upon by the EB at that meeting. Lisa Edwards and I were unable to attend the second meeting where the EB voted to recommend that the LRAP be disseminated via a lottery because we had to attend a wake. Were it not for the e-mail that Susan Morris sent last week, the members would not have even been aware that this important question was to be addressed.

We strongly believe that the membership of this Union should have been, and still should be given the opportunity to vote on the question of lottery vs. point system (see also, our subsequent e-mail specifically re: “Loan Repayment Assistance Program”). At this time, we urge the membership, for all the reasons stated herein and in prior e-mails in support of a point system, to contact the Union Headquarters and ask that this question be put to a membership vote.

L. Antonia Codling
Affirmative Action Rep.
CDD-Bx
718.579.3124

Lisa Edwards
Alt. Affirmative Action Rep.
Volunteer Division
212.426.3056

December 13, 2005

2005.12.13: Re: Loan Forgiveness Issues and DC Vote

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Tuesday, December 13, 2005 2:57 PM
To: James Rogers; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Re: Loan Forgiveness Issues and DC Vote

The claim that Susan Morris (Alternative V.P. for Brooklyn CDD) is guilty of “purposeful inaccuracies, creating a divisive debate on management’s e-mail system as we head into bargaining” is a groundless accusation designed to gag those who disagree with the current union leadership.

Neither Susan nor Jason Hadley (ACLA Representative) is looking to get elected, stay elected, or otherwise go-along-to-get-along. They simply seek adherence to ALAA’s longstanding contractual commitment to “foster . . . recruitment, retention and promotion of people of color,” (§ 3.1.2.2.), which – at the Union’s initiative – was specifically applied to hiring (§ 3.1.2.), voluntary transfers between Legal Aid divisions (§ 3.9.1.), and layoffs (§ 3.14.2.3.).

They rightly point out that the same logic should apply to loan forgiveness, which – by all accounts – the Executive Board’s proposal fails to do.

By bringing this to our attention, Susan and Jason have used the ALAA e-list in exactly the way it was intended: to promote free discussion and debate. Now it is the members’ responsibility to speak up for both affirmative action and union democracy. If we don’t – as with recent contract give-backs – there’ll be no one to blame but ourselves.

>>> James Rogers 12/12 4:16 PM >>>
Our recently expired contract with Legal Aid requires management to set up a $250,000 loan forgiveness fund. The Delegates Council will examine the issue of the loan repayment plan distribution tomorrow night. I just want to clear up a few misconceptions about the process, the Executive Board (EB) vote and where we stand.

The loan forgiveness fund was a major priority during the last contract negotiations. We hoped (and still do) to build on it. Many members work on the total project which includes lobbying legislatures and law schools. Management tried hard to take the funds away during the fiscal meltdown. We understand that attracting and retaining the best, brightest and most diverse staff all hinges on the success of these efforts.

As mentioned in an e-mail by Laura Gitelson, the issues are complex and a committee of dedicated volunteers has been working tirelessly for months to devise a fair system. The Executive Board debated the various systems on 2 different occasions. In addition, the committee which drafted both proposals for the Delegates consideration were at both Executive Board meetings. They ultimately favored the lottery system not because they didn’t want to achieve a fair system based on merit and need but because they believed that in this specific instance merit/need based fairness could still be achieved by using the relatively simple, expeditious, non-intrusive lottery system. (Remember this is not a recurring sum of money at this time).

Moreover, examining real need, that is the amount of debt taken together with personal financial standing is near impossible without paying an administrator to pour over the financial documents of each and every applicant. This may be a valuable endeavor if the program were recurring, administered by a trustee. But as of now, it is a one time cash payout.

It is vital that you all be advised of one thing: The Executive Board, when considering the point system, absolutely and unanimously endorsed an affirmative action approach. We chose to recommend to the delegates the lottery instead of the point system not to avoid our affirmative action goals and policies but to do something fair, quickly and efficiently that would not result in in-fighting over which attorneys receive priority (e.g., junior v. senior v. mid-level attorney; heavy need with otherwise strong financial stability v. low debt with otherwise weak financial stability) and how to establish the true facts of each applicant.

Moreover the EB made a recommendation which the delegates will consider and the entire membership will vote on.

The loan forgiveness committee by and large started out favoring a point system because on its face it seemed most fair. But the administration of such a system was likely to frustrate the goal of fairness. (Ex: Most attorneys of color are junior attorneys and would be at a dis-advantage for points that rewarded higher degrees of service to the Society). Thus, committee members in attendance at the EB wound up, after endless consideration, favoring lottery.

Susan Morris’ suggestion that we avoided our affirmative action goals or disavowed the Executive Board’s commitment to diversity and affirmative action by choosing the lottery system is disingenuous and a deliberate mis-statement of the facts surrounding the Executive Board vote. Her purposeful inaccuracies, creating a divisive debate on management’s e-mail system as we head into bargaining, is quite unconscionable.

The entire leadership of this union is duty bound to accurately inform members of facts which affect their benefits or working conditions, while endeavoring to maintain the unity which is essential to success in dealing with sometimes hostile management.

This is what we commit to when we sign onto the Executive Board/Bargaining Committee. To behave otherwise is a total violation of the members’ trust.

There are important issues to discuss tomorrow night. All members are welcome to attend. Delegates from every office and every cluster/complex are expected to attend.

Jim Rogers
President

George Albro
Secretary Treasurer

Charlotte Hitchcock
Recoding Secretary

James Rogers
President
Association of Legal Aid Attorneys
(UAW 2325)(AFL-CIO)
568 Broadway Room 702 A
New York NY 10012
212-343-0708

December 12, 2005

2005.12.12: Alvarez & Marsal at it again

Filed under: Collective Bargaining,Labor Solidarity — nyclaw01 @ 12:32 pm
Tags:

From: Lucy Herschel
Sent: Monday, December 12, 2005 10:04 AM
To: 1199 Members
Cc: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Alvarez & Marsal at it again

Check out what our favorite union busters are up to these days:  helping to dismantle and privatize the New Orleans public school system.  Guess they did such a good job at Legal Aid, they’ve moved on to bigger and better things…

***********************

http://www.socialistworker.org/2005-2/568/568_04_NOSchools.shtml

Right wing uses Katrina crisis to push privatization The plan to wreck New Orleans schools December 9, 2005 | Page 4

A NIGHTMARE mix of right-wing politicians, corporate consultants and education fortune-seekers are out to take advantage of the crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina, and wipe out public schools in New Orleans.

Their weapon of choice: charter schools–the privatization scheme under which public schools receiving public funds are managed under different rules, often by private companies operating outside the authority of local school boards. JESSE SHARKEY, a Chicago teacher and member of AFT Local 1, reports on another atrocity in New Orleans.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

AT THE end of November, the Louisiana state legislature passed a law to take control of 102 of the 117 public schools in New Orleans, turning most into charter schools.
Separately, the Education Committee of Bring New Orleans Back–a post-disaster government planning agency–has devised a plan to restrict the operation of the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), which runs New Orleans Public Schools, to just eight schools. As the school board’s consulting firm, Alvarez and Marsal, stated bluntly in a November 14 report, “It is possible that OPSB could in the short term resemble a liquidating entity.”

For its part, the federal government has offered the struggling city a $20.9 million grant–to be used exclusively for developing charter schools.

The city has reopened just one public school, despite calls to do more from parents and a lawsuit from the United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO), which alleges that the city is purposely dragging its feet.

At the state level, rightwing politicians in Louisiana see the disaster in New Orleans as a kind of political opportunity. The depopulation of New Orleans means that political equilibrium has shifted towards conservative rural areas of the state. Gov. Kathleen Blanco, championed the school takeover legislation, has overseen $500 million in budget cuts in many essential services–while somehow finding room in the budget to cut taxes on oil companies.

The oil giants “don’t need relief right now,” Karen Carter, of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus told the Los Angeles Times. “To offer them something more when we are making cuts in central services makes absolutely no sense.”

On the local level, school rebuilding efforts have attracted a who’s who list of educational “reformers” motivated by a sense of opportunity, and ready to launch an ideologically driven mass experiment on working-class children’s education.

The education steering committee directing the school changes in New Orleans is comprised of 19 people, according to the Bring New Orleans Back Web site. They include representatives from IBM and the Gates Foundation–but not members of the New Orleans teachers union. The Catholic Archdiocese is represented, but no teachers, parents or other school workers.

This goes beyond kicking the schools when they are down. The right wing is salivating over the possibilities for educational change in New Orleans.

Katie Newmark, a researcher of the American Enterprise Institute gushed, “In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many have blamed the New Orleans government for the city’s poor preparedness–and rightly so. But let’s also give credit where credit is due: the city government is making good decisions about restoring New Orleans public schools.”

According to the plan, some 25,000 of the school district’s anticipated 44,000 students will be part of a “Recovery District” by September 2006. There is no plan or public discussion of who will run these charter schools, what curriculum they will follow, or what conditions will be like for teachers. In other words, this is a blind leap into the free market.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

DESPITE THE rhetoric of their advocates, there isn’t any evidence to suggest that charters will improve education in New Orleans. According to a U.S. Department of Education study last year that looked at five different states, charter schools were less likely to meet state education goals than public schools.
So New Orleans is to become a city without a public school system, where 100-plus schools are run by an assortment of subcontractors answering to charter operators, who in turn are responsible to right wing political hacks at the state level.

Trust a corporate consultant to sell this travesty as opportunity. A report by the consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal concluded: “New Orleans will evolve from one public school district pre-Katrina to systems of schools, offering parents and children citywide choice as to which school they will attend.”

If all this sounds like a dream scenario for corrupt profit-seeking and the ideologically driven abandonment of public education, it will be a nightmare for children, parents and teachers.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IMPORTANTLY, THE right-wing agenda for New Orleans schools is not the only vision for the future. The UTNO has produced a document that not only tells the other side of the story, but puts forward a plan that could revitalize New Orleans schools. It is worth quoting at length:

As the 60,000 students and their families, and the 8,000 employees and their families–together equaling perhaps one-third or more of the city’s population–sat shocked in shelters and in the homes of relatives, friends and strangers, Hurricane Katrina swept through and engulfed their city, extinguishing much of what they had known of their lives they were living just days before. For most, all that was familiar–homes, friends, neighborhoods, jobs–vanished or was a long way from recovering. All that was left to sustain them was hope and a determination to return and rebuild their lives…
[T]he situation was not hopeless. Large sections of the city–including the West Bank and Uptown–had been spared the ruinous floodwaters. Almost immediately, hotels and restaurants began working to restore their businesses. Business owners took out ads seeking news from their employees about their whereabouts and safety, and in many cases, offering reassurance to them that they would not be abandoned.

For the 68,000 students and employees of New Orleans Public Schools (NOPS), however, the story was different. Instead of their own sustaining hope being reinforced by their leaders, they were sent a discouraging word: Schools would not reopen for the entire school year. For them, that meant a return to the city would be impossible, regardless of the fate of their homes.

As dispiriting as it was, the lack of a far-seeing leadership is something New Orleans students and employees had become used to, especially in the last five or six years–a period which just happens to coincide with the tenure of the longest-serving school board members, and during which New Orleans Public Schools has experienced its greatest crisis of leadership ever, with at least eight superintendents–permanent, acting, interim or other–having stood at the helm…

Time has come for those most closely and intimately involved in education, those whose lives are most affected by it–the givers and receivers–to say that no longer will we stand around waiting for leaders to rescue us from the metaphorical rooftops where we find ourselves now.

Today, United Teachers of New Orleans is calling for a renaissance of the public schools of New Orleans. To achieve this, we recommend that the district do the following:

1. Immediately begin the process of reopening schools.

2. Establish a teacher, parent and administrator committee at each school as it reopens to assess the complete needs of the school and its students.

3. Continue with the academic programs that have brought steady, demonstrable academic progress over the last two years.

4. Implement real reforms known to lead to academic progress, including research-based programs and smaller class sizes.

5. Commit to providing modern facilities for students and maintaining all facilities in optimum condition and appearance.

6. Offer after-school instruction and social support for those who need it and an abundance of extracurricular activities for all students to be able to choose from.

7. Establish a broad-based, citywide committee to address NOPS’ future.

8. Adopt a code of ethics and demeanor for all elected and appointed leaders.

The people most affected by the crisis in the New Orleans schools have the clearest and most effective vision of what will fix their schools. But they are reeling–the people of New Orleans are dispersed around the country, and the right wing in on the offensive.
The teachers’ unions, defenders of public education, and opponents of the right will need to take action.

2005.12.12: Re: Loan Forgiveness Issues and DC Vote

From: Azalia Torres
Sent: Monday, December 12, 2005 6:45 PM
To: James Rogers; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Re: Loan Forgiveness Issues and DC Vote

It is really despicable that you, President of ALAA, criticize any member of our union for expressing their views on any given issue. ALAA has historically provided a forum for debate of all issues which affect some or all of its members. Debating issues before they are to be voted upon has been a great tradition of our union. One which I think the EB in particular should be nurturing and insuring does not disappear.

Another tradition is the democratic freedom we as members enjoy in being able to voice our disagreements regardless of whom may hold a particular view. No one, including the President of our union, has the right to gag any one of us from expressing disagreements with the leadership. This applies just as strongly to members of the EB.

Any member of the EB has the right to not only disagree with the majority’s position, but also try to rally support for the minority view by going directly to the membership with the debate. Susan Morris has been a very brave and principled individual. She chose to express her disagreement with the EB recommendation precisely because she analyzed it as a departure from our perspective to always make affirmative action a factor in key decisions and areas of our contract.

Susan Morris did not purposefully mislead anyone or create a divisive debate. On the contrary, she has done what the EB had not done and would not have entertained — BROAD BASED DISCUSSION OF A KEY ISSUE FOR OUR MEMBERSHIP! She provided the membership with her analysis of the EB’s process of coming to their recommendation on the loan forgiveness issue.

What is unconscionable, James, is that you resort to attacking a dedicated union member’s character rather than address the content of her contributions to the discussion. You don’t have the right to gag anyone from doing their democratic duty. We worked too hard to bring democracy to this union and it cannot be shut down when what we hear is not pleasing.

The whole debate as well as your comments about a fellow EB member has taken place where all discussions take place: the ALAA site. Susan Morris continues to exercise her democratic duty. In doing so, she strengthens our union. It is comments like yours which continue to erode at what was once such a vital part of our union: DEMOCRACY.

BRAVO SUSAN!!!

Azalia Torres
Attorney
The Legal Aid Society
718-243-6803
atorres@legal-aid.org

>>> James Rogers 12/12 4:16 PM >>>
Our recently expired contract with Legal Aid requires management to set up a $250,000 loan forgiveness fund. The Delegates Council will examine the issue of the loan repayment plan distribution tomorrow night. I just want to clear up a few misconceptions about the process, the Executive Board (EB) vote and where we stand.

The loan forgiveness fund was a major priority during the last contract negotiations. We hoped (and still do) to build on it. Many members work on the total project which includes lobbying legislatures and law schools. Management tried hard to take the funds away during the fiscal meltdown. We understand that attracting and retaining the best, brightest and most diverse staff all hinges on the success of these efforts.

As mentioned in an e-mail by Laura Gitelson, the issues are complex and a committee of dedicated volunteers has been working tirelessly for months to devise a fair system. The Executive Board debated the various systems on 2 different occasions. In addition, the committee which drafted both proposals for the Delegates consideration were at both Executive Board meetings. They ultimately favored the lottery system not because they didn’t want to achieve a fair system based on merit and need but because they believed that in this specific instance merit/need based fairness could still be achieved by using the relatively simple, expeditious, non-intrusive lottery system. (Remember this is not a recurring sum of money at this time).

Moreover, examining real need, that is the amount of debt taken together with personal financial standing is near impossible without paying an administrator to pour over the financial documents of each and every applicant. This may be a valuable endeavor if the program were recurring, administered by a trustee. But as of now, it is a one time cash payout.

It is vital that you all be advised of one thing: The Executive Board, when considering the point system, absolutely and unanimously endorsed an affirmative action approach. We chose to recommend to the delegates the lottery instead of the point system not to avoid our affirmative action goals and policies but to do something fair, quickly and efficiently that would not result in in-fighting over which attorneys receive priority (e.g., junior v. senior v. mid-level attorney; heavy need with otherwise strong financial stability v. low debt with otherwise weak financial stability) and how to establish the true facts of each applicant.

Moreover the EB made a recommendation which the delegates will consider and the entire membership will vote on.

The loan forgiveness committee by and large started out favoring a point system because on its face it seemed most fair. But the administration of such a system was likely to frustrate the goal of fairness. (Ex: Most attorneys of color are junior attorneys and would be at a dis-advantage for points that rewarded higher degrees of service to the Society). Thus, committee members in attendance at the EB wound up, after endless consideration, favoring lottery.

Susan Morris’ suggestion that we avoided our affirmative action goals or disavowed the Executive Board’s commitment to diversity and affirmative action by choosing the lottery system is disingenuous and a deliberate mis-statement of the facts surrounding the Executive Board vote. Her purposeful inaccuracies, creating a divisive debate on management’s e-mail system as we head into bargaining, is quite unconscionable.

The entire leadership of this union is duty bound to accurately inform members of facts which affect their benefits or working conditions, while endeavoring to maintain the unity which is essential to success in dealing with sometimes hostile management.

This is what we commit to when we sign onto the Executive Board/Bargaining Committee. To behave otherwise is a total violation of the members’ trust.

There are important issues to discuss tomorrow night. All members are welcome to attend. Delegates from every office and every cluster/complex are expected to attend.

Jim Rogers
President

George Albro
Secretary Treasurer

Charlotte Hitchcock
Recoding Secretary

James Rogers
President
Association of Legal Aid Attorneys
(UAW 2325)(AFL-CIO)
568 Broadway Room 702 A
New York NY 10012
212-343-0708

December 7, 2005

2005.12.07: Tomorrow Night: Support Lynn Stewart

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2005 12:49 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS; James Bernal
Subject: Tomorrow Night: Support Lynn Stewart

A CALL FOR COMPASSION AND SPEAK OUT FOR LYNNE STEWART THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2005 – 7:00 P.M.
THE COMMUNITY CHURCH OF NEW YORK
35TH Street at Park Avenue – NYC (#6 TO 33rd St.) [B, D, F, N, Q, R, V, W to 34th St.-Herald Sq.]

FEATURING: Faye Moore, VP Grievances and Legal Services Social Service Employees Union Local 371 AFSME Jessica Sandiemente, Justice Committee Senator Thomas Duane, NYS Senate Father Luis Barrios, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Associate Professor John Jay College Jerry Sallek, New York City Teacher and Educator Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Labor Religious Coalition Imam Talib Abdur Rashid, Imam at Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood Inc. – FOLLOWED BY A SPEAK OUT

We will be joined throughout the evening by: Attorney Ron Kuby, The Raging Grannies, The Welfare Poets,  Randy Credico, comedian/ activist, Vinie Burrow, Actress and Christine Bond, gospel singer

-Attorney Lynne Stewart, age 66, faces 30 years in prison.

-This results from the Bush Administration’s use of the war on terrorism to curtail rights and criminalize advocacy — actions that threaten the very basis of our legal system.

-Her case is alarming because it is part of a profoundly dangerous attempt to circumvent the Bill of Rights and rewrite the constitution by practice and administrative fiat.

-Not to mention what it means for her future and her family.

Our aim is to prevent this travesty of justice to be compounded by a long prison term for Lynne Stewart. And to fill the Hall of Worship with outraged and concerned citizens. Please join us and invite your family, friends and community

Lynne Stewart’s sentencing date is February 24th, 2005 before the Hon. John G. Koeltl, United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York.  500 Pearl Street, New York, NY

The Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
350 Broadway, Suite 700 New York, NY 10013
212-625-9696
http://www.lynnestewart.org

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