ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

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

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