ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

October 17, 2006

2006.10.17: RE: Delegates Council Meeting Tonight (Editorial)

From: Susan Morris
Sent: Tuesday, October 17, 2006 2:39 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; James A. Bernal
Subject: RE: Delegates Council Meeting Tonight (Editorial)
(Note to Brooklyn folks – this is not an exact dubplicate of what I sent out to you.)


Yes, we spoke with our lawyer last night while we were at the EB. Yes, there are certainly legal ramifications regarding which course we take next. Jim will be sharing these with you tonight at the DC. I was at last night’s meeting, and even knowing what these ramifications are, I stand by my statement above – DO NOT SEND THIS CONTRACT TO THE MEMBERS.

First – This is an incredibly divisive contract, for the following reasons:

This contract pits junior attorneys against non-junior attorneys by giving far bigger raises to steps 1-4.

This contract pits junior CDD attorneys against non-junior CDD attorneys via the concession of giving up comp days as viable banked leave days.

This contract pits divisions against each other by asking CDD for a HUGE give back – the comp days. It further puts CAB against the rest of us by requiring that CAB give up 5 lousy personal days per year.

We – the ENTIRE union membership – have struggled for years to make the other divsions comparable to CDD by demanding that management give them personal days in the first place. We have continued to struggle to give comp days to non-CDD people by virtue of their late sessions in court (JRD) and their required attendance at community meetings, housing committees, etc. (Civil). No wins yet, but we forge on.

When CDD gives up banked days, the union’s efforts to create parity with other divisions and their overtime issues will be for naught and will be officially useless in the future. When CAB gives up its personal days, the other divisions’ personal days will be right behind on the next contract.

Second – This contract is FULL of give backs.

The obvious give back is the banking of CDD comp days for leave purposes.

Another obvious give back is CAB’s personal days.

But wait! There’s MORE! Some members of the bargaining committee/EB are claiming that we have a huge success in getting a 24-month contract. I ask you, where is the success in getting a 24-month contract when only 9 months of it includes a raise? This contract provides a 15-month WAGE FREEZE.

If this contract is ratified, then every member must be prepared to push the EB and the leadership to NEVER GO WITHOUT A CONTRACT AGAIN. To agree to a 15-month wage freeze sets a very bad precedent. We MUST begin bargaining in January to ensure that we are never again working without a contract if we agree at this juncture to a contract that only gives a raise post-bargaining.

Bargaining in the middle of an RFP process is going to be a complicated proposition indeed. And yet, we will have no choice if we agree to a wage freeze as part of this package.

Additionally, the language which management has suggested regarding the involvement of the ALAA in the Affirmative Action POlicies of the organization is not at all close to that proposed byt the bargaining committee (with extensive feedback and input from ACLA), and the language of the current contract is actully better than the new, suggested language.

Yes, the leadership and members of the EB are still working to “tweak” certain aspects – the personal days for CAB as well as the Affirmative Action language, among other things.

These “tweaks,” however, do not create a non-divisive contract. Nor do they ensure that we can ever again hope to realistically get a contract that assures pay raises throughout the life of that contract.

>>> James Rogers 10/17 11:57 AM >>>

At tonights Delegates Council meeting we will discuss managements last offer.

Starting this week there will be membership meetings in all the offices to continue the discussion of the contract.

The Executive Board met last night and will meet again November 2.
James Rogers
Association of Legal Aid Attorneys
(UAW 2325)(AFL-CIO)
568 Broadway Room 702 A
New York NY 10012

October 16, 2006

2006.10.16: Lynne Stewart Gets 28 months

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Islamophobia,Sentencing — nyclaw01 @ 11:49 am

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Monday, October 16, 2006 2:47 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBER
Subject: Lynne Stewart Gets 28 months

16 October 2006 2:33PM

Civil Rights Lawyer Sentenced to 28 Months

NEW YORK — Civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart was sentenced this afternoon to 28 months in prison on a terrorism charge for helping an Egyptian sheik communicate with his followers on the outside.

The 67-year-old Stewart, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, smiled as the judge announced his decision to send her to prison for less than two-and-a-half years. She had faced up to 30 years in prison.

Stewart’s defense lawyer, Elizabeth Fink told the judge just before the sentence was pronounced: “If you send her to prison, she’s going to die. It’s as simple as that.”

Stewart was convicted in 2005 of providing material support to terrorists. She had released a statement by Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind sheik sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted in plots to blow up five New York landmarks and assassinate Egypt’s president.

Prosecutors have called the case a major victory in the war on terrorism. They said Stewart and other defendants carried messages between the sheik and senior members of an Egyptian-based terrorist organization. Prosecutors say that helped spread Abdel-Rahman’s call to kill those who did not subscribe to his extremist interpretation of Islamic law.

In a letter to the sentencing judge, Stewart proclaimed: “I am not a traitor.”

October 13, 2006

2006.10.13: Reminder: Lynne Stewart Sentencing Monday

From: Julie N. Fry
Sent: Friday, October 13, 2006 3:39 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; James A. Bernal
Subject: Reminder: Lynne Stewart Sentencing Monday

I hope our union will turnout for her rally on Monday morning.

Here’s the info again: MONDAY, OCTOBER 16 – Tom Paine Park (Foley Square) Centre St and Worth St, Manhattan (#6, J, M to Brooklyn Bridge or Chambers Street) 8a.m., 9 am** Lynne Stewart’s Sentencing

2006.10.13: Re: Message to EB: Fight on. Continue to listen to the members.

I must begin my response to your analysis of management’s “last offer” by saying that you do an injustice to the efforts historically of all the members of CDD. You obviously have forgotten that the biggest division of LAS agreed to give backs in our last contract to save 12 jobs in the Civil Division. Those givebacks would not now be our daily reality without the full approval of CDD. We in CDD have struggled, in the past, along with all the other divisions to create and maintain a union that looks after all it’s members.

With regards to comp time, it is true that we should all be able to claim comp time. However, that is not the reality now though we have ALL fought for that in all the contracts. We shoulld have a right to use the banked comp days on leaves. Many of us have made crucial decisions based on our ability to be able to use our comp days. We have worked hard for them. Management should not be allowed to basically say to senior attorneys (most) that you must leave if you want them.

This is a contract that does not give us our retroactive pay. The so called raise of 3% begins in 1/07!! What happened to the 4% our bargaining committee said was the BOTTOM LINE?

We need a context to better understand why our leadership would even recommend that we ratify this contract. Like always, we are nearing the end of the process asking for info we should have had all along.


Azalia Torres
The Legal Aid Society

>>> [D] 10/13/2006 11:07:39 AM >>>

While I hesitate to use email to explain this because of Mg’ment access, it seems that people are too busy to come to meetings in Bklyn CDD, I resort to email. I know this is long, but I’ve tried to express the situation completely and directly.

I’m afraid that there’s a certain lack of information re the current package. It’s important that members understand the big picture. As an important aside, our people justifiably complained in the past about the Board and Upper Mg’ment’s fiscal incompetence. Well now they’re competent with a vengeance, and we have access to the records indicating that.

At the Bklyn ALAA open delegates meeting yesterday, what I attempted to explain to the few who attended was as follows. For over twenty years, different members of our bargaining unit have been treated differently with no justification other than the Board getting over. JRD and Civil Division women and parents have never enjoyed the (fully deserved) benefit that CDD people enjoyed, use of comp time to extend various leaves. The bargaining record is that Mgmt has consistently rejected the concept of comp time for the other divisions, despite people in those divisions easily working just as hard and long as folks in CDD. The best we were able to achieve for the other divisions is 5 “personal days.” Note that this the historical record for purposes of arbitration.

I. The Legal Picture

The use of comp time in conjunction with leaves is not specifically protected in our contract. Further, our contract contains qualifications of leaves dependent on staffing, workload, etc. In other words, our right to use of these comp days is something that Mg’ment could bargain with us to impasse on, and then impose unilaterally. We could arbitrate it. But aside from the costs of the arbitration, is the question of our likelihood of success on the merits. At this point, my understanding is that our chances would be dim, though I’m not 100% certain of that. Despite comp day use during leaves being and established pattern and practice, the detrimental reliance by members upon this practice, the countervailing arguments would obviously be: bargaining history, lack of explicit contractual protection, lack of contractual protection for all other divisions, qualifications having to do with staffing considerations and budget with an admittedly overworked staff (more fully explained below).

II. The Financial Picture

The other problem that I tried to explain to folks at the meeting yesterday was the financial problems posed by this benefit, as understood by our newly competent board. At any one time during the fiscal year, there are 10 attorneys from CDD utilizing this benefit. Costed out, the price-tag of this benefit is $770,000 per year (10 atty’s at average cost of about $70,000 per year).

Now the overall wage package is about $2,100,000. $770,000 is about 35% of that wage package. JRD, CIVIL DIV, and CDD attorneys who do not have those banked comp days are all aware of that (or certainly their representatives know that). Further, if you factor out the first four steps, the $770,000 is 55% of the wage package for steps 5 – 30 (the steps where people are most likely to have banked comp days).

III. My Position

So, given the information that I have at this point, I understand our predicament as follows:

If we refuse to accept this contractual provision re comp days and leaves, our newly “competent” Board will nevertheless be able to unilaterally impose this change, along with our risking the loss of 35-55% of the wage package for a majority of union members who don’t enjoy this benefit to begin with.

If the facts that I rely on are correct, I advised the Delegates meeting yesterday, that I would be irresponsible not to recommend an concedely imperfect package in an attempt to cobble together the interests of ALL union members. Please also note that myriad compromise solutions were proposed to save the comp days as soon as we were aware of Mg’ments position. These included phasing them out gradually, capping them, etc. They were all flatly rejected.

As another aside, if there is one issue that to me stands in the way of ratification of the package, it is not phasing out retiree dependent care benefits after the 1 or 2 members affected, given the tiny number of people immediately affected, and the potentially dire consequences of such termination. But on this, I also have to defer to the suggestions and advice of BC members more intimately familiar with those individual’s personal circumstances.

I don’t see representing Bklyn CDD in a manner that is contrary to the interests of the entire union. This is a benefit that for better or worse, was never extended to the other divisions, and which CDD has yet to go to the wall for re the other divisions. If that were not the case, that would obviously be of paramount signficance in re-evaluating this situation. But I can only take note of how our otherwise very vocal CDD members are historically relatively silent about fighting to extend these protections to JRD and Civil Division women and parents. This doesn’t strike me as the type of solidarity necessary to overcome the very fomidable limitations facing us at this very late hour, to protect comp day leaves in CDD, let alone extend them to other divisions.

ALAA members are free to reject this package and tell the BC to go back to the drawing board, and we will be bound by that decision. At this time however, based on consulting with representatives of our entire union, my take is that most members will not risk the 35-55% of the wage package for a benefit that a shrinking minority enjoys.

>>> [R] 10/12 7:15 PM >>>
The comp restriction, as it especially impacts women in our offices who banked scores of comp days in anticipation of an eventual maternity leave, is simply unacceptable. It should be a non-starter. I have a colleague who worked hard for years to save 100 days. She’s now 5 months pregnant and being told that she may not use a single one of these days toward her maternity leave, save for those earned in the last few months. Leadership should not stand for this. In the end it only encourages her to leave LAS, as it is the only way for her to cash in these days.

Additionally, we each should consider how unattractive the economic offer would have looked had it been made at the time our contract ran out. It would have been no increase in salary until 15 months later, when we would see a 3% rise, and a lump sum that amounts to little more than $1,000 after taxes (for most of us) – and not to be received until 1 year later! Now we have been without a contract for 1 year. This offer doesn’t feel any better now than it would have back then. Nor should it.

It may be that some feel OK about this recent offer b/c their fears about losing Oxford and sick days are now over. This tactic was probably used to manipulate our fears and weaken our resolve on salary issues. But we won those benefits back regardless, so now let’s fight the good fight for salary as well. Hell, let’s really fight for parity. We’ve got the moral ground on this issue. We must each speak up in order to give the EB the resolve and courage they’ll need to get us better salaries on par with ADAs, Corp. Counsel, AGs, et. al.. We deserve nothing less and should accept nothing less. Public Defenders across the nation make more salary than us and we live in the most expensive city in the country.

I would like our leadership to produce a chart that compares what we sought in our demands vs.what we have gained so far, not what was originally offered vs. what the “final” offer is. Comparing against management’s first offer is not appropriate. A first offer in an adversarial bargaining scenario should not act as the standard by which a contract is measured. We are all lawyers. We should know that “final offer” is a relative term subject to the will and resolve of all of us. If we took the first “final offers” on all of our criminal cases, our clients would not be well served. The same is true in civil litigation. Shouldn’t we treat ourselves at least as well as lawyers treat their clients?

>>> [N] 10/12 2:21 PM >>>
One of the concerns I have as a junior attorney is that management’s proposal is being touted as providing huge benefits/incentives to junior attorney’s in step’s 1-4, because of the proposed increase. Accepting an increase that is not equal to that of the senior attorneys we work with is not as attractive as management would like it to seem.

Junior attorneys should take notice of the lack of retroactive pay (which is the case for all attys), and more importantly the failure to offer junior attorneys a bonus/lump sum payment. We have all been working in good faith since Oct. 1, 2005, without a contract under the assumption that once one was finalized it would be retroactive. For atty’s in steps 1-4, this proposal fails to recognize the work we have been doing since our contract expired and the onerous debts with which most of us begin our careers. It is not good enough to suggest that getting a larger increase than senior attorneys going forward negates the obligation to recognize the work we have done over the last year or to offer a truly livable wage.

Additionally, attorneys who are in step 4 who will move into step 5 around January 1, are particularly disadvantaged. Not only do they not receive retro pay or the lump sum bonus payments, they will not see the advantage of the step 1-4 increase.

This proposal serves to create a division between junior and senior attorneys, is a threat to union solidarity, and establishes a dangerous precedent going forward.

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