ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

October 13, 2006

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

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

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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