ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

November 20, 2006

2006.11.20: Re: Unauthorized and Risky Picket

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Monday, November 20, 2006 1:41 PM
To: James Rogers; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Re: Unauthorized and Risky Picket

Last Wednesday afternoon, Jim Rogers broadcast the e-mail below asserting that “certain ALAA Members are involved in the planning and carrying out of tonight’s unauthorized picket by some 1199 Members at the Annual LAS Boardof [sic] Directors Meeting.” That, he claimed, “will seriously jeopardize the most recent efforts to improve the Board’s offer to our union,” so “[a]ll ALAA Members are strongly encouraged to not participate.”

His statement is wrong both factually, and as a matter of principle.

The facts are that last Tuesday morning, 1199 members voted by nearly 60 percent to reject management’s latest contract offer. At the end of the vote, a group of 1199 members discussed distributing a leaflet at Legal Aid’s annual meeting on Wednesday night. In the spirit of solidarity, I forwarded that leaflet to the ALAA e-list; to my knowledge, ALAA members neither planned nor participated in that leafleting.

As a matter of principle, it is unconscionable for an ALAA president to denigrate efforts by sister-union members to fight for a fair contract.  Equally damaging, it reflects a dead-end policy of disarming our own union in exchange for a contract that still doesn’t include retro pay or meaningful increases above step five, and which still sharply limits or denies the use of comp time to most attorneys — the third round in an astounding series of give-backs in just three years.

The refusal to even speak up about such issues at the annual meeting echoes and surpasses Rogers’ February 2005 public declaration — without membership discussion, vote or even knowledge  —  that “strikes. . . . won’t happen on my watch.”

Our own history offers better alternatives.  In 1992, for example, ALAA and 1199 were “United in Spirit, United in Action” behind a “no contract, no work,” policy, backed up by a joint “inside” campaign of informational pickets, one-day strikes and a wide range of other public action.

As detailed in the attached union document from the 1993 Bargaining Committee, that rank-and-file orientation gave us necessary muscle at the bargaining table to beat back management’s demands for give-backs and to extract the best possible terms — without the need for an all-out strike.

Yes, as we saw in 1994, there are risks in standing up.  And yes, we face threats now that we didn’t then.  But surrender without a fight only ensures that management will keep coming back for more.

Let’s reclaim our legacy as a fighting, democratic union, and creatively adapt it to current conditions.  And let’s demand that union leadership stop sabotaging, and start organizing, solidarity and resistance.

>>> James Rogers 11/15 4:40 PM >>>
It has come to our attention that certain ALAA Members are involved in the planning and carrying out of tonight’s unauthorized picket by some 1199 Members at the Annual LAS Boardof Directors Meeting.

Participation in tonight’s picket by ALAA members will seriously jeopardize the most recent efforts to improve the Board’s offer to our union.

In exchange for calling off the picket, the Board was prepared to agree to set aside funds so that members taking child care or FMLA leaves could use their accrued and banked comp time and have their health care paid for during those leaves.

Participation by our membership (either in the planning or execution) of tonight’s picket may very well endanger that improvement to the contract which our members will vote on later this month.

It is important to note that the 1199 leadership in no way endorses or approves of this picket in any way.  They have chosen a different path to try to re-negotiate their offer.  That too is also in jeopardy.  (At no time did any person from the 1199 leadership ask for our participation in any part of their negotiation or post-vote activities.)

All ALAA Members are strongly encouraged to not participate in tonight’s picket.

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

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