ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

December 8, 2006

2006.12.08: Back to the issues (edited version)…

From: L.Antonia Codling
Sent: Friday, December 08, 2006 6:39 PM
Subject: Back to the issues (edited version)…

Sorry for the 2nd intrusion — This is the intended version of my previous email:

It is a sad day at ALAA…
It is a sad day, indeed, when a leader of the Executive Board sends a “call to action” for Civil, CLO/HCLO, Special Lit., PRP, JRD, CAB, CDD (did I leave anyone out?) to mobilize the members to organize around the issues in their offices, and that is viewed as a personal attack and turned into a “popularity contest” by the “leaders”.

The fact still remains, If ALAA — every member, delegate and VP in every Office/Division does not being to organize and prepare to fight and challenge whatever conditions affecting the members in our respective offices, when our K expires, we’ll be scrambling to decide how much of our benefits we’re willing to give up in 2008.

Make no mistake, the struggle for future contract negotiations for 2007 and beyond begins today in each of our offices.  Then, once our leaders come together, as a collective, ALAA can determine what is the 1 thing that binds the 800 of us together as a Union.

If a Union of 800 attorneys cannot come together around the question of present day conditions of caseload, the most glaring of which exists at Bx-JRD (a situation which I am unaware has ever existed), then it is a very sad day at ALAA.  The malpractice issues alone are frightening.

Our common struggles are won when we first resolve to change the conditions in our own offices, and then resolve to stand side-by-side with our brothers and sisters in other offices/Divisions.  If management is not aware that attorneys outside of JRD (or any office) are willing to go to the mat for some clients who have been tossed aside by The Legal Aid Society, then we will never win — we will never win any struggle if we are not willing to fight tooth and nail for our clients.

While it is important to know the history of the struggle around caseloads at JRD, the question still remains:  What are 800 attorneys prepared to do now that the bubble has burst at Bx-JRD.

Where is the fighting spirit of ALAA…
In the spirit of Bob Zuss, put down your ties and pick up your combat boots… because if 800 attorneys can’t go to battle for some our most vulnerable clients, then ALAA has lost its way.

In the spirit of Michelle Maxiam, if 800 attorneys cannot strategically decide the most politically feasible, legally expeditious way to wage a legal battle to obtain the resources so that current clients of LAS be assigned an attorney, then it is a dark day at ALAA.

If someone is more offended by a perceived personal attack than the fact that current clients don’t have an attorney assigned, then ALAA is in a sorry state of affairs.  If the leadership is afraid to step on its own toes, how can it face management, the Board, the State, the City, this society…

ALAA needs to find its way again.  Before it can, it needs to be revived with energetic, tough leadership.  If your Union delegate or VP is burnt out, afraid, doesn’t have the time — let him/her know you are ready and willing to take the baton of Union leadership to the next level.

I cannot sit calmly sit in my office and suffer defeat for some children who 5 days ago did not have an attorney, and no one in the leadership has called for an emergency meeting of ALAA, of management, the Board, OCA, elected officials, the community, or drafted a letter to an editor…

If nobody in ALAA feels this is a crisis and is not prepared to work night and day to bring short and long term solutions to the problem, then LAS and ALAA are doomed.

The one and only thing that distinguishes LAS from any scab organization is its Unions — that’s it.  Outside organizations, while they may not have as many offices and Divisions, they have created smaller law offices to handle their clients’ multi-faceted legal problems.  The unique quality of ALAA has historically been that we have been willing to fight for better conditions for ourselves and our clients.  We are losing our fighting spirit.  It is all but lost when leadership is more offended by a perceived personal attack than the fact that current clients don’t have an attorney assigned.

I salute the leadership and membership in Brooklyn CDD!  While they may not agree on everything, they have found the 1 issue around which they will organize, advocate and fight.  I wholeheartedly support the greivance — its critical analysis is directly on point, principled, forceful and inspirational!

Your ideas beyond the written words, if supported by the majority and strategically planned, could someday lead to success.  The question remains, what are the rest of us prepared to do?  Is our brother’s and our clients’ struggle for quality legal representation one we can claim as our own.

I refuse to back down from injustice.  The current crisis at BX-JRD is horrifying and unimaginable, as is the caseload crisis at Brooklyn CDD.
I choose not to accept the notion that there will never be adequate funding for mandated legal services for poor people.

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