ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

May 25, 2007

2007.05.25: Antiwar Bulletin: Sun.–Iraq Vets Street Theater

Filed under: Antiwar,Uncategorized — nyclaw01 @ 11:27 am
Tags:

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Friday, May 25, 2007 1:41 PM
To: Graciela Lopez; 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS; James Bernal
Subject: Antiwar Bulletin: Sun.–Iraq Vets Street Theater

(Union Free Speech Notice, Below*)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  May 21, 2007

CONTACT:
Jose Vasquez 917-587-3334
Jen Hogg 716-541-8265 jen@ivaw.org

Iraq veterans to use street theater to show true reality of war

Operation First Casualty aims to bring the story of the war to the American people

New York, NY – In an effort to illuminate the true reality of the conflict in Iraq, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will engage in a series of street theater actions around the New York City area on Sunday, May 27.  This day coincides with our national remembrance of Memorial Day on Monday, May 28, which bears particular significance this year as we are in the midst of the fifth year of a war that has claimed the lives of over 3,300 American service members and over 655,000 Iraqis.

Actual veterans of the conflict in Iraq will play the part of American service members – with reenactments that will highlight various aspects of life in combat in Iraq. The event will be treated like a military operation with participants in full military uniform, however, there will be no weapons used at any time.

“We are calling Sunday’s action Operation First Casualty because we believe that truth was the first casualty of this war. Our aim is to show the American public the truth of the US occupation in Iraq,” said Garett Reppenhagen, IVAW board chair and one of the organizers of a previous March 19th OFC event in Washington, DC. “It is time for the American people to know the truth so they will act to bring the troops home now.”

In actions staged around the city, local activist volunteers will act as civilians in realistic portrayals of actual interactions between U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. The result will be a lot of shouting, commotion and tension on the busy streets of NYC – giving the American public a taste of what Iraqis and U.S. troops deal with day in and day out.

Participants hope that by giving the American public a sense of the ugly reality of the war they will then be inspired to act to end the war now.

Iraq Veterans Against the War was founded in 2004 to give those who have served in the military since September 11, 2001 a way to come together and speak out against an unjust, illegal and unwinnable war. Today, IVAW is made up of over 400 members in 42 states, Washington, D.C., Canada and serving in bases overseas.

IVAW gives its members the opportunity not only to connect with other veterans and active duty soldiers but also to speak with one voice. As members of IVAW, they go to colleges, middle schools, high schools, churches, libraries, and to the media – and give first-hand accounts of what is really happening in Iraq. As eyewitnesses and participants in the war on terror, they are viewed as credible sources that are able to explain why the war must end now.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT IVAW, VISIT IVAW.ORG

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*Union Free Speech Notice
This message, like thousands of others that have been posted to the ALAA e-list, constitutes protected free speech, pursuant to Collective Bargaining Agreement, §§ 3.5 (“The expression of personal religious, political, social or economic beliefs of each and every attorney is fully guaranteed and will never constitute grounds for discharge or relief from an individual assignment unless, in either instance, it can be demonstrated that such expression has, or will, directly interfere(d) with, and detract from, representation of a Society client so as to render said representation less than at the highest level of competence and effectiveness.”) and 1.5 (“The Union will have reasonable use of the Society’s internal communication mechanisms.”).

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May 24, 2007

2007.05.24: 45 Brooklyn CDD Members For Azalia

The undersigned ALAA members in Brooklyn CDD strongly support Azalia Torres’ presidential candidacy.

Throughout her twenty years as a Staff Attorney and ALAA activist, Azalia has proven herself a tenacious and dedicated champion of democratic, fighting unionism.

She has sought to empower union members and to hold union leadership accountable. She has fought tirelessly for affirmative action, for senior attorneys, and for all our members.

As a member of ALAA’s leadership for nearly twenty years, Azalia’s honesty and integrity is beyond question, for she has fearlessly stood up for her beliefs — even when it meant standing nearly alone on the Executive Board against the disastrous givebacks surrendered since 2002 without a fight and presented to the membership as a done deal.

She knows that the Union must lobby effectively for Legal Aid funding. But she also believes that the Union must ensure that a fair share of the Society’s budget – which now stands at more than $180 million a year – is used for decent Staff Attorney salary and benefits.

To do that, she believes that the Union leadership’s job is not to frighten the members into surrendering our hard-won gains, or to pay for new hiring out of our pockets.

Rather it is to provide us once again with full written reports and *organize* us to take creative, effective action to reverse give-backs, win better salaries and benefits, and enforce our contract.

She also believes the Union must once again stand with our clients and their communities, particularly in response to systemic police violence and racist sentencing laws.

In other words, she offers the leadership necessary to restore this union as a strong, effective and principled advocate for its members and clients.

If you agree with us, please raise your voice and speak out.

Shailly Agnihotri (Arraignments)
Ayisha Amjad (Cx 1)
Noha Arafa (Cx 5)
Marisa Benton (Cx 4)
Simone Berman-Rossi (Cx 5)
Jennifer Burkavage (Cx 3)
Cynthia Colt (Cx 3)
Femi Disu (Cx 5)
Kate Fitzer (Cx 1)
Julie Fry (Cx 4)
Christine Gau (Cx 3)
Andrea Gordon (Cx 3)
Manuela Hernandez (Cx 5)
Michael Higgins (Cx 3)
Clinton Hughes (Cx 1)
Sigmund Israel (Cx 3)
Melissa Kanas (Cx 4)
Emily Kane (Cx 1)
Steve Kliman (Cx 1)
Robyn Lear (Cx 5)
Aida Leisenring (Cx 3)
Adrian Lesher (Cx 5)
Michael Letwin (Cx 3)
Kathryn Liverani (Cx 2)
Christopher Madiou (Cx 4)
Eric Meggett (Cx 4)
Susan Morris (Cx 3)
Nicole Mull (Cx 4)
Luanne Muller (Cx 4)
David Ocasio (Cx 4)
Ivan Pantoja (Cx 5)
Michael Pate (Cx 3)
Lisa Pitts (Cx 2)
Karena Rahall (Cx 4)
Brendan Relyea (Cx 3)
Tasha Ricks (Cx 3)
Jennifer Ritter (Cx 3)
Jacob Rolls (Cx 5)
Tara Shakur (Arraignments)
Steven Sindos (Cx 3)
Kathryn Thiesenhusen (Cx 3)
Steven Terry (Cx 5)
Richard Torres (Cx 4)
Rebecca Turner (Cx 5)
Dawn Yuster (Cx 4)

May 23, 2007

2007.05.23: Correcting the Record About ALAA’s 1994 Strike (Michael Letwin)

From: Michael Letwin
Date: Wednesday – May 23, 2007 2:37 PM
Attachments 10.3.94 Video Transcript.wpd (76021 bytes)

In the course of defending Union givebacks under the current leadership, several members have engaged in selective amnesia and/or outright fabrication about the 1994 strike, the essence of which is that a strike-happy leadership tricked the membership into striking by hiding Giuliani’s threats of retaliation, or by exaggerating the support we could expect from other unions.[1] Some other participants in the 1994 strike (including supporters) have failed to challenge these distortions.Such groundless distortions only sabotage legitimate debate about the lessons to be drawn from the strike (and any other aspect of our history). To set the record straight — again and hopefully for the last time — and to help illuminate the true arguments on each side, [below] is the video transcript of the October 3, 1994 membership meeting at which the strike was debated and passed.

Along with other material cited below, it shows that prior to the October 3 strike vote: (1) The whole city knew about Giuliani’s threat; (2) Union leadership did everything short of outright surrender to avert a strike; (3) Union leadership repeatedly cautioned members about the risks of a strike; and (4) Members knowingly voted to accept those risks.

1. The Whole City Knew About Giuliani’s Threat

For at least two days before the strike vote, Giuliani publicly threatened to cancel the Legal Aid Society’s criminal defense contract in response to a strike. For example:

* “The Giuliani administration has threatened to terminate the city’s contract with LAS in the event of a walk-out.” NY1, October 1, 1994.

* “Mayor Giuliani is saying you strike, you’re fired. He has threatened to dismiss 1,000 Legal Aid lawyers if they [vote to strike].” WOR-AM Radio, October 3, 1994, 7:06 a.m.

* “Mayor Giuliani has threatened to cancel the existing [city] contract.” Stirgus & Miner, Disorder in the court if angry Legal Aid lawyers go on strike, N.Y. Post, October 3, 1994, 12:1.

* “What my administration will do is exercise the city’s legal rights under the contract if they refuse to go to work, which is to cancel the contract.” Lewis & Mooney, Giuliani re-torts to strike, Threatens Legal Aid lawyers with firing, N.Y. Daily News, October 3, 1994, 8:1.

2. Union Leadership Did Everything Short of Outright Surrender to Avert a Strike

As reflected in the attached, the Union leadership had sought to avoid a strike by minimizing the Union’s demands. When even those were not met, management insisted that, unless the Union Bargaining Committee recommended the Society’s offer, it would not honor that offer; to permit members the option of accepting the offer, the BC did “recommend” it.

3. Union Leadership Repeatedly Cautioned Members About the Risks of a Strike

As highlighted in red in the attached transcript, the Union leadership repeatedly and unambiguously stressed the seriousness of Giuliani’s threats.

4. Members Knowingly Voted to Accept Those Risks

Whatever one now thinks about the strike, there is no doubt that members made a fully informed, rational and deliberate decision. In the best tradition of Union democracy, dissent was not only permitted, but encouraged. Among the most vocal strike supporters were members who have subsequently sought to blame the decision on others. (Jim Rogers, for example, argued: “You have to strike. . . . They [Management] have the money and they won’t give it to us.”)

——–

Notes

1. For example:

Lorin Nathan, May 21, 2007, 12:20 p.m.: “At that [strike vote] meeting, the Union leadership, as well as counsel for our Union (whose name escapes me) either failed to advise the membership, or else strongly downplayed, that they had received a communication from the Mayor that if we voted to strike our contract with the City would be immediately cancelled (which is exactly what happened.). The details of this communication only came to light after the cancellation, which occurred immediately after the vote to strike was taken. The strike vote was thus, in my opinion, based on inaccurate and misleading advice from the leadership of the Union.”

Allen Popper, May 21, 2007, 12:27 p.m.: “I do however agree with [Nathan’s] view of the facts of the 1994 meeting. As a Union Leader and active Union Representative from Queens at that time (I am now in Brooklyn), your view of the facts of 1994 is 100% accurate.”; May 17, 2007, 12:43 p.m.: “I have come to the conclusion that our Union Leadership (and Iwas one at the time), did a crappy job regarding the strike. We did not properly advise the members of the consequences.”

————-

Video Transcript of October 3, 1994 Strike Meeting

(1199 Camera)

00:00 [Michael Williams (Civil) and Letwin discuss salary comparability offer in response to Gary Greenberg (Manhattan CDD). Bad sound.]

0:05:00 Michael Letwin: [Explaining why BC “recommended” offer to membership] Something that the Bargaining Committee, especially in the last four years, had to really deal with, is concern at various times from the membership that perhaps we would lead you into a strike. You remember 1990, when that was a major theme among much of the membership. Even last time, there was some concern that perhaps the Bargaining Committee was pushing people into a strike that they didn’t want.

So, the point was, if you were going to vote on whatever was on the table, just as you are now, you’ll hear our recommendation, and we’re very glad that you didn’t like what we had suggested. But we had to make sure that nobody could fail to understand that we had done our utmost, maybe even more than our utmost, and more than you would like done, so that the burden of taking on a strike, and whatever blame anyone might want to attach to it, is something we all take responsibility for [applause], and that it’s clear that the [inaudible][wild applause] . . . you now have the opportunity to vote yourselves, and I hope you vote the right way [laughter].

0:07:50 Letwin: Our responsibility as the Bargaining Committee is to bring you the best of what management will offer. The best that management will offer may stink—and in fact it does. But our job is not to decide for you what you get to vote on and don’t get to vote on. So, what I would suggest at this point, folks, is that we focus on factual questions regarding the offer. If you don’t understand this offer, let’s talk about that. If you do, let’s move on to the vote [applause].

0:08:32 Daniel Engelstein (ALAA Legal Counsel): [Explains BC’s last offer to avoid a strike, which is no longer on the table in the event of a strike]

0:10:00 Jean Mandic (Brooklyn CDD)[Inaudible, responded to by Michael Williams]

011:16 Letwin: This is the key that people have to understand, and the reason why the Bargaining Committee is recommending very strongly against this offer. You will see if you look at this chart, that, especially in 1996, the best and the worst case offer scenarios. . . our [health] contributions essentially skyrocket. . . . That’s why . . . family contributions under the indemnity plan go up from the current level of in the $70s per paycheck to a best case scenario of $200 and a worst-case scenario of $250.

What this means is that we will be worse off, much worse off, at the end of that second year, in terms of our total compensation package, than we are right now. That’s why it’s a compensation cut for us and that’s why the Bargaining Committee absolutely rejected it . . . [long inaudible portions]

0:26:57 Letwin: [Poor sound] It’s really a question of your own judgement as to how serious a threat [Giuliani] is. Our feeling on the Bargaining Committee is that Giuliani very well may mean to try to [cancel the Society’s criminal defense contract]. He wants to prove what a tough guy he is. He wants to show how he can bust unions. He’s going after the city unions. He’s going after everybody who is on our end of the spectrum, whether they’re poor or union, or whatever. So on one level you have to take him at face value for his intentions.

The question, and I think you know the answer to this as well as we do, is how can he really replace us, in other words, what would he replace us with, especially given the [N.Y.] Times expose about 18-B and the critical cost factor that brings to a city which is busy cutting everything right and left. So, the Bargaining Committee has no better idea than you do as to him. We certainly cannot guarantee you one way or another as to what the result will be.

We all have to use our best guess as to if we vote to strike, and if we hold tough, what his alternatives will be. But I think we can certainly expect that he will at least make a gesture, and perhaps more than a gesture, towards carrying out his threat. And then the question is what kind of response will we be able to mobilize in return. But we don’t have a clear-cut answer on that.

0:28:30 Letwin: For what it’s worth, there’s a letter that you all got on that table from Congressman Major Owens. We had a number of speakers at the rally last Thursday in front of 15 Park Row from other unions. I think that, just as Giuliani sees this as a test to send a message to the unions, to send a message to other people, we at least hope that those other unions and those other people will stand by us because they understand that it is a test too.

0:30:59 Letwin: The Bargaining Committee, every single [round of contract negotiations], comes in with a whole list of everything you could ever want. And management, every single time, says no. And the reason they say no is because they expect us to come in and say all that stuff. What they don’t believe is that you’re going to stand by us. They don’t believe it.

That’s why we’re here today. If management believed that you were prepared to stand by it, they wouldn’t have left this weekend with no additional offer. I think we need to be aware of that, not because it’s a matter of who is to blame for what, but because we have to understand what the dynamic at work here is. Until and unless they believe you—not us, you—we have no strength at the bargaining table or anywhere else.

0:36:14 Karen Moulding (Manhattan CDD): [Concern about slippery slope of health insurance givebacks demanded by Management; concern for probationary employees who strike]

0:38:57 Letwin: I can’t imagine us settling on an offer that in any way compromises the jobs of the new people. [Applause]

0:39:38 Rene Levitan (Manhattan CDD): [Recounts CDD head Bob Baum’s threat to new class of layoff due to Giuliani cuts]

0:40:38 Letwin: We’re not to going to let you guys [new attorneys] stand alone.

0:40:50 Tom Curtis (Manhattan JRD): [Quotes Giuliani threat to cancel contract]: I’ve heard nothing about what I would characterize as legal sabotage as an alternative to the strike, which means going in like the sit-down strikers did at Ford and GM in the 30s and asking for a hearing on every fucking case, in every fucking instance. No pleas. Trials on every case.

My client is entitled to it. I know when I take pleas, I got to talk my client into it. If I don’t talk him into it, he wants a trial. I’m willing to do a trial on every fucking instance that I have an opportunity to do. . . . There are alternatives. . . . I think the strike is an obsolete weapon and in the case of this strike it would be stupid to be brought back to the floor by the 18-Bs and the other people who would walk in and do the cases without us.

0:42:33 Letwin: You did hear from the podium exactly about Rudy Giuliani’s threat. . . . The reason why the entire Executive Committee, which you elect, unanimously voted to put this as the main motion was at the very least so that management didn’t think that coming up to today that they could play off all kinds of things other than a strike. We were trying to put the maximum pressure on to get the best offer for you to vote on today. . . . You have every democratic right, Tom, or anybody else in this room, to amend that motion in any way you like.

0:44:05 Letwin: The Bargaining Committee, despite the best offer that we tried to bring back to you, nonetheless has a strong recommendation, and this is also the recommendation of the Executive Committee, and I believe it was virtually, if not entirely unanimous, that the offer before us is simply unacceptable. That a cut in compensation is unacceptable. That the senior litigator position is unacceptable. That rising in health costs being passed on to us is unacceptable.

And that, although we are quite aware of the risks involved—and we must take the Giuliani threats seriously—that we simply are at a point now that for us to accept an offer like this is far worse a threat than rejecting it and doing whatever is the alternative, whether it be strike or whatever else this body proposes today.

And for that reason, and with a fair amount of concern about possible consequences, and trying to be honest about what those consequences could be, we nonetheless believe that by standing together, by fighting the good fight as we do every day, but fighting it this time on the streets, we believe that’s the course to take.

046:00 [Letwin yes and no floor mikes]

047:31 Tom Bomba (Staten Island CDD/Sr. Atty Rep.): [Inaudible] The BC tried its best to get the best offer. . . . It is completely unacceptable.

0:52:43 Nancy Ginsburg (JRD VP): [We should strike to make JRD head Lenore Gittis listen]

[Sound improves]

0:52:56 Richard Armstrong (Manhattan CDD). We come to you as victims of conciliation. We come to you as victims of reasonableness. We come to you as victims of good faith. Any doubt that your managers don’t respect you in the least bit should have been wiped away when you. . . .

I basically begged my boro to accept, to take on a bunch of extra work, with the idea that this would result in some kind of money, in some kind of offer. Well, do I feel like a fool. The first offer that we got was zero, it told us exactly where we stood. And then when they came out with this final offer bullshit, and then the final, final offer, it tells us even further where we stand.

This, to a large extent, is about respect. I’m sure that in the debate it’s going to come up, people are gonna say, “well, I’m on the losing end of the money issue; I’m gonna hurt my family; I’m worried about losing my job.“

Well, all of that is true for everyone in this room. But, you will never, ever, get any respect from your managers, and from this Legal Aid Society, if you accept this contract today. [Applause] The time for reasonableness is gone. The time for conciliation is gone. The time for good faith bullshit is gone. It’s time to vote to strike. [Applause]

0:55:36: [? Queens CDD] [Strike is a bad idea, lose money, we’re not going to get respect in this job]

0:58:00 Tom Theopolis (Queens CDD): I consider myself a conservative Republican and pro- management and I am in favor of a strike. [Motion to reject any offer that doesn’t guarantee new atty jobs–passed unanimously by enthusiastic voice vote]

0:59:53 David Affler (Criminal Appeals Bureau): [Offer is shit, but strike is a mistake] We may very well be voting ourselves out of a job. [Amends to authorize BC to accept contract without senior atty proposal and with guaranteed second-year bonus, management percentage of the health increase, step 13; with self-executing strike in one week/seconded]. The reality is that we could be out for months before we get it.

1:02:45 Chuck Ippolito (Bronx CDD): One benefit of a strike under these circumstances is that it will guarantee better contract offers in the next several contracts. That’s exactly what happened in 1982. . . . [Tying up the system while going into court] is highly unethical. When we go into court we cannot act on our own benefit. If a hearing is not to our client’s benefit, we can’t do it to tie up the system; it’s unethical!

[Addresses junior attorneys]. . . . Don’t listen to the supervisors who are trying to scare the shit out of you. They’re scared for their jobs, not yours . . . Giuliani said that he’s gonna to pull the plug twenty-four hours after we take a strike vote, he didn’t say he’s gonna do it today. There’s got to be a reason for that.

We take a strike vote, you guys take a walk with me this afternoon, and sometime tonight our employers are going to call our lawyer and they’re going to say what the best offer is. [Massive applause].

1:07:09 David Lewis (Federal Defender Division). That’s what people thought in 1982 when I was on strike last. They thought it would be a one-day strike. It wasn’t. It was a ten-week strike. They can do without us for ten weeks. They can do without us for maybe longer. And maybe Rudy Giuliani would like to do without us forever. Ten weeks is 20% of our salary. There’s about 3% difference, maybe, being generous, between us and management. It will take seven years for you to see the money. You will never see that money if you have a job [?]

Now I’m with the Federal Defender Division [disruption] I was a picket captain in 1982. And I also litigated against Rudy Giuliani. He is a man who means what he says. I do not wish to strike, and the reason I speak today is that I’ve worked all my life for this institution, The Legal Aid Society. I am still a staff attorney. I admire the work of the Society. I do not wish to see it commit suicide. I believe that is a genuine possibility.

Through ten weeks, groups can be put together to do your work. The work was done for ten weeks by others. The courts didn’t like it much and we didn’t like it either, because we weren’t working. But they did it. And in ten weeks Rudy Giuliani knows many talented legal people who might like to be the head of a new public defender run by the City of New York and not by an independent agency.

This is possible. You must think about this. You must think about this. Do you wish to drive your fellows to lose their jobs. Maybe he’ll replace the Manhattan division; it’s possible. And I don’t want it to happen for another reason. Rudy Giuliani’s campaign is to restructure government. One of the obstacles to his restructuring government is us: our Civil Division, our Prisoners Rights Project, to try to keep the jails from overflowing. And if many of us are not here, so much the better for him.

The cheering is fun and I heard it before. My time is up. I urge you to think about what you are doing like grownups.

1:10:17 Letwin: If you’re voting for a strike it’s not because all the things [David Lewis] said might not be true. Now let’s try to keep that in mind. He went through the ‘82 strike. He paid his dues. He deserves our respect, whether or not you agree with him.

1:10:40 Paul Scotto (Manhattan CDD): Today is my twenty-first anniversary date at the LAS. My primary concern is the city’s threats: how serious are they, how real are they? I haven’t heard anyone yet actually say what the legality is, what the city can do, legally, under the contract . . . Can they simply tomorrow say, the contract’s gone?

1:11:25 Letwin: [There’s no clear-cut answer]. We must assume two things if Giuliani tries to cut us off . . . [Picked up here by 8mm tape]

1:12:25 Carol Fegan (Manhattan JRD) [End; for rest of meeting see 8mm transfers 2 & 1 (in that order)]

Tape 2/From 8mm

0:00:11 Letwin answering Len Egert (Manhattan CDD): . . . If Giuliani tries to cut us off, and I think he’s gonna at least try, we have to assume he’s going to do his best to do it, whether it’s legal or not. And we’re gonna have to assume that we will fight it tooth and nail to make sure it doesn’t go through. But the outcome of that is simply not predictable. It’s more of a political question than a legal question. The issue’s gonna be how much support do we get from the other unions, how does the City Council react? How does the governor react? Those are the kinds of issues. I wish I could give you . . . [Engelstein: I agree with you] We have been looking into this legally, but there’s not going to be a clear legal answer on this. You have to use your political antenna to figure out what the answer is.

0:00:45 Carol Fegan (Manhattan JRD): My last employer was Frank Lorenzo. I think most of you are familiar with Frank Lorenzo. I was a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines. Let me tell you that The Legal Aid Society is even piggier than Eastern Airlines. As most of you know, Frank Lorenzo took Eastern Airlines into bankruptcy after we struck. But I can tell you today that every person who walked that picket line, and struck, and lost a job, yes, lost a job, is happy they did it.

I would also tell you that strikes are scary. It requires each and every one of you to pull on every resource you have. Because once those cameras leave, and I’ll tell you something, they leave damn fast, you become old news in a couple of days, and the weather gets colder and it starts raining. And you say “what the fuck am I doing here?” And the bills keep coming in. And your husband is pissed off. Or your wife is pissed off. Or your kids can’t get those new pair of sneakers.

But having said all that, and I can match my mortgages against anybody’s in this room, and I am middle aged person who gets more scared as the years go by about my future, I can tell you that I would vote yes for this strike. Because we gave—An illustration: at Eastern Airlines, we gave and gave and gave. We gave 20% of our salary one year. We gave part of our medical benefits next year. The following year we gave up our dental benefits. And we lost our jobs finally. Because they won’t stop.

I’ve been here for six years and each contract gets worse. The offers get worse and worse. Because they think that we’re afraid of them. They think they can bring us to our knees because we’re afraid of a public defender coming in and taking our jobs. Well show them that they can’t. New York City is a union town. We all vote. You get out there and you contact every politician in this town that has gotten your vote over the years and you tell them you want them out in that street with you.

00:03:45 Bill Purdy (Bronx CDD): [People want to strike just to get vacation, want to lose jobs, demos fun, about respect] You’re not going to get respect from them by going on strike. . . . I’m not in favor of the offer, I am opposed to strike. . . . Management is scared. Giuliani coming in and saying that we want to pull the Society’s contract, scared a lot of people. And I think it takes time for that message, how scared the supervisors are, to get up to the people who are really offering the dollars and cents. I think a strike at this point is premature. I think they know that we mean business. I think they know we’re serious, and I don’t see the harm in going back to them, coming back here in two days if it takes two days. But I think to vote a strike right now and go out may put ourselves in a situation like it was in 1982 and we may be out for ten weeks.

00:05:59 Len Egert (Manhattan CDD): [City Council Contracts Committee can hold hearings; chair is Ronnie Eldridge, no friend of Giuliani] If [Giuliani] were to rescind an agreement with us, she would hold a hearing, my guess, the next day, and this would turn into a political battle, and she would be on our side in that political battle. So for those of you who are worried about that threat, you need to be worried, but I wouldn’t be too concerned. We’re going to have an agreement, if we vote to strike, way before anything like that happens. [Long strike hard]. . . . What chance to do we have of winning? . . .

Think about this: this primary defender plan in Manhattan [for LAS to take over non-conflict 18-B cases] . . . [Management’s] salivating over this. They’ve got this gift, this jewel that they’ve worked so hard for, and means so much to them. When they think they’re going to lose that, they’re going to go nuts and if we vote to strike today, they’re going to see that slip away immediately, and they’re going to come back with what their real final offer is. . . . They have the money, and the only way we’re going to see a real offer is if we vote to strike. And when we vote to strike, they’re going to come back with that real offer—quick. And when they come back, we can decide to take it. But let’s get the real offer before we decide to just accept whatever they put out. So I say: go to trial. Take the risk, go to trial and go on strike.

0:09:39 Rose Morgan, President, Legal Services Staff Assn. [Supports the strike]

0:16:41 Angela Doyle (1199 VP). We [ALAA and 1199] really have grown closer over the past several years. And I think that’s due in great part to a marvelous [ALAA] executive board. You have a leadership that is easy to work with because they constantly keep their eyes on the prize. . . . We are with you, we are with you, we are with you. . . . Whatever it takes for all of us to get a decent contract out of these penny-pinching bums. . . . Whatever you decide to do, we want you to know we will be with you shoulder to shoulder, whatever it takes, so that we can all walk away from this with a contract we can be proud of.

0:18:47 Akil Al-Jundi (Manhattan CDD, senior 1199 delegate, and survivor of the 1971 Attica Prison uprising): Brothers and sisters, friends and comrades. October 3, 1994 marks a very historic occasion for the ALAA and Local 1199. On Friday, you made a decision to go out for three days [Friday night, September 30, through Sunday, October 2]. Our union also made a decision that on October 3,
1994, today, that we would be on the picket line, on strike, as well.

Striking is not an easy task for workers to do, because of the various subjective reasons that people may give for not wanting to go out. But allow for me to give you some historical significance. We’ve been negotiating, “we” meaning Local 1199 support staff members, from social workers on down to messengers, have been working for the Society for one year without a contract. Not only have we been working without a contract, [but] in our attempts to negotiate a contract as our clients say, [Management] “dissed us.” How can you sit here in front of all these people and make this statement?

The last time that we had an actual negotiations with these people were in April of 1994. They told us then that they were having some problems, that they needed to look at our benefit fund, and that they would get back to us and make the offer. Now, as I stand here in front of you today, October 3, 1994, let me tell you, at the least they had the gumption to offer you some kind of wage increase. It’s pittance, but at least they did offer you one. They have yet to make a monetary offer to us.

So, we’ve waited for them. Nothing happened. Then on July 28, I think it was, they called us. I went there, and I thought that they had something to tell us. They had nothing to tell us. They told us that they asked us to come here so that they can see our faces! Our faces. They don’t need to see our faces, because their middle management people can tell them how we look every day.

So I said to them, I said, “Yo, you ain’t taking us serious. Something’s going to happen.

So they said, “Oh, we’re going to go and check this stuff and we’re going to get back to you because we want to end this stuff by September because we don’t want you to be out when the lawyers are out [on strike].”

So we said, ok, let us wait to see what happens.

September the 21st, 1994 we had a meeting planned. We conducted our meeting. And we said, above everything else, the most important thing for us is that we wanted them to come to the table, to sit down with us and tell us something, tell us something—any old thing. We didn’t get a table. So we made the decision. We recommended, the delegateship, we recommended that we have a one-day strike. But, naturally, we needed to go back to our membership to get their consent.

On the 23d of September 1994, I received a phone call from [management counsel] Bob Batterman.

He said, “Oh, oh, oh, what’s this shit, this shit that’s going on?”

I said, “What are you talking about, sir?”

He said, “You’re not going to let the lawyers dupe you and have you go out with them.”

I said, “Nobody’s going anyplace, sir, what are you talking about?”

He said, “Oh no Akil, you know I’ve always been honest with you [laughter].

He said, “You know, those of you who know me, you know I come from the streets, so I know I have them.”

I said, “Yeah. Well, you know what, I’m going to tell you something: my people are sick and tired of ya’ll. They think that you’ve been disrespectful to them. And so, if you want to win our confidence, then you better come up with something, and you better come up with it soon.”

So he said, “I ain’t shittin you, I ain’t shittin’ you. I’m serious. I want to settle this stuff. Don’t let the lawyers do that to you. Don’t double-team me.”

So I said, “I’m not double-teaming you. We haven’t made no decision as of yet. But like I told you before, if you want to resolve the contradiction, you’ve got to make a move.”

So he said, “Well, here’s my number, I’m going be at 5-18,” something or other, you know, I don’t know. “I’ve been trying to reach [1199 VP] Angela [Doyle]. Tell her to call me. You know, I’m going to be out of town.”

So I said, “Ok.” So I called the union and I passed the information on.

But let me say something to you, right? See, how do people take us? Whether they take us seriously or not is a question. While [Batterman] was saying to me that he wanted to resolve this contradiction, he was packing his bags to go off to Toronto to negotiate the contract for the NHL, for them dogs, those owners, those two-legged dogs, who don’t want nobody to have two of nothin’. They don’t want the players to have nothing, and they don’t want the fans to have anything. So while he was telling us that he was concerned, all he was doing was trying to ally the fears of them folks on the 22d floor of 15 Park Row [LAS HQ], so he could say “Well, I talked to Akil, nothing is gonna happen, and then we can just go on like business as usual.”

Uh huh. Well we a big surprise for they butts. Ok? I spoke to Michael Letwin and we thought that it would be important for us to do this. Because, one, it would enable us to build a better working relationship between the two unions. [Applause]. For those of us who have to look each other in the faces every day, when you need some services done and you have to come to us, and when we are given the orders to do whatever you need done for us to carry it out so that they, on the 22d floor of 15 Park Row, can reap the benefits of our labor.

So, it hurts, it hurts, that we have to take such drastic measures in order to get what we deserve. But I’m gonna tell you something. Frederick Douglass said that “Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never did, and it never will.”

Now, I did not vote for Rudy Giuliani. And I don’t think that the majority of you, who are in here, voted for him also. But he’s the mayor. So what did the Mayor say? Instead of him taking the time and the responsibility to meet with folk to see what was going on, the first thing he did was issue his ultimatum.

He said, “Well, if they’re not in by such and such a day, I’m gonna shut the whole place down.”

So you know what happened? [Management] called me, they was like, “Oh my god, how can you let this happen?”

I said, “What are you talking about?”

They said, “We’re going to be out of a job.”

I said, “Oh shit, I’m going to be out of one too.”

So we all gonna be out of a job. That means [Management counsel] Bob Batterman, [LAS managers] Bob Baum, Nina Epstein, Amy Feldman, Cathy Elliot. Akil Al-Jundi, and my momma, if so be it. But, the fact of the matter is, is that we would have taken a stand. We would have taken, the sister said before, about how you deal with in your relationships. Sometimes, because you see that there’s some good in the relationship, you try to hold on. And sometime, you come to the conclusion that enough is enough is enough. And I stand here, in front of you, my brothers and sisters, in poor health, physically, but in the best of health psychologically, spiritually and politically, because what we are doing is the right thing to do.

We’ve negotiated. We have negotiated and negotiated and negotiated. Alright? And all they want us to do is to take the little bit of crumbs and go away quietly, while they live high off of the hog. But this is a new day. This is a new Legal Aid Society. [Interruption] But the fact of the matter is that we took this stand. You see, because there is some who would like to divert us from what our task is.

But see, the fact of the matter is that, all of us reap the benefits of those who struggle, of those who struggle. So you not in it only for yourselves. You’re in it for those who led the struggle before you, and for those who will come afterwards to lead the struggle. They would have had this as their legacy. So, like they said in the December 12th: straight ahead. [Cheers]

33:20 Michael Bournas-Ney (Volunteer Division): [Giuliani’s looking for 7,000 layoffs, and we’re not among them; we’re paid more than legal services] You could see Giuliani going to the public and saying “these people are representing people accused of brutalizing and robbing you and your families. They make more money than the DAs, and now they want you, the public, to pay them even more.

So in terms of the court of public opinion, I don’t think the public support is there . . . The judge we’re going before is Giuliani. . . . [w]e’re not going to have public support from the jury of the public. We’re not going to face a decent judge, we’re going to face Giuliani. I’m sure the energy in here is similar to what was going on in the PATCO air controller’s strike. . . . They went ahead, and we all know what happened. If we go ahead with the strike today, Giuliani is going to make good on his wishes. Just because we feel very good about something. And 1199, which we really appreciate, is supporting us at 15 Park Row, does not mean that there is going to be public support for us sufficient for this strike to be successful.

35:20 Bruce Taylor (Bronx CDD): [We have better conditions here than the DAs in vacation, comp.] You’re not [striking] for your clients, you’re striking for yourselves.

37:22 Shanti Narra (Manhattan CDD, probationary attorney): I left a really high-paying job to come here, because this is what I wanted to do. . . . Well, I knew what the salary was going to be, but I didn’t expect to come here and then get screwed. . . . People keep talking about Giuliani and I don’t think that’s a baseless threat. But . . . the people that we have to be focusing on is the Society. And I truly believe that if we vote to strike they’re not going to risk their six-figure salaries to let Giuliani make good on his threat. They are gonna to come back with some kind of offer.

I don’t think this is going to be a ten-week strike. . . . Just because I’ve been here for seven months does not mean that I don’t have a right to my opinion and a right to evaluate what’s been going on. . . . Twenty-seven-year-old first year me took this seriously. . . . If need be I’ll get a temporary job.

40:00 [?] [Offer not good, but strike isn’t a good alternative] No one on the Executive Committee can tell you whether the LAS will exist tomorrow. They don’t know. No one knows. And if you’re willing to take that gamble, I’m sorry, because I’m afraid that I may not have a job tomorrow. . . . If you vote for a strike, I hope you’re correct. . . . And you can’t take a vote like that until you know.

42:00 Mitch Briskey (Criminal Appeals Bureau). Very few people in the course of their anonymous lives have the chance to do something that affirms their dignity and worth as human beings. And for those who say that it doesn’t matter if you have no respect, and it doesn’t matter if you have no dignity, and it doesn’t matter if your employer treats you like shit, I ask you to question in your hearts: are you capable of advocating another human being’s rights . . . if you can’t stand up for yourself? . . . . I invoke the old Yiddish proverb that if you’re being pissed on, you can’t pretend it’s rain.

43:40 (? Staten Island CDD): I have heard a lot of bravado about Mayor Giuliani. And I don’t know about what Giuliani is going to be doing. . . . I don’t think that we don’t know where the City Council is going to stand, how much of the City Council we have behind us. . . . I would like to know [what’s going to happen]. . . . Let’s put it over a few days.

47:20 Judy Whiting (Volunteer Division): We’ve made major efforts to contact our council people, our senators, our assembly people, [Manhattan Boro President] Ruth Messenger, [Public Advocate] Mark Green, and we we’re faxing like wildfire for the past couple of days. . . . Yesterday, we happened upon [Governor] Mario Cuomo on the steps of City Hall, and Michael had a good chance to speak with him, and Cuomo is up to speed about what’s going on, and we spoke to a number of other legislators right then and there, maybe fifteen or twenty people. So people do know what’s going on.

48:26 Quentin Smith (Staten Island CDD): I will vote not to accept the offer . . . However, I will vote not to strike. I propose continuation of negations, with creative labor actions designed to display our resolve and achieve our objective, which is a good contract. . . .

A strike, at this time, is not in labor’s best interest, but creative, social action, while continuing negotiation, is. . . . If you display resolve, if you come up with alternates to a strike and you have creative ideas to assert leverage, to demonstrate solidarity, and that this proposal before us is unacceptable . . .

Do not hurt ourselves . . . The Vietnam War, the American Revolution, the parties that won both of those wars did not engage in traditional warfare. They used guerilla tactics designed to win. And I say you must use similar ideas. The traditional notion of a strike will only harm us.

The proposal, then, is to reject the contract, continue negotiations, and establish a committee to consider creative ways to leverage our position and our strength [Seconded].

51:00 Mark Gombiner (Federal Defender Division): If there’s a vote in a favor of a strike I intend to honor it. I believe in unions, I believe in majority rule. . . . The political reality of this city today is that when Giuliani is laying off thousands of hospital workers, when [1199 President] Dennis Rivera is hailed as a hero for negotiating a contract with a zero percent increase to avoid layoffs, the headline in the papers tomorrow is not going to be “white middle class Legal Aid lawyers get 5% salary increases . . . another thousand hospital workers laid off.” That is not going to happen. And a strike that can’t produce a good result is not a good strike.

52:27 Bob Massi (Brooklyn CDD): . . . If you don’t want this offer, the only viable alternative you have . . . is a strike. . . . If you vote to send us back to the table, even with a self-executing strike date. . . . tomorrow morning they will know we’re not going to strike . . . [and] your Bargaining Committee will have absolutely no leverage at all. Absolutely no leverage.

We have made the mistake since 1990 of threatening to hit them and we haven’t delivered the punch. That’s the problem. And now we’re at a point where we can’t threaten anymore. And if we don’t do it now, or try to delay it, it’s going to be perceived as a weakness. A vote, even a self-executing vote, is a vote for a strike a week away. That’s what’ll happen, because they will not bargain with us. They think that you’re afraid. They believe that, and if you do this, they’re going to know that. . . . From past experience we know this doesn’t work.

55:30 David Feige (Brooklyn CDD): I want to strike. At the same time, I believe it would be wrong. . . . When you make this decision, be willing to accept the consequences. Take Rudy Giuliani at face value, please. Accept that it is possible that we will no longer have a LAS to fight with, and to fight for.

56:56: Babe Howell (Manhattan CDD), new hire, chair of Finance and Temporary Employment Strike Committee: [Explains strike finances, etc.] . . . . New hires should realize that four out of five of the last years we have walked away from this process with nothing. You can’t think of just yourself and just today. These are your colleagues. . . . I urge you to vote to strike.

58:04 Mihea Kim (Manhattan CDD): [For strike]

59:06 Mark Cogan (Brooklyn CDD): I’d like to ask each one of you to think: What is the worst experience you’ve ever gone through in your life? . . . . And then, I’d like you to examine the question that, quite possibly, going on strike this year may turn out to be the worst experience of your life. . . . This strike will be seen as us going out for purely selfish reasons. . . .

1:01:17 Scott Sommer (Legal Services Staff Assn.) [Leads applause for Bargaining Committee; issue is power struggle between Batterman, Giuliani and ALAA] You cannot bow down in the face of [Giuliani’s] kind of threat.

1:04:56 Michael Dinnerstein (ALAA Secy-Treasurer) [Teamsters International Union letter of support]

1:07:28 Arthur Hopkirk (Criminal Appeals Bureau). [Moves to separate contract from strike and moves that if last BC proposal not accepted by Tuesday, Oct. 11, on strike; seconded]

1:08:50 Joyce Korn (Brooklyn CDD): [Bad political climate, shoot for one-year contract]

1:09:50 Leslie Yulkowski (Manhattan CDD): It’s not about money . . . . It’s about what’s right . . . I think it’s selfish when for every ten dollars that [LAS chief] Arch Murray takes from the City to serve poor people, three of it goes to us, and seven dollars gets sucked up the asses of those pigs at the trough. . . . Cut the losses, fire the bosses.

1:10:55 Gary Greenberg (Manhattan CDD): [Senior attys haven’t had increases; moves to prohibit EC from submitting proposal that doesn’t include additional steps; seconded]

1:11:55. Jim Rogers (Bronx CDD): If we don’t strike. . . . you’re gonna be in an HMO [health insurance plan] before you can blink an eye. . . . You have to strike. . . . [I]f you don’t you’re going on an HMO . . . They have the money and they won’t give it to us.

1:13:06: Scott Buell (Brooklyn CDD): [Supports strike]. I’m worried to death about the health benefits [Hodgkins Disease, etc.]. . . . We’re making a reasoned judgment that this is best thing to do.

1:14:08 Claudette Spencer (Prisoners Rights Project): [Step 13 not comparable with DAs, etc.] I’m voting to strike today, like I voted to strike in 1992, because I knew we’d be right here today where we’re at if we didn’t vote to strike in 1992. . . . If we don’t vote to strike today, we might as well disband this union, take the $30 in union dues and pocket it, ‘cause that’s the biggest increase we’ll ever get.

1:15:05 Michelle Smith (Bronx CDD, second-yr atty). I’ve got four family members who are presently clients of the LAS. They support this strike because they want lawyers who are able to stay here, to have families, to enjoy a Friday night, possibly, without feeling guilty about it, to be able to go out and live a life and still defend poor people. That’s what this is about.

And I want to address the person who spoke and talked about the white middle class lawyers stepping out— take a look, ok? And finally, to the person who said “imagine the worst experience you’ve ever had in your life”: I’ve had many of them, but one of the worst will be the day I have to walk into 1020 Grand Concourse [Bronx CDD] and bow my head because I took a possible pay cut and look into the faces of the people reading the NYLJ who just got 4.5 [percent]. I vote to strike.

1:17:00 Maggie Kay (Bronx CDD): I resent the admonition to act like a grownup. I am about the closest thing you’re going to find to a grownup. I support a twelve-year-old child. I get up every day and go to work. I pay taxes. And I have a pile of window envelopes in my mail every fuckin time I turn around. Now I am sick of being offered garbage by management. . . . So the bottom line is that for her, and for me, and for every other working person in this room who loves their family and has a modicum of self respect, I vote to strike.

1:18:45 Maquita Moody (Manhattan CDD): Respect is important. And the offer that they’ve given us shows that not only do they not respect us, but they don’t respect our clients. A couple of weeks ago, I had a client who was on life parole, and he was facing another life sentence. And the offer was two-and- a-half to five [years in prison]. And he said, “Ms. Moody, I’m not taking the offer. I know that I might lose, I know that I probably will lose. But I can do the time. I’m not taking the offer because I’m not guilty.”

And I want you to know that you’re not guilty. You’re not guilty because you want a living wage. You’re not guilty because you want health care benefits. And you’re not guilty because you represent the poor.

1:19:55 Donna Lewis (Queens CDD): I’d like to add to all the voices, a proverb: the rock in the sun does not understand the pain of the rock in the water. I don’t know who’s in the water and who’s in the sun. If I was a pregnant woman, I may very well be weighing the decision differently. . . . But deep down I want to say, deep down in my gut something tells me there’s no other way to go. And when there is no other way to go, you simply have to go ahead [and strike].

1:20:55 Milton Zelermyer (Prisoners Rights Project): I heard the Mayor on the radio late last night. He was asked to comment about the strike. He didn’t say anything about the threat in a direct way, but in a veiled way, and in his profound way, he said that we are lawyers, lawyers have legal obligations and he and the city expect that we will meet our legal obligations.

My answer to Mayor Giuliani is this: the money that is given the LAS by the government, by private donors, by foundations, is not the Legal Aid Society’s money. . . . The Board, by not dealing with us fairly, has violated its legal obligations. Yes, we have legal obligations to our clients as well. But today, we can best serve our clients by working to redirect how Legal Aid spends its money. A vote to strike is a vote in that direction.

1:22:16 Susan Sternberg (Brooklyn Civil): I take seriously, and have listened respectfully, to the concerns that have been raised at the other microphone. . . . And I have every confidence that my Bargaining Committee and my Executive Committee took those concerns into account and did not arrive lightly at their recommendation to us today. . . .

It does not serve our clients for people to not be able to stay at The LAS because of the morale, the working conditions, the salaries and the attacks on benefits that are continuing and escalating. . . . It does serve our clients to stand up for ourselves and enable people to make a career here, give guidance to their colleagues, and not have people leaving with the attrition and the exodus that I’ve seen over the last year in the Civil Division that is shocking.

1:23:55 David Lewis (Federal Defender Division): There are at least three reasons for not having a strike. The first is that, if history is any measure, the strike will not get us anywhere. It didn’t in 1982 and it didn’t in 1974. [garbled]. . . . I do believe that people ought to have a career here. And I believe that there ought to be a here to have that career at. And I do not think that people ought lightly to take the chance, the very real chance, that there will be no more LAS to have a career at.

1:25:50 Maria-Elena Gonzales (Volunteer Division): [We don’t have comparability with DAs]

1:26:59 Debra Siner (Brooklyn CDD): Management has already rejected that pitiful, stupid offer (no offense) that the Bargaining Committee gave it. They rejected it so out of hand that there has been no bargaining this whole weekend. There’s not been the ‘round the clock bargaining there usually is.

And also, as I understand it, we have walked out. They can impose that contract. So if we divide that issue, it becomes a matter of voting yes or yes. There goes our choice. . . .

Debate about the 1994 strike (and any other aspect of our history) is relevant and welcome. Management just managed to find a brand new, $150,000 job for Arch Murray so they can kick him upstairs. And yet, they’re saying they can’t find money for our benefits, when we go in and we get exposed to tuberculosis all the time! . . . . Strike.

1:29:05 [Vote on amendments: (1) Vote down contract and pursue an inside resistance strategy; (2) If management doesn’t accept last proposal, automatic strike 10/11; (3) No offer without additional steps
(4) If Management won’t accept a one-year contract, strike on Weds. BC opposes anything less than a strike because BC won’t have leverage]

1:34:00 Pans crowd.

1:35:20 Voice votes on amendments

1:39:50. Letwin: [Whatever the vote, we don’t go back to work today, since 1199 is out; explains voting procedure]

1:43:20 [Paper balloting, people mill]

1:45:20 Letwin explains strike rules

1:47:15 Ballots being counted by BC, et al with TV cameras.

Tape 1/From 8mm

0:00:20 [?] We’re calling their bluff

0:00:30 Len Egert (Manhattan CDD)

0:10:12 Letwin [Contract vote 304-482-6, i.e., 61% strike vote; UAW vote; asks for united vote for benefits]

0:03:09 [Milling about, chanting “no contract, no work” and “we represent the poor, that’s why they won’t pay us more”; David Owen, Michael Williams, Cedric Gayle, Walter, Jean Mandic, Mark Gombiner, Larry Gurwitch, Susan Light, Steve Wasserman]

0:06:48 Len Egert (Manhattan CDD): Right now, we made a very important decision. I think it’s important to emphasize that no matter how you felt about the decision, no matter what way you voted, whether you voted yes or no, right now we’re gonna need to come together, we’re going to have to come together and unite into one strong message, one union.

And we’re going to have to support each other. We’re going to need more support than through all these negotiations, throughout whatever happened, now’s the time to come together and in one loud, united voice, say, no contract, no work [echo]. What do we want? When do we want it? etc. And if we don’t get it: strike, strike, strike.

0:07:50 Steve Wasserman (CDD Special Litigation): Hey, I’m just very, very proud to be part of this democracy. I have more faith in it than any other democracy I’ve ever been associated with. I believe that whatever was done is wise, and that it’s gonna work out for the best. And I will be with this group till the end.

0:08:20 Maggie Kay (Bronx CDD): It’s about time. We’ve taken nothing for too long. I’m tired of it. It is time. God bless the Union.

0:08:22 [? others in favor, hard to hear]

0:08:46 Susan Light [Inaudible]

0:09:10 [Strike group with signs on stage: Pam Peters, Michael Dinnerstein, Allen Popper leading strike chant; “no justice without us” and “Arch Murray in your tower, Legal Aid has Union power.”]

0:11:54 [Letwin announces vote 56-681-5 and assembly in front of the building]

0:11:20 Outside building and march

0:13:25 March [Chanting]. Richard Armstrong, Tom Bomba, Gail Geltman, Bob Massi, Richard Blum, Jane Bock, Tony Elichter, May Pepitto, Mark Gombiner, Elon Harpaz, Juan Beritan, Leslie Yulkowsky, Ariella Shuster, Yvonne Floyd-Mayer, Reggie Haley, Michael Letwin, (with cops), Susan Light: “We represent the poor, that’s why they won’t pay us more,” Andy Ko, Allen Popper.

0:16:09 Richard Armstrong (“fuck management”) Bob Massi (“fuck management”), Bob Zuss (“it’s the best day of my eight years at Legal Aid”), Gail Geltman (“This is the best day of my life. We’re finally show them that we’re taking a stand for ourselves. I’m fired up, won’t take no more.”) Bob Hopkirk, Jane Coleman.

0:17:13 Alice Swenson (Bronx CDD): “It’s the best day that I’ve been here in four years. Because we’ve finally stood up for ourselves, which means maybe we can stand up for the people we represent.”

0:17:20 [? Woman echoes Swenson]

0:17:35 Chants: No work, on strike

0:17:50 100 Centre Street with police & chants.

0:18:29 Picket line “We represent the poor, that’s why they won’t pay us more.”

2007.05.23: Why I am Voting for Azalia Torres

From: [M.]
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 6:51 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Why I am Voting for Azalia Torres

I’ve known Azalia for about 17 years.  We met in 1990, when the Attorneys of Color at Legal Aid (ACLA) was started.  We went on to become  two of the initial four co-chairs of ACLA.

In the time I’ve known her she has been a fierce, vocal, and constant advocate and defender of not only our union members but of our clients and of the communities we serve.

Some of us do this job because we believe in justice or equality or the constitution.  Some of us do it because we love to fight.  Some may have other reasons, but for some, its personal.  They are the ones that not only believe in justice and equality and sometimes the constitution;  they not only love to fight – they have to fight.  They’ve had to fight all of their lives for themselves, their families, their communities.  Fighting is a part of them that they embrace and nurture.  It gives them purpose;  keeps them strong;  keeps them committed;  and they speak up and step up – not matter against whom and even if theirs is the only voice.  This is Azalia, and this I believe is one of the things that sets her apart from the other candidates.

I was intrigued by Gerard Savage’s different approach to our problems and applaud the notion that “…we should think outside the box”.  I will not vote for Gerry because though he may have lobbying experience from years gone by and be a great attorney, he has not been active in this union.  I will not vote for Gerry because he said that if not elected, he would just go back to being a trial attorney.  He would not be involved in the union.

Debbie is also a good candidate.  I was on the E-Board when she was a VP.  She was a strong advocate for her members.  I did not see the same zeal when she became recording secretary.  I did not see assertiveness but rather acquiescence.

I think Azalia is far and way the best candidate because she is and  has been committed;  because she has been involved;  because she knows this union;  because she knows management and the political players;  because she has new ideas;  because she will listen;  because she will not be afraid;  BECAUSE ITS PERSONAL.

May 22, 2007

2007.05.22: Re: Response to alleged violations of UAW Constitution

Filed under: ALAA History,Key Documents,Union Democracy and Structure — nyclaw01 @ 2:16 pm

From: L.Antonia Codling
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 2:16 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; George Albro
Cc: [REDACTED]
Subject: Re: Response to alleged violations of UAW Constitution

The shame of the leadership of this Union continues to be that whenever an idea or opinion is expressed that is contrary to those in the majority, those ideas are ignored, or at minimum, never fully explored or addressed.  Otherwise, it is done so in an inappropriate fashion such as this.

My message consisted entirely of concerns about apparent violations of union rules, and contained no allegations of bad faith or personal attacks.  In contrast, George’s reply drips with hostility, defensiveness and partisanship (I am allegedly a “complaining member,” who has “suddenly opined”; my arguments are “completely without merits,” “ludicrous,” “exclusionary,” “undemocratic,” “ironic”; it is “difficult to fathom why an ALAA leader would argue,” etc.).

There are absolutely no “improper motives” that could have been inferred from my suggestion that the EB/leadership of this Union must ensure that the proper process for this election has been followed.   I have not and would never suggest that the members should not be allowed to elect their president.  My message was sent to inform the members.  My objection is to George Albro’s arrogant response, and his decision not to hold the emergency EB meeting I requested to consider these and other concerns.  Other EB members were attempting to coordinate their schedules when George unilaterally determined that the meeting was not necessary.

Moreover, I did not attempt to disqualify Debbie Wright from running.  However, in the event that Debbie wins this special election, her seat as Recording Secretary on the EB will be vacant.  Will the EB then hold another Special Election — or not, because they do not want more dissenters in its midst;  Or will the members call for the filling of this vacancy?

In addition, George is not persuasive about the election rules themselves.  If we are now “amalgamated,” it’s the first I’ve heard about it.  (The Delegate Council minutes for May 31, 2005 state that ALAA could “become” an amalgamated local, but when did this actually happen, was the membership ever so informed, and were our charter or bylaws ever so amended?)

Contrary to George’s claim, our union bylaws do not state that no membership meeting is required in a special election.  While we have never needed a special election for president until now, we have always had such meetings and there is no reason not to have one now.

I have been raising and investigating these question since the election was noticed, and if George was not on vacation perhaps they could have been addressed (or dismissed) sooner.  At this point in time, it’s really not about this election or any of the candidates, because the President of this Union is only 1 person  — there are 700+ of us.  What are we willing to accept when our leaders have determined for us what is appropriate?

>>> George Albro 5/21/2007 9:29 PM >>>

See Attached and below.

In arguing that the ALAA membership should not be permitted to elect its President and that the Special Election to fill the presidential vacancy should be canceled, an Executive Board member, 3 days before the election, has suddenly opined that the Special Election violates the UAW Constitution. For the reasons stated below, that argument is completely without merit.

1. The argument that the vacant presidency can only be filled by a vice president, not by a special election, is misplaced. The UAW Constitution requires that all officer vacancies be filled by a special election, except for the office of president, where THE vice president shall serve out the remaining term. However, ALAA has 9 vice presidents (4 from CDD, CAB, Civil, JRD, CLO and Federal Defenders of NY). In that situation, the UAW Const. says that the Local Union shall establish a fair and reasonable procedure for determining which of the vice presidents shall fill the vacancy. ALAA’s Bylaws, enacted by the vote of its membership in May 1999, has established that procedure as follows: “All officer and other EB vacancies shall be filled promply by a Special Election.  PENDING THE SPECIAL ELECTION (emph.added), …..a presidential vacancy shall be filled by one of the vice presidents elected by the DC”.

On April 30, 2007, the ALAA EB voted unanimously (without the complaining EB

member present), pursuant to ALAA’s Bylaws, to call a prompt special election, opting

not to call a special DC meeting to elect a VP to be president for the 10 days (May 14th-

24th) between the end of Rogers’ presidency and the Special Election by the entire

membership. It is submitted that the UAW Constitution sets a minimum standard of

democracy which a local must adhere to. Where a Local’s membership, as ALAA’s, has

enacted a procedure which is more democratic than that required by the Constitution, it

does not conflict with the UAW Constitution. To hold otherwise would mean that we

must fill every vacant officer position by a Special Election of the entire membership

EXCEPT the most important position, the Local’s president. It would also mean that if

none of the Vice Presidents wanted to serve out the remaining term, then ALAA should

have NO President for the next 18 months. Finally, such an interpretation would mean

that none of the 3 current nominees would be eligible to run.

2. It is also opined by the complaining EB member that the date of the election can only be set by “the membership body” and not by the EB. However, this provision is applicable to ONE SHOP Locals which are required to have monthly membership meetings. ALAA is an Amalgamated Local, which means we represent employees of more than one employer (we currently represent

3 separate shops, with 3 separate contracts, and anticipate representing more in the near future).

In that situation, the UAW Constitution allows the Local to dispense with monthly membership meetings and to instead form a Joint Council representing all our shops (see Article 37, Sec.

4(b)). ALAA’s Delegate Council which has existed for virtually ALAA’s entire existence,  is identical to a Joint Council and allows ALAA to concentrate membership meetings in the offices, where attendance is the highest. Moreover, the Constitution explicitly recognizes the authority of the Executive Board to set the election date.

Thus, the membership, by passing Bylaws requiring a “prompt” special election in the

event of a presidential vacancy, is in fact the authority requiring the scheduling of a

special election. The EB, in setting the specific date, as it as done without objection in

virtually  every election since the establishment of the EB, is doing no more than carrying

out the will of the membership.  To argue that ALAA must call a Special membership

meeting, which the UAW Constitution does not otherwise obligate it to do, to decide if

May 24th or May 25th should be the date of the election, is ludicrous. And should it have

called such an meeting, and not have obtained a quorum (which almost certainly would

have happened), then the UAW Constitution explicitly allow the EB to set the precise

date. This is putting form way, way over substance.

3. The election committee must be elected by the DC (ALAA’s Bylaws, Art. VIII, Sec. 4.1).

Whether this violated the UAW Constitution in 1999 when it was enacted with the then leadership’s recommendation, is irrelevant. Since ALAA became chartered as an Amalgamated Local (see #2, above), several years ago, the Joint Council or ALAA’s DC has the constitutional authority to elect the election committee.

Pursuant to the Bylaws, the DC has always elected the election committee. The current

election committee of Tom Bomba and George Albro  has been elected by the DC and

has supervised several elections over the last few years (a thankless job, indeed). The

union has consistently  reached out for more members and Kamber Brisbane has

graciously agreed to volunteer to help out with this election.

4. The complaining EB member next implies that the UAW Constitution was violated because the EB was apparently not given the chance to “ensure proper election procedure”, presumably by the election committee. However, this clearly conflicts with the previous argument that the EB was too involved in the election procedure, e.g., by calling for the  election in the first place and setting the date. Simultaneously arguing that the EB had no right to call an election and set the date and that it did not adequately supervise that election is strange indeed.

5. The complaining EB member also argues that the UAW Constitution was somehow violated since the union did not hold a “special union-wide membership meeting” to close nominations and conduct a candidates forum.

First, it should be noted that nowhere in the UAW Constitution is there any such

requirement. ALAA’s Bylaws do require such a procedure, but only during triennial

general elections where all EB positions are open for election. No such procedure is

required for special elections and none has ever been held for any special election in

ALAA’s recent history. Moreover, candidate fora are currently being held in virtually

every office which has requested same, thus maximizing the opportunity of members to

hear and engage the candidates.

6. Finally, the complaining EB attempts to disqualify one of the candidates from running by arguing that she (as current ALAA Recording Secretary) must first resign her current position before running in the Special Election, citing UAW Const. Art. 38, Sec. 16. Apart from the exclusionary, undemocratic nature of such an argument, it is completely baseless. This section clearly bars a member from running for two positions simultaneously, much the same as general election law. Nowhere does it require a current officer to resign when that officer runs for an open position in a special election. If it did, than all the Vice Presidents would have to resign before being considered for the open presidential position, which the complaining EB member argues is the limited pool of eligible candidates.

Thus, all of the complaining EB’s members constitutional arguments are without merit.

It is difficult to fathom why any ALAA leader would argue that the members should not be allowed to elect their president, a sacred, proud  tradition which is as old our union itself. I do not wish to imply any improper motives. However, members should know some context.

Some EB members (not the candidates themselves) wanted to call an “emergency” EB meeting to consider postponing the election due to the fact that there might be some office or ALAA caucus which did not have an opportunity to hear the candidates or have a forum, a concern that we all shared.  However, and quite ironically, it was brought to the attention of the EB that the very UAW Constitution which the complaining member now says was violated, bestows upon the Election Committee alone the authority to take such an unprecedented and severe action. The UAW’s Region 9A sub-regional Director, when asked for guidance on this issue, sent an email citing the constitutional authority for this. Earlier today, the election committee then held a conference call, and voted 2-1 NOT to postpone the election. It cited the fact that, to its knowledge, every office or caucus which had requested a forum had one scheduled and that no committee member knew of anything to the contrary. It offered to investigate with the candidates whether they were available Wednesday evening (May 23rd) to attend a forum at the union office for the benefit of any member who may have missed a forum and wanted to attend one. The committee majority also pointed out that postponing an election should be reserved for the most extraordinary circumstances – which were not present here – and that absentee ballots were sent out and that many members were already in the process of voting by absentee. It was also mentioned that postponing the election would require new notices of required time periods, and that postponing the election would mean a delay of at least another 22 days in the election, during which time ALAA would still be without a president, at a critical time when state legislation (JRD case caps) and CDD and Civil funding was being decided.

It was apparently in reaction to the Election Committee’s reasoning that the complaining

EB member launched her email arguing that the Special Election be canceled outright.

May 21, 2007

2007.05.21: 5/24/07 “Special Election” is in violation of UAW Constitution

Filed under: ALAA History,Key Documents,Union Democracy and Structure — nyclaw01 @ 5:19 pm

From: L.Antonia Codling
Sent: Monday, May 21, 2007 5:19 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: 5/24/07 “Special Election” is in violation of UAW Constitution

The upcoming ALAA election appears to be in serious violation of Union rules for the following 6 reasons (see below for detailed description of the violations and relevant Sections of the UAW Constitution):

*Vacant Presidency is Filled by a Vice President, Not Special Election *Date of Election Must be Set by Membership (Not the EB or DC) *Election Committee Must be Elected by Membership (Not the EB or DC) *Executive Board Must Ensure Proper Election Procedure *Special Union-Wide Membership Meeting Must be Held to Close Nominations for Candidate Forum *Executive Board Member Running for Another Vacant Position Must, Prior to Nominating Meeting, Resign Current Position

I request that the entire Executive Board meet to remedy this matter — not just the election committee which has not been properly elected.

1.  Vacant Presidency is Filled by a Vice President, Not Special Election “In case of a vacancy in the office of President, the Vice President shall fill the vacancy for the unexpired term, provided that where there are two (2) or more Vice Presidents, the Local Union shall establish fair and reasonable procedure for determining which of the Vice Presidents shall fill the vacancy.” UAW Constitution, Article 38, § 14, at http://www.uaw.org/constitution/article38.cfm. [This prevails over ALAA Bylaws (attached), which state that “All Officer and other EB vacancies shall be filled promptly by a special election,” Article VIII § 3, since “[a]ny provisions of the Local Union bylaws on the conduct of Executive Board elections is subordinate to Constitutional Requirements.”  UAW Administrative Letter, Vol. 50, Letter No. 2 (Feb. 15, 2002), at 8.]

2.  Date of Election Must be Set by Membership (Not the Executive Board or Delegate Council)

“The date or dates for all elections must be established by the membership body of the Local Union.” Article 38, § 10(d). [Exception only where membership meeting failed to get a quorum: “In unusual circumstances, where the Local Union still holds general membership meetings, and is unable to secure a quorum immediately preceding the required time to begin the conduct of their elections, the establishment of the date and other specifics in connection with the election may be established by the Local Union Executive Board.”   UAW Constitution Interpretations, at <http://www.uaw.org/constitution/interp.cfm>.

3.  Election Committee Must be Elected by the Membership (Not the Executive Board or Delegate Council) “[T]he Election Committee must be democratically elected by the membership of the Local Union.  The vote for the Committee should be by secret ballot at a membership meeting.” Guide for Local Union Election Committees, (UAW 1999), at 81. Original emphasis.

4.  Executive Board Must Ensure Proper Election Procedure “All Local Union elections are required to be conducted by the Election Committee.  However, the Local Union Officers and the Local Union Executive Board have the responsibility of making sure that all of the procedures and provisions of the International Constitution and applicable provision of the law have been properly carried out in connection with the election during the preparatory period and prior to the date the election is to be conducted.”  UAW Administrative Letter, Vol. 50, Letter No. 2 (Feb. 15, 2002), at 8.  Original emphasis.

5.  Special Union-Wide Membership Meeting Must be Held to Close Nominations for Candidate Forum “Written or e-mailed officer nominations will be accepted by the Election Committee during a period thirty (30) days prior to a citywide membership meeting during which additional oral nominations will also be accepted and a candidates forum conducted.”  ALAA Bylaws, Article VIII § 4.2.

6.  Executive Board Member Running for Another Vacant Position Must, Prior to Nominating Meeting, Resign Current Position “If a member holding Executive Office, the term of which is not expiring, desires to become a candidate for another Executive Office, such member is obligated to notify the Local Union of her/his resignation from the member’s present office sufficiently in advance of the nominating meeting to permit the nomination and election of candidates for both offices during the same election. Such resignation would be come effective at the time of installation.” UAW Constitution, Article 38, § 16, at <http://www.uaw.org/constitution/interp.cfm>.

2007.05.21: Re: The Real Issues in This Election

From: [A.]
Sent: Monday, May 21, 2007 11:18 AM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Re: The Real Issues in This Election

I think there are a few things to be said about this.

Management was spectacularly intransigent at the time of the 94 strike. Bob Batterman of Proskauer was still negotiating on behalf of the Legal Aid Society; he had a long history of underhanded and divisive negotiating tactics. On the board of the Legal Aid Society was Paul Crotty, who was also the Giuliani administration’s corporate counsel: it wouldn’t surprise me if there were some particularly dirty dealing going as a result of this conflict of interest. Moreover,  I was in JRD at the time, and at least JRD had a long history of treating non-white attorneys in a discriminatory manner.  I think that CDD had the same problem to a lesser extent.

The more collaborative approach to negotiating with the city only came in the aftermath of the 94 strike. Proskauer was fired as the Society’s counsel and ALAA was given a greater say in contract negotiations and hiring. As previously noted, James Rogers is not the one who initiated the alliance between Working Families and the ALAA: this occurred under the Letwin administration due in large part to the hard work of George Albro.

Thus many of the advances which are claimed by the advocates of the Rogers administration were things already in place before that administration, and in fact grew out of the 1994 strike.

Although many like to blame the ALAA for the creation of the alternate providers, no one knows what would have happened in the absence of the strike. What is clear is that ex-prosecutor Giuliani would have still been hostile to the Society.  He might still have pushed for alternative providers.  ALAA cannot take the fall for the failures of the Danny Greenberg administration; the ALAA under Michael Letwin pushed for (and ostensibly received) much more transparent disclosure of Legal Aid finances. The failure to discover the horrible accounting practices used by the Greenberg administration must ultimately be laid at the fawning board, which I seem to remember  contained on its finance committee at least one  member of a major accounting firm. (Of course, the board also contained members of many major law firms connected with financial institutions.) The board, much more than the ALAA, would have been in a position to demand the imposition of general acceptable accounting principles.

Unions must sometimes take risks in order to maintain any power. A strike always carries the risk of a negative , as do many important things in life.  However, without the credible threat of a strike, a union is not much more than a social club and  lobbying group. Those who trumpet the leadership of James Rogers might do well to remember that    a significant source of the Union’s power exists as a result of the strikes carried out under his predecessors.

>>> [F.] 5/17/2007 6:45 PM >>>

I hadn’t read Michael’s history of our union and of the ’94 strike since shortly after the National Lawyer’s Guild dinner a few years back which honored the ALAA.  It’s a stirring account, and it would seem impossible  for anyone to come away from it unconvinced of the righteousness of our cause and the villainy of Rudy Giuliani.  (I’ll go further: Giuliani was and still is Evil, with a capital E.)

What I have a problem with in the use of the history as a campaign tool is the lack of a sense of having learned hard lessons from our bad experience, or of asking, in hindsight, what could have been done differently.  The history is black and white: we were right; Management, Giuliani, and the politicians, lawyers, and unions that didn’t support us were wrong  –nothing needs to be reconsidered.

In his email below Michael seems to argue that the strike was a victory.  After acknowledging the bad consequences, he goes on to say, “But strikes must be evaluated not only by their risks, but by their overall impact.  For example, despite Giuliani’s ruthless retaliation, the 1994 strike won us the best two contracts (1998-2000 and 2000-2002) in our Union’s history.”

Overall impact?  Can one fairly laud the 1998-2000 and 2000-2002 contracts as evidence of our success –can one do that in the context of having lost as much funding, as many attorneys, staff, and other resources, and as much morale as we did as a result of the strike?   I’m not positive, but I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of people that were here in 1994 and thereafter would agree that the strike and its aftermath were probably the worst things that ever happened to the union or to the Legal Aid Society.

I’m worried by a political platform that looks at the strike as a glorious event.  Years down the road, when we’ve truly beaten back all that threatens us now, we may be able to look back at the strike as one battle that we fought on the long path to victory.  But right now, more than twelve years later, we’re still living under its cloud. The cause was good and just, the intentions were righteous, and we were in it together, but the immediate and the lingering results were terrible.  If any good came from the strike it came from the extent to which our failure helped us realize the we needed to be more politically pragmatic.

I believe that a minority of the membership has unfairly vilified Jim Rogers.  To say that “his administration…yielded the worst contracts in our Union’s history…and without a fight,” is to understate the extent of Legal Aid’s financial problems and political realities at that time.  (The aforementioned “best two contracts… in our Union’s history” were gained during the now-notorius Danny Greenberg / Theresa Deleon era of fiscal recklessness.)  Jim made great efforts during the financial crisis to keep the membership informed of exactly what was going on and what our options were.

I, for one, do not wish to recapture the union’s “forgotten…fighting spirit, and its “abandoned…roots” if to do so requires me to ignore what seems to me to be plainly true.

>>> Michael Letwin 5/16/2007 5:10:23 PM >>>

Summary

The main difference in this election is not, as Elon Harpaz asserts, whether the “Union . . . must do everything possible to ensure that the [Legal Aid] pie . . . is as large as possible” — we have done that for many years.  The difference is whether to stop there (the current leadership’s approach), or to be equally aggressive in dividing up that pie (Azalia’s position).

Lobbying — and Givebacks

From 1990-2002, Azalia was part of a leadership that — particularly after 1994 — put tremendous time and resources into lobbying with 1199 and management for Legal Aid funds.

With that in mind, we affiliated with the UAW in 1995 and with the Working Families Party in 1998.  It’s a cumulative result of that work that the Union has, since well before 1994, successfully defended and/or won millions of dollars in LAS funding.

But we also recognized the need to ensure that staff attorneys and support staff would get their fair share of the Legal Aid pie, when necessary, by organizing joint ALAA/1199 membership action to give our unions the necessary muscle to extract the best possible contract from management.

The current leadership has a very different record.  Believing, in Elon’s words, that “we have to keep any disputes between us and management out of the public eye,” it has indeed “lost its way . . . forgotten its fighting spirit and . . . abandoned its roots.”

Not because it has lobbied for Legal Aid funding, the need for which everyone agrees.  But because it has actively discouraged members from fighting to defend and increase our compensation — or from even having the full facts with which to intelligently debate whether and how to do so.

That’s why, despite successful lobbying for Legal Aid funds both prior to and during the Rogers years, his administration (which effectively began in January 2003) yielded the worst contracts in our Union’s history.

Thus, during 2002-2006, joint ALAA/1199/LAS lobbing won $37.01 million in new and/or restored governmental funding.[1]  Yet, at the very same time, on this leadership’s recommendation, and without a fight:

*In October 2003, we ratified a contract that fell short of the 3% salary increase to which management had previously agreed.

*In June 2004, we surrendered employer-paid TransitCheks and “deferred” a 1.5% bonus for two years.

*In December 2004, we accepted:  (1) Substantial increases in attorney health premium contributions; (2) A one-year reduction of employer pension contributions by more than half; and (3) Complete surrender of the “deferred” bonus (above).

*In November 2006, we accepted a contract which didn’t include meaningful increases above step five, which sharply limited or denied the use of comp time, and — for the first time in our union’s history — didn’t include retro pay. (Junior attorneys did receive greater increases, and deserve still more; but so do attorneys at all levels.)

Yes, there was a serious fiscal crisis at Legal Aid during this period.  But the Society still had — largely due to our unions’ efforts — a $180 million annual budget, much of which it decided to spend on new hires and other expenditures.

In other words, we had givebacks not because “there was no money,” as management and Union leadership claimed, but because the leadership refused to mobilize members to fight for that money to be spent differently.

In February 2005, Jim Rogers even promised — without the membership’s knowledge or consent —  that “strikes won’t happen on my watch.”  That is like trying to negotiate a plea bargain, while assuring the prosecutor that your client has no intention of going to trial.

Under these circumstances, givebacks are irresistible.

Fighting Back

Of course there are risks in fighting back; there always *have* been, for contrary to Elon’s claim, government never was “a passive bystander” to labor strife at Legal Aid.

In the 1973 strike, Appellate Division justices denounced the strikers for “abandoning the responsibility to the indigent which [ALAA] members assumed upon their employment,” and threatened that, if the strike did not end, “we will be compelled to take such action as is warranted by the circumstances.”  In 1974, they threatened strikers with disciplinary charges, recommendations of dismissal and replacement by 18-B attorneys.

During the ten-week 1982 strike, Mayor Ed Koch nearly replaced Legal Aid with a governmental public defender office.  And in 1994, Giuliani canceled the Legal Aid contract, purported to “fire” strikers, set up the scab RFPs and slashed our budget.

But strikes must be evaluated not only by their risks, but by their overall impact.  For example, despite Giuliani’s ruthless retaliation, the 1994 strike[2] won us the best two contracts (1998-2000 and 2000-2002) in our Union’s history.[3]

The lesson is not that we must strike, but that we need to fight back, partly with the kind of “inside strategy” (escalating union action) that we used in the years leading up to 1994.[4]  The only alternative is to stop being a real union.

As former Executive Board members Bob Zuss and Susan Morris wrote in their December 14, 2004 message against givebacks:

“We have a choice.  Let’s not surrender without a fight.  Let’s reaffirm our union’s democratic, fighting traditions by voting no and organizing resistance:  a rapidly-escalating public campaign, including a press conference and pickets at Board members’ offices.  Such resistance offers no guarantees.  But isn’t resistance the reason we have a union in the first place?”

Azalia stands in this tradition, and it’s that which makes her candidacy so important.

—————–

Notes

[1] This included $8.6 million for FY03 (starting July 1, 2002), $11 million for FY04, $8.11 million for FY06, and $9.3 million for FY07.

[2] It is simply dishonest to blame the 1994 strike and its outcome on union members or leaders.  The strike began when the Giuliani administration attempted to cut our compensation.  The same administration illegally retaliated for the strike by setting up scab/RFPs and slashing the LAS budget.

Moreover, the strike reflected full membership mobilization, disclosure and democratic participation throughout.  It was unanimously recommended both by the Union Bargaining Committee (which included George Albro, Richard Armstrong, Tom Bomba, Dennis Boyd, Barbara Byrne, Gail Geltman, Nancy Ginsburg, Michael Dinnerstein, Michael Letwin, Bob Massi, Judy Whiting, Michael Williams and Robert Zuss) and by the Delegate Council.  The October 3, 1994 membership strike vote was 482-304 on the first ballot, and 681-56 on the second.

In short, we can be proud of the courage ALAA showed in 1994, under the most difficult conditions.

For full facts about 1994, see the attached excerpt from our Union’s history, or go to: <http://www.alaa.org/pages/History.pdf>.

[3] These gains included:

*Salary.  Combined rate/step salary raises that included 47% ($17,000) at step 2, and 20% ($14,000) for senior attorneys who benefitted from creation of new steps 14-25.  No individual attorney received a combined rate/step salary increase of less than 14% ($10,000).

*Institutional Assignments.  $175/shift lobster increase; taxi & meal allowance.

*Tax-free Income.  TransitCheks ($720/yr. or taxable cash equivalent) & pre-tax supplement option; biannual bar registration fee ($300); $500/yr. foreign language allowance.

*Paid Time Off. Ten new discretionary bereavement days/career in all divisions; 5 new personal days/yr. and 5 new vacation days/yr. buy-back in non-CDD units.

*Parental Leave.  Eight paid weeks for all new parents, including adoptive, step-, and each in 2-LAS households; unpaid parental leave expanded to fathers, step-parents, adoptive parents, domestic partners

*Health & Pension.  Retiree health benefits and oral contraceptive coverage; upgraded dental, vision and long-term disability; and earlier LAS pension contributions.

?Part-timers.  Annual salary increases, fewer hours required for employer-paid insurance; increased number of slots, more option for paid hours, elimination of job-sharing and child care requirements, and greater right to return to full-time.

*Work Hours.  Flex-time & telecommuting.

*Private Practice.  Non-conflict private practice option while on unpaid leave.

[4] First developed in the UAW and later embraced by the AFL-CIO, an “inside strategy” refers to a contract campaign in which union members conduct actions short of a full strike. ALAA’s 1990-1994 inside strategy is discussed at <http://www.alaa.org/pages/History.pdf>. See also, e.g., Brenner, ‘Inside Strategy’ Washington Post Byline Strikes, <http://www.troublemakershandbook.org/Text/Inside%20Strategies/Washington%20Post%20Byline%20Strikes.htm>; Brecher, New Tactics for Labor-Part II, <http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/brechersecond.htm> .

 

May 19, 2007

2007.05.19: Justice for Sean Bell

From: Michael Letwin
Date: Friday – May 18, 2007 1:19 PM
Attachments ALAA on Police.wpd (9521 bytes)

The Justice for Sean Bell statement, signed by the 39 [now 57] LAS staff members listed below, will be presented tomorrow at hearings of the Tri-Level Joint Legislative Task force. To add your name, please reply by 3 p.m. today. Please note that the statement reflects positions (including prosecution of police perpetrators) previously adopted by ALAA. See, e.g., Statement on Police Violence & Abuse (March 22, 2000), attached [below].

————-

Justice for Sean Bell
March 26, 2007

The undersigned New York City Legal Aid attorneys and support staff believe that the indictment of three police officers, for the fatal shooting of Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets, is too little and too late.

Sean Bell joins a long list of young men of color infamously murdered or assaulted by the NYPD, including Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Anthony Baez and Abner Louima. Yet police officers are almost never indicted-let alone convicted-for their crimes.

Police shootings, and the systemic failure to effectively prosecute their perpetrators, shows that the problem is not a “few bad apples” in the NYPD. Rather, they are the predictable result of a criminal justice system that-as a matter of deliberate policy-systematically targets communities of color for search-and-destroy arrest sweeps, widespread criminalization and inhumane drug sentences.

Under the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, there has been an explosion in the number of racially-discriminatory stop-and-frisks. The vast majority of these do not result in an arrest, and most that do are for such charges as riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, open alcohol containers, walking between subway cars, and marijuana possession.

These illegal stops generate criminal records for hundreds of thousands of people of color, and are often accompanied by false accusations, physical threats, beatings, torture, or worse.

Such injustices cannot be ended by tinkering with existing policies. Genuine solutions must include:

1. Firing Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

2. Vigorous prosecution, by a special prosecutor, of police officers-especially commanders-who commit or condone the crimes described above.

3. An end to militarized police operations against young people of color.

* * *
Signers (Affiliations listed for identification only):

Charles Billups
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn
Chairperson, The Grand Council of Guardians

Antonia Codling
Criminal Defense Division-Bronx
Affirmative Action Representative
ALAA/UAW Local 2325

Lucy Herschel
Criminal Appeals Bureau
Delegate, 1199/SEIU

Julie Fry
Alternate Vice President, Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Michael Letwin
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn
Former President
ALAA/UAW Local 2325

Susan Olivia Morris
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn
Former Sgt.-at-Arms
ALAA/UAW Local 2325

Magda Rosa-Rios
Alternate Vice-President, Harlem Community Law Office
ALAA/UAW Local 2325

Azalia Torres
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn
Former Sr. Attorney & Attorneys of Color (ACLA) Representative
ALAA/UAW Local 2325

Bahar Ansari
Criminal Defense Division-Bronx

Rigodis Appling
Criminal Defense Division-Manhattan

Noha Arafa
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Chennette X. Barreto
Shared Services

Abby Biberman
Civil Division

Kamber L. Brisbane
Harlem Community Law Office

Jennifer Burkavage
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Cynthia Colt
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Femi B. Disu
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Keisha A. Godfrey
Criminal Defense Division-Queens

Bridgette Holloman
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Benjamin Kanstroom
Criminal Defense Division-Manhattan

Rebecca Kurti
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Patrick Langhenry
Civil Division-Brooklyn

Adrian Lesher
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Melissa Loehr
Criminal Defense Division-Bronx

Beth Lyons
Criminal Appeals Bureau

Dianna Lysius
Accounting

Titus Mathai
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Joyce Murphy
Criminal Defense Division-Manhattan

Elizabeth Newton
Criminal Defense Division-Queens

David Ocasio
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Ivan Pantoja
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Karena Rahall
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Jacob Rolls
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Mimi Rosenberg
Civil Division-Brooklyn

Shana Skaletsky
Criminal Defense Division-Bronx

Brian Slater
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Steven Terry
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Rebecca Turner
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Dawn Yuster
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

——–

Statement on Police Violence & Abuse

Adopted by the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys Delegate Council, March 22, 2000
1. In response to “Operation Condor,” ALAA reaffirms its commitment to provide each client with high-quality legal representation, including, but not limited to:

(1) Thorough pre-arraignment client interviews, under conditions that are healthy and confidential;

(2) Adherence to established arraignment shift hours;

(3) Production of incarcerated clients for each court appearance;

(4) Aggressive investigation and motion practice;

(5) Inclusion of supervising attorneys in arraignment staffing; and

(6) Appropriate legal action against, and publicity about, the pattern of false arrests and detention.

(2) In response to the systemic police abuse that plagues New York City, of which “Condor” is a prominent example, ALAA reaffirms its support for far-reaching reform, including the immediate:

(1) Abolition of the Street Crime Unit, “Operation Condor,” and all similar “search and destroy,” body count, and arrest quota units.

(2) Dismissal of Police Commissioner Howard Safir;

(3) Permanent federal monitoring of the NYPD, and implementation of such long overdue reforms as police residency requirements and abolition of the 48-hour rule;

(4) Federal prosecution of the police officers responsible for the murders of Amadou Diallo, Malcolm Ferguson, Patrick Dorismond, and others;

(5) Prosecution of each City official who illegally released sealed records of former Legal Aid Society client Patrick Dorismond;

(6) Establishment of an independent state agency to aggressively prosecute future police violence and abuse; and

(7) End to the “War on Drugs,” including the Draconian Rockefeller sentencing laws, which only serves to promote violent crime, police brutality, and mass criminalization, particularly against communities of color.

2007.05.19: Sean Bell and the Epidemic of Police Violence in New York City

[Download formatted document: bell-testimony]

Sean Bell and the Epidemic of Police Violence in New York City

Testimony of Michael Letwin, Former President
Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325

Before the

Tri-Level Joint Legislative Task Force
Hostos College
May 19, 2007

Introduction

I am a public defender at the Brooklyn office of the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Division. From 1990-2002, I was President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325 (ALAA), the union of 800 staff attorneys at The Legal Aid Society.

In the past, the Association has been an outspoken opponent of racism and police abuse. (See appendix.) Today, however, I am speaking in an individual capacity to present a statement by fifty-seven attorneys, support staff and other Legal Aid staff members condemning the fatal shooting of Sean Bell by the NYPD on November 26, 2006.

That statement, which is attached hereto, reads as follows:

Justice for Sean Bell
March 26, 2007

The undersigned New York City Legal Aid attorneys and support staff believe that the indictment of three police officers, for the fatal shooting of Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets, is too little and too late.
Sean Bell joins a long list of young men of color infamously murdered or assaulted by the NYPD, including Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Anthony Baez and Abner Louima. Yet police officers are almost never indicted-let alone convicted-for their crimes.

Police shootings, and the systemic failure to effectively prosecute their perpetrators, shows that the problem is not a “few bad apples” in the NYPD. Rather, they are the predictable result of a criminal justice system that-as a matter of deliberate policy-systematically targets communities of color for search and destroy arrest sweeps, widespread criminalization and inhumane drug sentences.

Under the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, there has been an explosion in the number of racially discriminatory stop and frisks. The vast majority of these do not result in an arrest, and most that do are for such charges as riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, open alcohol containers, walking between subway cars, and marijuana possession.

These illegal stops generate criminal records for hundreds of thousands of people of color, and are often accompanied by false accusations, physical threats, beatings, torture, or worse.

Such injustices cannot be ended by tinkering with existing policies. Genuine solutions must include:

1. Firing Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

2. Vigorous prosecution, by a special prosecutor, of police officers-especially commanders-who commit or condone the crimes described above.

3. An end to militarized police operations against young people of color.

* * *
Signers (Affiliations listed for identification only):

Charles Billups
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn
Chairperson, The Grand Council of Guardians

Antonia Codling
Criminal Defense Division Bronx
Affirmative Action Representative
ALAA/UAW Local 2325

Lucy Herschel
Criminal Appeals Bureau
Delegate, 1199/SEIU

Julie Fry
Alternate Vice President, Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Michael Letwin
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn
Former President
ALAA/UAW Local 2325

Susan Olivia Morris
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn
Former Sgt. at Arms
ALAA/UAW Local 2325

Magda Rosa Rios
Alternate Vice-President, Harlem Community Law Office
ALAA/UAW Local 2325

Azalia Torres
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn
Former Sr. Attorney & Attorneys of Color (ACLA) Representative
ALAA/UAW Local 2325

Bahar Ansari
Juvenile Rights Division Bronx

Rigodis Appling
Criminal Defense Division Manhattan

Noha Arafa
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Chennette X. Barreto
Shared Services

Marisa Benton
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Abby Biberman
Civil Division

Norah Bowler
Juvenile Rights Division-Queens

Kamber L. Brisbane
Harlem Community Law Office

Jennifer Burkavage
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Cynthia Colt
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Laurie Dick
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Femi B. Disu
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Monica D. Dula
Criminal Defense Division-Bronx

Kimberly Forte
Juvenile Rights Division-Manhattan

Keisha A. Godfrey
Criminal Defense Division Queens

Bridgette Holloman
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Allison Jordan
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Emily Kane
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Benjamin Kanstroom
Criminal Defense Division Manhattan

Rebecca Kurti
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Patrick Langhenry
Civil Division Brooklyn

Adrian Lesher
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Melissa Loehr
Criminal Defense Division-Bronx

Beth Lyons
Criminal Appeals Bureau

Dianna Lysius
Accounting

Christopher Madiou
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Titus Mathai
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Joyce Murphy
Criminal Defense Division Manhattan

Elizabeth Newton
Criminal Defense Division Queens

David Ocasio
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Ivan Pantoja
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Karena Rahall
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Hara Robrish
Criminal Defense Division-Manhattan

Jacob Rolls
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Mimi Rosenberg
Civil Division Brooklyn

Gerard Savage
Criminal Defense Division-Queens

Samantha Seda
Criminal Defense Division-Queens

Kawan L. Simmons
Criminal Defense Division Bronx

Shana Skaletsky
Criminal Defense Division Bronx

Brian Slater
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Steven Terry
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Rebecca Turner
Criminal Defense Division-Brooklyn

Dawn Yuster
Criminal Defense Division Brooklyn

Appendix

Statement on Police Violence & Abuse
Adopted by the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys Delegate Council, March 22, 2000

(1) In response to “Operation Condor,” ALAA reaffirms its commitment to provide each client with high-quality legal representation, including, but not limited to:

*Thorough pre-arraignment client interviews, under conditions that are healthy and confidential;

*Adherence to established arraignment shift hours;

*Production of incarcerated clients for each court appearance;

*Aggressive investigation and motion practice;

*Inclusion of supervising attorneys in arraignment staffing; and

*Appropriate legal action against, and publicity about, the pattern of false arrests and detention.

(2) In response to the systemic police abuse that plagues New York City, of which “Condor” is a prominent example, ALAA reaffirms its support for far-reaching reform, including the immediate:

*Abolition of the Street Crime Unit, “Operation Condor,” and all similar “search and destroy,” body count, and arrest quota units.

*Dismissal of Police Commissioner Howard Safir;

*Permanent federal monitoring of the NYPD, and implementation of such long overdue reforms as police residency requirements and abolition of the 48-hour rule;

*Federal prosecution of the police officers responsible for the murders of Amadou Diallo, Malcolm Ferguson, Patrick Dorismond, and others;

*Prosecution of each City official who illegally released sealed records of former Legal Aid Society client Patrick Dorismond;

*Establishment of an independent state agency to aggressively prosecute future police violence and abuse; and

*End to the “War on Drugs,” including the Draconian Rockefeller sentencing laws, which only serves to promote violent crime, police brutality, and mass criminalization, particularly against communities of color.

May 16, 2007

2007.05.15: The Real Issues in This Election (Michael Letwin)

From: Michael Letwin
Date: Wednesday – May 16, 2007 5:10 PM
Attachments 1994 Strike History.wpd (45222 bytes)

Summary

The main difference in this election is not, as Elon Harpaz asserts, whether the “Union . . . must do everything possible to ensure that the [Legal Aid] pie . . . is as large as possible” — we have done that for many years. The difference is whether to stop there (the current leadership’s approach), or to be equally aggressive in dividing up that pie (Azalia’s position).

Lobbying — and Givebacks

From 1990-2002, Azalia was part of a leadership that — particularly after 1994 — put tremendous time and resources into lobbying with 1199 and management for Legal Aid funds.

With that in mind, we affiliated with the UAW in 1995 and with the Working Families Party in 1998. It’s a cumulative result of that work that the Union has, since well before 1994, successfully defended and/or won millions of dollars in LAS funding.

But we also recognized the need to ensure that staff attorneys and support staff would get their fair share of the Legal Aid pie, when necessary, by organizing joint ALAA/1199 membership action to give our unions the necessary muscle to extract the best possible contract from management.

The current leadership has a very different record. Believing, in Elon’s words, that “we have to keep any disputes between us and management out of the public eye,” it has indeed “lost its way . . . forgotten its fighting spirit and . . . abandoned its roots.”

Not because it has lobbied for Legal Aid funding, the need for which everyone agrees. But because it has actively discouraged members from fighting to defend and increase our compensation — or from even having the full facts with which to intelligently debate whether and how to do so.

That’s why, despite successful lobbying for Legal Aid funds both prior to and during the Rogers years, his administration (which effectively began in January 2003) yielded the worst contracts in our Union’s history.

Thus, during 2002-2006, joint ALAA/1199/LAS lobbing won $37.01 million in new and/or restored governmental funding.[1] Yet, at the very same time, on this leadership’s recommendation, and without a fight:

●In October 2003, we ratified a contract that fell short of the 3% salary increase to which management had previously agreed.

●In June 2004, we surrendered employer-paid TransitCheks and “deferred” a 1.5% bonus for two years.

●In December 2004, we accepted: (1) Substantial increases in attorney health premium contributions; (2) A one-year reduction of employer pension contributions by more than half; and (3) Complete surrender of the “deferred” bonus (above).

●In November 2006, we accepted a contract which didn’t include meaningful increases above step five, which sharply limited or denied the use of comp time, and — for the first time in our union’s history — didn’t include retro pay. (Junior attorneys did receive greater increases, and deserve still more; but so do attorneys at all levels.)

Yes, there was a serious fiscal crisis at Legal Aid during this period. But the Society still had — largely due to our unions’ efforts — a $180 million annual budget, much of which it decided to spend on new hires and other expenditures.

In other words, we had givebacks not because “there was no money,” as management and Union leadership claimed, but because the leadership refused to mobilize members to fight for that money to be spent differently.

In February 2005, Jim Rogers even promised — without the membership’s knowledge or consent — that “strikes won’t happen on my watch.” That is like trying to negotiate a plea bargain, while assuring the prosecutor that your client has no intention of going to trial.

Under these circumstances, givebacks are irresistible.

Fighting Back

Of course there are risks in fighting back; there always *have* been, for contrary to Elon’s claim, government never was “a passive bystander” to labor strife at Legal Aid.

In the 1973 strike, Appellate Division justices denounced the strikers for “abandoning the responsibility to the indigent which [ALAA] members assumed upon their employment,” and threatened that, if the strike did not end, “we will be compelled to take such action as is warranted by the circumstances.” In 1974, they threatened strikers with disciplinary charges, recommendations of dismissal and replacement by 18-B attorneys.

During the ten-week 1982 strike, Mayor Ed Koch nearly replaced Legal Aid with a governmental public defender office. And in 1994, Giuliani canceled the Legal Aid contract, purported to “fire” strikers, set up the scab RFPs and slashed our budget.

But strikes must be evaluated not only by their risks, but by their overall impact. For example, despite Giuliani’s ruthless retaliation, the 1994 strike[2] won us the best two contracts (1998-2000 and 2000-2002) in our Union’s history.[3]

The lesson is not that we must strike, but that we need to fight back, partly with the kind of “inside strategy” (escalating union action) that we used in the years leading up to 1994.[4] The only alternative is to stop being a real union.

As former Executive Board members Bob Zuss and Susan Morris wrote in their December 14, 2004 message against givebacks:

“We have a choice. Let’s not surrender without a fight. Let’s reaffirm our union’s democratic, fighting traditions by voting no and organizing resistance: a rapidly-escalating public campaign, including a press conference and pickets at Board members’ offices. Such resistance offers no guarantees. But isn’t resistance the reason we have a union in the first place?”

Azalia stands in this tradition, and it’s that which makes her candidacy so important.

—————–
Notes

[1] This included $8.6 million for FY03 (starting July 1, 2002), $11 million for FY04, $8.11 million for FY06, and $9.3 million for FY07.

[2] It is simply dishonest to blame the 1994 strike and its outcome on union members or leaders. The strike began when the Giuliani administration attempted to cut our compensation. The same administration illegally retaliated for the strike by setting up scab/RFPs and slashing the LAS budget.

Moreover, the strike reflected full membership mobilization, disclosure and democratic participation throughout. It was unanimously recommended both by the Union Bargaining Committee (which included George Albro, Richard Armstrong, Tom Bomba, Dennis Boyd, Barbara Byrne, Gail Geltman, Nancy Ginsburg, Michael Dinnerstein, Michael Letwin, Bob Massi, Judy Whiting, Michael Williams and Robert Zuss) and by the Delegate Council. The October 3, 1994 membership strike vote was 482-304 on the first ballot, and 681-56 on the second.

In short, we can be proud of the courage ALAA showed in 1994, under the most difficult conditions.

For full facts about 1994, see the attached excerpt [below] from our Union’s history, or go to: <http://www.alaa.org/pages/History.pdf>.

[3] These gains included:

●Salary. Combined rate/step salary raises that included 47% ($17,000) at step 2, and 20% ($14,000) for senior attorneys who benefitted from creation of new steps 14-25. No individual attorney received a combined rate/step salary increase of less than 14% ($10,000).

●Institutional Assignments. $175/shift lobster increase; taxi & meal allowance.

●Tax-free Income. TransitCheks ($720/yr. or taxable cash equivalent) & pre-tax supplement option; biannual bar registration fee ($300); $500/yr. foreign language allowance.

●Paid Time Off. Ten new discretionary bereavement days/career in all divisions; 5 new personal days/yr. and 5 new vacation days/yr. buy-back in non-CDD units.

●Parental Leave. Eight paid weeks for all new parents, including adoptive, step-, and each in 2-LAS households; unpaid parental leave expanded to fathers, step-parents, adoptive parents, domestic partners

●Health & Pension. Retiree health benefits and oral contraceptive coverage; upgraded dental, vision and long-term disability; and earlier LAS pension contributions.

●Part-timers. Annual salary increases, fewer hours required for employer-paid insurance; increased number of slots, more option for paid hours, elimination of job-sharing and child care requirements, and greater right to return to full-time.

●Work Hours. Flex-time & telecommuting.

●Private Practice. Non-conflict private practice option while on unpaid leave.

[4] First developed in the UAW and later embraced by the AFL-CIO, an “inside strategy” refers to a contract campaign in which union members conduct actions short of a full strike. ALAA’s 1990-1994 inside strategy is discussed at <http://www.alaa.org/pages/History.pdf>. See also, e.g., Brenner, ‘Inside Strategy’ Washington Post Byline Strikes, <http://www.troublemakershandbook.org/Text/Inside%20Strategies/Washington%20Post%20Byline%20Strikes.htm>; Brecher, New Tactics for Labor-Part II, <http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/brechersecond.htm>.

———–

ALAA’s 1994 Strike

[The following is excerpted from Letwin, History of The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys UAW Local 2325 (Rev. August 1999), <http://www.alaa.org/pages/History.pdf&gt;.]

The momentum generated by ALAA and 1199 during 1990-1992 carried forward toward the 1994 contract. What the unions could not know, however, was that Rudolph W. Giuliani’s election as Mayor in Fall 1993 foreshadowed the greatest attack on poor people, people of color, unions, and dissenters of any stripe in New York City since 1950s McCarthyism—and that one element of this attack would be to provoke ALAA into an unwanted and unsuccessful strike in which it and 1199 support staff would stand virtually alone.

Background

Between 1992 and 1994, ALAA activism continued to grow, as did its alliance with 1199. On March 8, 1993, 100 Brooklyn CDD attorneys picketed Supreme Court and packed the courtroom of Justice Carolyn Demarest after she had imposed a $50 fine on Staff Attorney Sonya Zoghlin for appearing 15 minutes late. ALAA told the press that “this demonstration is about principle, not about money,” pointing out that “many judges show less respect for Legal Aid lawyers than for private attorneys, partially because of the type of clients they represent [and because] . . . Legal Aid attorneys are very tenacious when it comes to defending their clients, and this sometimes tends to slow court proceedings.”

On March 29, 1993, following the murder of a woman by her parole officer husband, 40 ALAA and 1199 members picketed Brooklyn Family Court to demand that off-duty law enforcement officers be prohibited from bringing guns into the courthouse. On December 3, 1993, ALAA honored picket lines set up by strikers at Legal Services of New York (LSNY).

On May 6, 1994, 130 Brooklyn CDD attorneys held a sickout after colleague Monica Sheehan was disciplined on the unsubstantiated charge that she was “rude, discourteous and inappropriate.”

On July 20, 1994, ALAA members in the Civil Division’s Brooklyn Neighborhood Office picketed over unmanageable housing caseloads and brought a related NLRB complaint. Union delegate Michael Williams told the press that “[w]hen clients have significant violations–like lead paint, or heat or hot-water problems–we simply won’t be able to go back to court two or three times to force the landlord to get repairs done.”

ALAA accompanied this activism by strengthening and expanding its leadership structure. For the first time, each major office or division would elect its own vice-president. Collective leadership would be bolstered by supplementing the Executive Committee with a standing Bargaining/Advisory Committee made up of officers and six issue and caucus representatives. Management’s longtime attempt to block continuity within ALAA’s leadership was countered by making explicit that the membership had the right to elect officers notwithstanding the Society’s limits on the duration of union leave.

Despite—or perhaps because of—this ferment, a strike appeared unlikely in 1994, particularly given the clear determination displayed by ALAA and 1199 in 1992.

In June, moreover, the city had accepted the Society’s proposal to reduce costly and unreliable 18-B assigned counsel representation. This plan, which followed the scathing exposé of 18-B fraud and its poor quality representation that had appeared in the New York Times, gave Legal Aid control of “the basket” of incoming cases in Manhattan arraignments, thereby increasing Legal Aid’s share of indigent criminal representation to the 75 percent rate prevalent in the Bronx and Queens. Taking its lead from Manhattan CDD Staff Attorneys, ALAA supported this plan as a means of strengthening such principles as vertical continuity.

At the same time, Board president Michael Iovekno welcomed ALAA’s suggestions for more productive negotiations, thereby generating uncommonly good will early in 1994 contract bargaining. Substantively, the Society agreed to remove the artificial ten-step limit on senior attorney salary comparability with ADAs. For the first time, bilateral subcommittees quickly reached agreement on ALAA’s proposals for greater affirmative action, health and safety, and quality of representation. In this context, settlement of 1199’s contract was expected to follow soon thereafter.

In mid-September, however, the Giuliani administration began to derail this process by declaring that it would not fund even a modest ALAA settlement.

On September 13, seeking to generate counter-pressure on the Society, hundreds of ALAA and 1199 members held a lunchtime picket at courthouses and offices around the city. That evening, following extensive membership discussion, the ALAA Executive Committee reaffirmed the union’s 1992 “no contract, no work” policy, effective October 1. On September 27, ALAA warned the press that “[t]he likelihood of a strike is very real,” a point punctuated in a September 29 rally of hundreds of union members at Park Row.

Behind the scenes, however, ALAA urgently sought to avert a strike. On September 30, the union dropped its demand for the same 4.5 percent salary increase given supervisors in July, and substituted a two percent bonus in each of two contract years—barely enough to offset the rising cost of health benefits. When the Society notified the administration that Legal Aid would be able to absorb this insignificant cost without additional city funds, the Mayor demanded that the Society reject ALAA’s proposed compromise as inconsistent with its no-increase policy for upcoming municipal labor negotiations. He further vowed dire retaliation were the Society to disobey, or the union to strike. Fearful of retribution, the Society rejected ALAA’s proposal.

Weekend Strike and Giuliani’s Threats

Since October 1 fell on a Saturday, ALAA sought to use the weekend as a final opportunity to convince management that settlement, even against Giuliani’s wishes, was far better than the alternative. At midnight Friday, September 30, 150 ALAA and 1199 members chanting “strike” marched into Manhattan Criminal Court arraignments and escorted their working colleagues out to a candlelight vigil that continued late into the night.

On Saturday and Sunday, union members from across the city joined the Manhattan picket line. Like earlier generations of Legal Aid lawyers, the mood was grave but defiant. ALAA told the press: If you cannot attract and retain experienced attorneys to represent indigent clients, then the experienced lawyers will be working only for those who can pay—and that’s not the kind of equal justice we believe in. Poor people deserve no less than the Menendez brothers or O.J. Simpson when it comes to quality legal representation. Until Legal Aid lawyers are treated fairly, the highest quality legal representation is reserved for the rich.

Susan Roche of Queens CDD said she was on strike to “get the respect for the work I’m doing and the clients I’m representing.” Young Ran Ra of Manhattan CDD said, “We walked out so we would be able to keep attorneys with experience who could provide the best representation to our clients.”

The administration replied by threatening to wipe out both Legal Aid and the union. City Criminal Justice Coordinator Katie Lapp privately warned that Giuliani would cancel the Society’s contracts if ALAA members voted Monday for an all-out strike. She stressed the Mayor’s determination by recounting his prominent part in breaking the 1981 PATCO air traffic controller strike. Giuliani uttered the same threats publicly, vowing that “[w]hat my administration will do . . . if they refuse to go to work . . . is to cancel the [Legal Aid] contract.”

May 3 Strike Vote

It was in these circumstances that ALAA members convened at New York University on the morning of Monday, October 3. While the subsequent strike vote may, in retrospect, appear hard to fathom, the decision facing ALAA members was far from obvious. Indeed, for nearly two hours, the members freely and openly debated the choices.

After repeatedly conveying Giuliani’s threats, the Bargaining Committee expressed the view that “the offer before us is simply unacceptable. . . . [A]lthough we are quite aware of the risks involved—and we must take the Giuliani threats seriously—we simply are at a point now that for us to accept an offer like this is far worse a threat.”

Some members argued that a strike would be catastrophic. Manhattan JRD attorney Tom Curtis said that “the strike is an obsolete weapon and in the case of this strike it would be stupid to be brought back to this floor by the 18-Bs and the other people who would walk in and do the cases without us.”

David Lewis of the Federal Defender Division said, “I do not wish to see [Legal Aid] commit suicide. I believe that is a genuine possibility.” Many of those opposing a strike advocated continuation of the “inside” strategy.

Underscoring the concerns expressed by Lewis, Letwin cautioned that, when voting, members should take into account that “all the things he said might . . . be true.” Most members, however, agreed with the Bargaining Committee that the union could neither accept a net cut in compensation nor buckle under the same threats of replacement made ever since the first ALAA strike in 1970. With lingering memories of extended 1990-1991 contract negotiations, few members supported the middle road of a prolonged guerilla warfare. Thus, Bob Massi, the Brooklyn CDD vice-president, argued that “[i]f you vote to send us back to the table, even with a [delayed] self-executing strike date . . . your Bargaining Committee will have absolutely no leverage at all.”

Moreover, strike proponents argued that management would capitulate before Giuliani could actually carry out his threat. As Bronx CDD attorney Chuck Ippolito predicted, “We take a strike vote, you guys take a walk with me this afternoon, and sometime tonight our employers are going to call our lawyer and they’re going to say what the best offer is.”

Similarly, Manhattan CDD attorney Len Egert argued that “[w]e’re going to have an agreement, if we vote to strike, way before anything like that [cancellation of the Society’s contract] happens. . . . And when we vote to strike, they’re going to come back with that real offer—quick.”

Volunteer Division vice-president Judy Whiting reported that “[w]e’ve made major efforts” to contact leading political figures. As a result, if Giuliani acted before a settlement, said Letwin, “we at least hope that those [municipal] unions . . . will stand by us because they understand that it is a test too.”

For many members, however, repeated insults and attacks by management over the previous four years had simply broken the camel’s back, regardless of a strike’s immediate outcome. Richard Armstrong, Manhattan CDD vice-president, warned that “you will never, ever, get any respect from your managers, and from this Legal Aid Society, if you accept this contract today.”

Manhattan JRD attorney Carol Fegan, a former flight attendant who had gone through the 1989 Eastern Airlines strike and resulting bankruptcy, said that “I can match my mortgages against anybody’s in this room, and I am a middle-aged person who gets more scared as the years go by about my future, [but] . . . I would vote yes for this strike. . . . Because [management] won’t stop. . . . [E]ach contract gets worse.” Even should the worst come to pass, said senior 1199 delegate Akil Al-Jundi, “we would have taken a stand. . . . [S]ometimes, you come to the conclusion that enough is enough is enough. . . . [Y]ou’re not in it only for yourselves. You’re in it for those who led the struggle before you, and for those who will come afterwards.”

Manhattan CDD attorney Maquita Moody told her fellow members that, like an innocent client, “you’re not guilty. . . . because you want a living wage. . . . because you want health care benefits. . . . . [a]nd because you represent the poor.” For Donna Lewis of Queens CDD, “deep down in my gut something tells me there’s no other way to go. And when there is no other way to go, you simply have to go ahead.”

Thus, armed with coverage by the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike fund, members voted 482-304 on the first ballot, and 681-56 on the second, to extend the strike into the regular work week. The immediate mood was spirited, but sober.

Steve Wasserman, of the CDD Special Litigation Unit said, “I’m just very, very proud to be part of this democracy. I have more faith in it than any other democracy I’ve ever been associated with. . . . And I will be with this group till the end.”

Maggie Kay, a senior attorney in Bronx CDD, said, “It’s about time. We’ve taken nothing for too long. I’m tired of it. It is time. God bless the union.”

Quickly adjourning after the strike vote, 800 Staff Attorneys—surrounded by TV cameras–marched down the middle of Broadway, past City Hall, to Manhattan Criminal Court, where they joined 1199 support staff already staffing the picket lines.

PATCO Revisited: Giuliani Cancels Legal Aid Contracts

Within minutes, Giuliani boasted to live television news that “[t]he canon of ethics says that you can’t abandon cases, so I don’t know where lawyers come off striking. And here they are abandoning cases for an entire city. I’m not going to let them do that.” He then announced both termination of all the Society’s city contracts—criminal and civil—and his decision to issue requests for proposal (RFPs) for the Society’s criminal work. “Hopefully,” said Giuliani, “this will be the last time lawyers strike against the public interest.”

Joining in the attack was Paul Crotty, a recently-departed Legal Aid Board officer who had remained bitter that the 1992 ALAA contract had been too generous. Now Giuliani’s Corporation Counsel, Crotty publicly demanded that the Board “fire those lawyers for going out on strike.” While he “conceded that the courts would face disruption” if the city proceeded with RFPs, Crotty “insisted upon punishing the Legal Aid Society.”

Blocked by police from entering Giuliani’s evening press conference, Letwin told reporters that the Mayor’s announcement was not only an attack on us and our clients, but it’s an attack on quality services for poor people in New York City. This mayor is destroying the institutions that poor people rely on, whether it’s the hospitals or the schools or, now, legal representation . . . This is strike-breaking at its worst. I think this is going to backfire. We are the first ones to stand up to this bully and we hope New Yorkers will stand up and say, ‘Enough.’ The broader issue is whether we’re going to have equal justice in this country . . . New Yorkers deserve the best quality representation. Someone has to stand up and say the war on the poor is over.

He then put these accusations directly to Giuliani, who had appeared on the City Hall steps.

ALAA members bravely withstood the Giuliani administration’s initial barrage. Brooklyn CDD Staff Attorney Bob Massi replied that “[w]e are the only ones who represent the poor and downtrodden in New York and. . . Giuliani does not consider these people to be a part of his New York. . . . You can’t terminate a contract with an organization because it’s having a labor problem. That’s like saying you don’t have a right to strike.”

Manhattan CDD attorney Susan Light said “[t]his is what we do, stand up for people’s rights, and to expect us not to stand up for our own, that would be ridiculous.” CAB attorney Mitch Briskey said that Giuliani “is not the King of New York City. He does not have the right to order us back to work. All we’re asking for is a fair contract.”

As in the past, some press reports treated the strikers sympathetically, while the city elite lined up with the Mayor. Paul Weiss partner Arthur Liman, a former LAS president and onetime Iran-Contra prosecutor, announced that Giuliani “had a responsibility” to end the walkout.

The Daily News editorialized that “[w]hile [strikers] have every right to bargain and demand higher wages, their ability to shut down something as vital as the courts gives them too much power . . . they must be held to the same no-strike law as other key city employees. . . . They must never again be permitted to hold the city hostage.”

May 4 Blacklist Ultimatum and Contract Settlement

The next day, Tuesday, October 4, ALAA sought to generate counter-momentum by bringing strikers and their allies to a press conference on the City Hall steps. Foreshadowing subsequent Giuliani administration attempts to repress First Amendment expression, hundreds of police physically blocked the media from contact with the strikers, who defiantly chanted “Rudy, Rudy is his name, union-busting is his game.”

Letwin told the press: New Yorkers deserve the best representation possible, and that’s why people come to [work at] Legal Aid. We don’t come here for the money. People who work at Legal Aid can be making $85,000 a year as first year associates on Wall Street. We take pay cuts because we believe in this work. We are the conscience of this city in terms of standing up for the rights of all New Yorkers, and that’s really the issue at stake here.

He also emphasized that, contrary to Giuliani’s claims, existing Legal Aid funds were quite sufficient to meet ALAA’s modest demands: “The Society, using its existing budget, can match the increase it gave to its own supervisors, 4.5 percent just as recently as July, without going to the city for additional funding.”

Speaking for CWA Local 1180, a union representing municipal employees, Ed Ott stated that “[w]e in the labor movement have to decide whether or not there is a bottom line we won’t go past. This is a Mayor who’s asking us to give up our health benefits, no wage increases, our jobs, and all for absolutely nothing in return.”

Manhattan Boro President Ruth Messinger said that “[t]his is not 1981 and this is not Patco. And the Mayor of this city must understand that New Yorkers will not tolerate union-busting.” State Senator Catherine Abate, City Council members Sal Albanese and Ken Fisher and others also showed up to defend the union.

Notably absent, however, were the major city unions that Giuliani’s attack on ALAA was designed to intimidate. Publicly, DC 37 Executive Director Stanley Hill advised “[b]oth sides [to] go back to the bargaining table.” Privately, DC 37 and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT)—the two largest municipal unions—conveyed to Giuliani their “neutrality,” presumably hoping to earn his favor in upcoming negotiations on his demands for $200 million savings in their members’ healthcare benefits.

Sonny Hall, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100 (subway and bus workers), said “The Legal Aid lawyers’ strike was indeed a careless act, although they had an excellent case for their demands . . . Our concern is not why the mayor said no, but how he said it.” As the New York Times explained, the municipal union leaders were unwilling to antagonize the administration:

Whether the Legal Aid workers realized it, they had walked off their jobs at a critical point in the city’s relationship with its work force. Mr. Giuliani, having just completed a round of budget cuts and staff reductions, has now gone back to the workers, seeking more job cuts and asking them to start contributing toward their health-care benefits. . . . Until now, the municipal unions have worked unexpectedly well with the Republican Mayor, recognizing both the city’s fiscal difficulties and their own shortage of political support among the general public. But hard times and pent-up wage demands can be a volatile mix for labor leaders to handle unless they convince their members that the pain is shared and no one has a choice. The Giuliani administration seemed to fear that by striking, the lawyers threatened the spirit of collective sacrifice.

Or, as CUNY professor Stanley Aronowitz pointed out, “[l]abor’s strategy has become Giuliani’s strategy. The big fry make their deals.” Also notably silent were City Council Speaker Peter Vallone and Governor Mario Cuomo—both Democrats.(13)

The strikers received support in some corners of the organized bar. NYCLU director Norman Siegel appeared at ALAA’s October 4 press conference.

The National Lawyers Guild/NYC Chapter offered its “support for your decision to strike over wages,” denounced “Giuliani’s decision to cancel the [LAS] contract” as being “designed to disenfranchise the city’s legal indigent defendant population and also cripple some of the most progressive elements in the New York City Bar,” and offered to cosponsor a press conference with the National Conference of Black Lawyers to back the ALAA.

Leonard J. Levenson, an 18-B attorney and elected officer of the New York Criminal Bar Association, offered his support by “applaud[ing ALAA’s] strike action,” and by vowing that “I will not serve as a strike breaker and will not accept any increased case load occasioned by your strike.”

Many private lawyers, however, regarded the 1994 strike as an opportunity for enrichment, rather than solidarity. “I’ve got to make a living,” offered Brooklyn attorney William Blasi, who made a point of arriving in court to pick up struck cases. Manhattan private attorney Mitchell Salloway celebrated: “More cases. More money. More food on the table.”

Rather than rally attorneys to the strike, Joyce David, Kings County Criminal Bar Association president and a former ALAA member, rationalized that “[i]t’s a shame, but times are tough and people have to make a living.”

Late that afternoon, emboldened by this alignment of forces, Giuliani issued the public ultimatum that any striking attorney who did not return to work by the following morning would be permanently blacklisted from all future city-funded representation:

If you want to show us that you’ll live up to your ethical obligations of not walking out on your clients, you have until tomorrow to do that. If you don’t then you’re not part of a responsible workforce that we could rely on in the future . . . There are many lawyers in the city looking for work.

Privately, he demanded that the Society’s Board avoid settlement in order to have the chance to make good on this threat.

While most ALAA members continued to respond courageously, ALAA’s leadership realized the union could not put its very existence at the mercy of Giuliani’s escalating—albeit illegal—threats. On Tuesday evening, after learning that the Board leadership was similarly concerned for the Society’s future, ALAA met Society at the offices of New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, where they negotiated a slightly better package than that rejected by union members a day earlier.

Pursuant to this tentative agreement, the ALAA Bargaining Committee directed members to report to work the next morning, hoping thereby to deprive Giuliani of an excuse to blacklist ALAA strikers. On the evening of October 5, ALAA members convened at 1199’s auditorium and ratified the agreement by a vote of 544-150-3, after which Letwin told the press that “[t]he mayor used the strike for his own political purposes. . . . Nonetheless we stood up for what we believed in, and we got a better contract.”

Many members, however, reacted bitterly at being forced to capitulate. Queens CDD Staff Attorney Young Ran Ra said that “When I took this job I knew I wouldn’t be paid well, but there may come a time when I can’t work here. A lot of people are contemplating leaving because of what has happened.” Bronx CDD attorney Luis Roman said, “[i]f I’m back here tomorrow, the sign on my door will read ‘Dump Rudy Headquarters.’” Mary Beth Mullaney, a new Manhattan CDD attorney, voiced the mixture of pride and sadness felt by many ALAA members:

Seven months ago I left my family and friends in Irmo, S.C. . . . to work as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society in New York. It is the job I had most wanted. On Oct. 1, I went on strike with about 800 of my colleagues. . . . I was asking Legal Aid Society management to redistribute funds already within the society. I struck because management gave itself a 4.5% salary increase, while giving staff lawyers nothing and cutting our health benefits. . . . There was nothing unethical about the strike. The lawyers work for a private firm that continued to represent clients during the strike. I also question the Mayor’s moral authority to accuse us of abandoning our clients. . . . I am ridiculed by my family and friends for the work I do. But I am proud of it because I am fighting to uphold individual rights for everyone, not just those who can afford it.

But Giuliani, now robbed of an excuse for mass firings, asserted that ALAA’s settlement meant nothing without his approval, that “[t]hey [Legal Aid attorneys] have a hope, not a reality of keeping their jobs,” and that any “new [contract] between the Society and the city . . . [must] prohibit strikes in the future.” Asked about the likelihood of issuing RFPs for the Society’s work despite the strike’s brief duration, Giuliani replied, “[i]t’s very likely.”

Public Analysis

Giuliani’s “victory” over the strikers was the subject of widespread comment. The New York Times praised the Mayor for his “firm foundation in fiscal reality . . . . The [strike] was a foolish challenge.” Ed Koch, who had supported the 1974 strike, before unsuccessfully trying to break the 1982 strike, now celebrated Giuliani’s “courage in taking on the striking Legal Aid attorneys.”

Lawrence Kudlow, economics editor of the far-right National Review and a chief budget economist during the Reagan administration, gleefully predicted that “Giuliani’s action on the Legal Aid lawyers was a very significant development; to some extent it’s a New York City version of Reagan’s PATCO confrontation . . . I’m sure it has sent a lot of public union officials scurrying.”

Writer and former public defender James S. Kunen came to ALAA’s defense in the Times: “The strike was fated to fail because these advocates for the indigent were demanding the one form of compensation their fellow citizens are unwilling to give them: respect.” Labor analyst Robert Fitch concluded that,

what’s surprising is not that Giuliani broke the [ALAA] strike by threatening to fire everybody and is now picking his teeth today with the attorneys’ bones. It’s that the rest of the city’s municipal labor movement—once regarded as the most militant and powerful in America—mostly looked on while the mayor gnawed away on the carcasses of their fellow trade unionists.

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