ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

October 29, 2007

2007.10.29: Reasons to Vote Down the Contract

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Monday, October 29, 2007 4:09 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Reasons to Vote Down the Contract

The shortcomings in the proposed contract now before us are self-evident:

* Three percent when contract is ratified (retroactive to October 1, 2007), and just 1 percent more, effective January 2008.

* Senior attorneys are again denied the same raises offered to junior attorneys.

* It does not regain any of the unprecedented series of give-backs recommended by the leadership, and ratified by the majority of members (below*).

The reasons for this poor offer are equally clear.

It’s not that there’s no money: Despite rising health insurance premiums, and due largely due to our unions’ efforts, Legal Aid has a $180 million annual budget.

It’s not that Union Executive Board members haven’t tried hard enough at the bargaining table; no doubt they have, and their effort is appreciated.

Rather, the reason is that Union leadership has done nothing to mobilize the membership — not even a rally or informational picket line. Without such pressure, management simply doesn’t *have* to offer more, and (with some minor adjustments) can pretty much unilaterally decide on the contract terms.

But Union members still have the final say. We can ratify the contract, thereby reconfirming management’s low estimation of us — for this and future contracts. In that case, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Or, as Azalia Torres argued in her presidential campaign last May, “we can work together to recapture the spirit that we need to reestablish ourselves as a strong and effective union.” That means giving the Executive Board some leverage by voting down this contract, and organizing the pressure necessary to get one that’s better.

[*]Givebacks: 2003-2006

* October 2003. Union permits management to break its promise of a 3 percent salary increase.

* June 2004. Union surrenders employer-paid TransitCheks and “defers” a 1.5% bonus for two years.

* December 2004. Union agrees to substantial increases in attorney health premium contributions, one-year reduction of employer pension contributions by more than half, and complete surrender of the “deferred” bonus (above).

* November 2006. Union accepts no meaningful increases above step five; sharp limits on use of comp time; no retro pay.

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