ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

September 29, 2009

2009.09.29: 9/29-10/2: Israeli Draft Resisters in NYC

Filed under: Antiwar,International Human Rights,Palestine — nyclaw01 @ 1:35 pm

From: Torres, Azalia
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 1:35 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: 9/29-10/2: Israeli Draft Resisters in NYC

For the past week, Maya Wind and Netta Mishly, both from Israel, have been explaining why they refuse.  They refuse to rule over an occupied people.  They refuse to detain Palestinians without charge. They refuse to guard checkpoints, to enforce a siege, to usher in a humanitarian disaster.

Speaking to a room of 200 supporters and critics in Berkeley, these two women reminded them, “Your tax dollars are going toward our Occupation!” They gave their personal accounts of how they came to be  B – Israeli youth who have signed a letter stating their refusal to join the Israeli army.  This was not a decision they came to lightly as they knew they would pay a price – military prison.

You can learn why they paid that price, because they will be speaking at several locations in New York starting next week, Sept. 29 through October 2!

Help us publicize these events by forwarding this e-mail widely; you can also visit our tour website at www.WhyWeRefuse.org where you can find out when the Shministim will be in other cities.  Don’t forget to pass the site along to your friends, family, coworkers, e-mail lists, and affiliated organizations.  The Why We Refuse Tour is a joint project of CODEPINK and Jewish Voice for Peace.

And, your generous support will help make this tour a vibrant success.  Can you make a donation to the tour and the Shministim?  Thank you for all the ways you support women’s voices in creating peace and justice in the Middle East. Email Nancy at codepinknyc@gmail.com

if you have questions or can volunteer to help at events.

We’ll see you there!

Onwards for Peace and Justice,

Nancy, Dana, Rae, Sydney, Ehud, CODEPINK, and Jewish Voice for Peace

WWW.CODEPINKNYC.ORG

 

 

See CODEPINK NYC’s other upcoming events here!
Haifa Zangana @ Bluestockings-CANCELED

EMBROIDERY CIRCLE
SAT 9/26, 1-5PM
Be an Artivist!

Shministim in NY, 9/29-10/2


Tuesday, 9/29

►Cornell University
7 PM ♦ Lewis Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall

►Columbia University
4 PM ♦ International Affairs Building Room 405

►Hunter College
7 PM ♦ Room TBA (Check here for updates)


Wednesday, 9/30

►Queens College
12 PM ♦ Room TBA (Check here for updates)

►Staten Island
7 PM ♦ Unitarian Church of Staten Island ♦ 312 Filmore St. at Clinton Ave.


Thursday, October 1

►NYC-DR Monthly Roundtable Breakfast
for Peacemakers
8 AM ♦ John Jay College of Criminal Justice ♦ 899 10th Ave., NYC ♦ Please RSVP to ACRGNYinfo@aol.com to ensure ample coffee

►Sarah Lawrence College
7:30 PM ♦ Titsworth Lecture Hall


Friday, October 2

►New York University

7:30 PM ♦ Kimmel Center KC 400 ♦ 60 Washington Sq. S.


Got Facebook? Join the Cause

Help support the tour

with your donations

 

Advertisements

2009.09.17: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories

2013.00.00 — Response to Debbie Wright — OCR

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 2:51 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories
Importance: High

The following is in response to Debbie Wright’s message of earlier today.

1. To vote or not

If one thing is clear from the membership-wide discussion that began yesterday, it’s that vague oral reassurances at some offices in August, when many members were on vacation, have not clarified our rights, the proposed “compromise,” the events that underlie it, and options other than surrender.

There should be no vote until the membership has had a full and informed discussion of this issue — particularly since the “compromise” is no better than what management wanted to begin with.

2. Just a trial period

Even under the most liberal reading, we would lose both individual and collective free speech rights during any “trial period.” For example, under the new system, no one could respond to Debbie’s position — or for that matter, about how our free speech rights will have been diminished.

3. “Management-run email”

The union e-list was never meant be confidential — there is no such thing in a discussion list of 700 people — whether on or off LAS email. Moreover, the threat of censorship has come not from management “spying,” but from snitching within our own ranks.

4. It’s not just the war or Palestine?
But it is: the only known demands for censorship at Legal Aid involve messages against the war or in defense of Palestinian rights.

5. Management is just being “prudent”
Under the law, a hostile work environment means “discriminatory workplace harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age or sex. Additionally, the harassment typically must be severe, recurring and pervasive.” http://employeeissues.com/hostile_work_environment.htm. Clearly, none of these criteria applies to the political opinions under attack here — and management does not claim otherwise.

Therefore, the union’s responsibility is not to justify or excuse management censorship, but rather to defend those who risk unwarranted punishment for expressing protected political opinions. Members who demand that management silence and punish those views do not belong on the union email list.*

*(In response to questions about the history cited in yesterday’s statement, Allen Popper does not deny repeatedly demanding that management suppress and/or punish speech against the war or in defense of Palestinians. Rather, he says, “I am very proud of my conduct. If you do not like it. I really do not care.” As previously stated, reports about threats to Legal Aid funding (and the ADL’s involvement) comes from management and union leaders. Last week, the ALAA Executive Board (including Popper) rejected Susan Morris’ proposal to verify those claims through a Request for Information to management pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act Section 8(a)(5)).

—————
Current Signers of Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid Statement

As of today, the following 32 union members have endorsed the Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid statement (apologies for any unintended omissions). (List in formation; affiliations listed for identification only.)

*Noha Arafa (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Alt. Vice-President)
*Julie Fry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Vice-President)
*Michael Letwin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former ALAA Pres., 1990-2002)
*Susan Olivia Morris (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., LGBT Rep.)
*Ivan Pantoja (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., Jr. Atty. Rep.)
*Azalia Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
*Jennifer Burkavage (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn, Delegate)
*Steve Terry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Florence Morgan (Criminal Defense-Queens)
*Mimi Rosenberg (Civil-Brooklyn)
*Antonia Codling (Criminal Defense-Bronx; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
*Roslyn Morrison (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Patrick Langhenry (Civil-Brooklyn)
*Marisa Benton (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Janet Forrester (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Lisa Edwards (Harlem Community Law Office)
*Brian Hutchinson (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Reda Woodcock (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Sigmund Israel (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Terrence Davidson (Criminal Defense-1199)
*Simone Berman-Rossi (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Kathryn Thiesenhusen (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Gregory Johnston (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Bahar Mirhosseini (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Stephanie Kaplan ((Criminal Defense-Manhattan)
*Katherine Fitzer (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Cheryl Williams (Criminal Appeals)
*Jonathan Garelick (Criminal Appeals)
*Steve Kliman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Marva Brown (Criminal Defense-Bronx)
*Adrian Lesher (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)(“I endorse this statement to the extent it opposes the proposed compromise.”)
*Laurie Dick (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)

2009.09.29: Today, 5-7:30: Emergency Protest Against Honduras Coup

Filed under: International Human Rights — nyclaw01 @ 9:18 am

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 9:18 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Today, 5-7:30: Emergency Protest Against Honduras Coup

COALITION SUPPORTING THE RESISTANCE AND PEOPLE OF HONDURAS CALL FOR EMERGENCY ACTIONS TO PROTEST THE ATTACKS ON THE BRAZILIAN EMBASSY IN HONDURAS

Candlelight Vigils & Protests to Occur Across the country on TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29

NEW YORK ACTION TO BE HELD AT
UNION SQUARE
14TH ST. & BROADWAY, MANHATTAN
5-7:30PM

COALITION DEMANDS AN END TO THE REPRESSION CARRIED OUT BY THE FRAUD MICHELETTI GOVERNMENT AND THE RETURN OF PRESIDENT MEL ZELAYA
Today, Sunday September 27, 2009, a coalition of progressive forces supporting the demands of the people of Honduras learned that the situation in that country is becoming more and more critical.

As a result of the growing dire situation in Honduras, peace and social justice activists are calling for another round of protests and vigils to take place around the United States on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Furthermore, the coalition is issuing an emergency alert as a result of developments learned on Sunday, September 27.
At this very moment, a delegation of officials representing the Organization of American States (OAC) are being detained by Honduran immigration officials at the Toncontín international airport in Tegucigalpa.

By order of the fraud and illegal government of Robert Michelet, the delegation of diplomats cannot enter into the country. This act violates all international laws and conventions with respect to the sovereignty of foreign countries. The officials had left Honduras in rejection of the illegal government. But in light of the fact that the Constitutional President of the Republic, President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales had returned to the country, the officials returned to express their solidarity as well as support the Arias plan proposed by the U.S. State Department and the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias.

The Honduran Ambassador in Washington has stated that the Secretary of the OAS, Mr. Insulsa is informed of the situation in Honduras.

The leaders of the Coup d’état have managed to block all Internet service.

The detention of OAS officials comes after several days of Michelet aggression against the Brazilian embassy. Michelet ordered the Embassy attacked when it was reported that President Zelaya was staying there.
It has been confirmed that coup leaders have dropped chemical gas on the Embassy and are using LRAD’s (Long Range Acoustic Devices) against President Zelaya, his wife and other supporters at the Brazilian embassy.

This is another violation of international law and conventions and can be interpreted as a blatant act of war.

LRAD’s are manufactured in the U.S. and can cause permanent hearing damage. A photographer captured the use of LRAD’s, which emit an acoustic beam so offensive and painful that it can cause serious damage to hearing. The sound is similar to a car alarm but dramatically more intense. At full capacity, the LRAD emits a 150 decibel sound wave, journalists report.

This weapon has frequently been used by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Zelaya reports from the Brazilian embassy that they have been subjected to “bombardments with chemical products and ultrasound waves that provoke illness and make people very nervous.”

The coalition of forces supporting the people and resistance of Honduras are urging everyone to come out Tuesday in cities around the country to protest this act of aggression, to demand that the White House condemn this aggression and to support the demands of the Honduran people.

The coalition includes IFCO/Pastors for Peace, Hondurans in Resistance U.S.A, the International Action Center, San Romero Church, Rev. Luis Barrios, La Peña del Bronx, Local 1199 SEIU, Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle; NALACC, Bayan USA, Ramsey Clark, Artists and Activists United for Peace; Peruvians in Action; Human Rights Project of the Urban justice Center; Colectivo rebel Diaz, Cuba Solidarity New York, Red de Organizaciones Afro-Centroamericanas-USA, Human Rights Project of the Urban Justice Center; Millions 4 Mumia; International League for Peoples Struggle; Comité Dominicano de Solidaridad con los Pueblos, Troops Out Now, Jersey City Peace Movement, NJ Action 21; Trabajadoras por la Paz, Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional – FMLN, Red de Comunidades Salvadoreñas en el Exterior, Empresarios por el Cambio, Centro de Derechos Laborales and others.

-30-

September 22, 2009

2009.09.22: RE: Urgent Appeal to ALAA Members: Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid

Filed under: Free Speech,Palestine — nyclaw01 @ 8:20 am

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Tuesday, September 22, 2009 8:20 AM
To: [M]
Subject: RE: Urgent Appeal to ALAA Members: Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid

[M],

Sorry for the delayed response, but it’s been . . . A little hectic.

I think you know me well enough to see that I don’t set out to be “hurtful,” but rather to stand up for my beliefs. Would you really respect me if I didn’t? (I wouldn’t.)

And the union, including union email, *is* a forum for political expression — particularly when others routinely do so. (Vote for Obama, whatever.) Should the test really be whether one’s point of view is popular?

Under similar attack, MLK explained the principle I try to honor:

“One day a newsman came to me and said, “Dr. King, don’t you think you’re going to have to stop, now, opposing the war and move more in line with the administration’s policy? As I understand it, it has hurt the budget of your organization, and people who once respected you have lost respect foryou. Don’t you feel that you’ve really got to change your position?” I looked at him and I had to say, “Sir, I’m sorry you don’t know me. I’m not a consensus leader. I do not determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I’ve not taken a sort of Gallup Poll of the majority opinion.” Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.

On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?

“There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”
http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/kingpapers/article/remaining_awake_through_a_great_revolution/

Best,

Michael

—–Original Message—–
From: [M]
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 8:56 PM
To: Letwin, Michael
Subject: Re: Urgent Appeal to ALAA Members: Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid

I love you but you did this to yourself and to all of us. we don’t have a free speech right bc we work fora non profit law firm. I cringe when you send those emails that intentionally provoke outrage and are HURTFUL. I don’t understand why you think that’s ok. I support your positions politically, but alaaemail is not the forum. I don’t think you are going to get a lot of support from your colleagues on this issue.
but I wanted to come to las bc I thought you were a badass and I love love love you.

sent from my cell…

On Sep 15, 2009, at 8:47 PM, “Letwin, Michael”
wrote:

> The attached Word document provides background and context in
> opposition to the proposed surrender of free speech rights on the
> union email lists, which is scheduled for a vote at this Thursday’s
> Joint Council meeting.
>
> *To endorse this statement, please say so in a “reply all” message.*
> <Defend.Free.Speech.doc> <Attachment 1 —
> LASALAAE-mailArbitrationSettlement072809[1].pdf>

September 17, 2009

1009.09.17: RE: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories

From:  Letwin, Michael
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 4:47 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: RE: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories

[J.],

I don’t understand your point.

Allen Popper admits that he complained to management, but denies contacting the ADL or threatening to undermine LAS funding: “I do not  deny that I grieved that, because I think it creates a hostile working environment. . . . I never had any organization , Jewish,not Jewish, political of any sort contact Legal Aid. Others did. I know that because I spoke to several of  the persons who did complain.  I respect their actions to do so , but, it is not something I would have considered.”

As explained in the Free Speech document, management made verbal comments mentioning Popper and/or unidentified others having contacted the ADL (with whom management says it had discussions) and threatening to undermine LAS funding; they would not be more specific.

The Free Speech statement did not vouch for the accuracy of management’s comments, but rather relayed their stated reasons for censoring the speech in question. In other words, it recounted what we were told.

The union can determine who (if anyone) was in fact responsible for those actions through a Request for Information under the NLRA.

Although Popper’s other complaints are not in dispute, attached are the following three documents specifically cited in the statement (and not previously footnoted).

1. Letter of October 29, 2001 from the UAW to Allen Popper.

2. Grievance Letter of April 5, 2002 from Allen Popper to Daniel Greenberg.

3. Email of July 31, 2006 from Michael Letwin to Dawn Ryan, in response to grievance by Allen Popper.

Michael

 

_____________________________________________

From:  J.
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 2:59 PM
To: Letwin, Michael; ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: RE: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories

But still no substantiation of your allegations against Allen Popper, nor a public apology.

As I said yesterday, the email issue is of extreme importance.

However, equally, if not more important is our respect for each other.

You made some very damning accusations.

Please provide us with evidence supporting each and every one of your accusations, or apologize.

I am not commenting on the merits of anyone’s opinions regarding any political issues…..just basic respect.

_____________________________________________

From:  Letwin, Michael
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 2:51 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories
Importance: High

The following is in response to Debbie Wright’s message of earlier today.

1. To vote or not

If one thing is clear from the membership-wide discussion that began yesterday, it’s that vague oral reassurances at some offices in August, when many members were on vacation, have not clarified our rights, the proposed “compromise,” the events that underlie it, and options other than surrender.

There should be no vote until the membership has had a full and informed discussion of this issue — particularly since the “compromise” is no better than what management wanted to begin with.

2. Just a trial period

Even under the most liberal reading, we would lose both individual and collective free speech rights during any “trial period.” For example, under the new system, no one could respond to Debbie’s position — or for that matter, about how our free speech rights will have been diminished.

3. “Management-run email”

The union e-list was never meant be confidential — there is no such thing in a discussion list of 700 people — whether on or off LAS email. Moreover, the threat of censorship has come not from management “spying,” but from snitching within our own ranks.

4. It’s not just the war or Palestine?

But it is: the only known demands for censorship at Legal Aid involve messages against the war or in defense of Palestinian rights.

5. Management is just being “prudent”

Under the law, a hostile work environment means “discriminatory workplace harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age or sex. Additionally, the harassment typically must be severe, recurring and pervasive.” http://employeeissues.com/hostile_work_environment.htm. Clearly, none of these criteria applies to the political opinions under attack here — and management does not claim otherwise.

Therefore, the union’s responsibility is not to justify or excuse management censorship, but rather to defend those who risk unwarranted punishment for expressing protected political opinions. Members who demand that management silence and punish those views do not belong on the union email list.*

*(In response to questions about the history cited in yesterday’s statement, Allen Popper does not deny repeatedly demanding that management suppress and/or punish speech against the war or in defense of Palestinians. Rather, he says, “I am very proud of my conduct. If you do not like it. I really do not care.” As previously stated, reports about threats to Legal Aid funding (and the ADL’s involvement) comes from management and union leaders. Last week, the ALAA Executive Board (including Popper) rejected Susan Morris’ proposal to verify those claims through a Request for Information to management pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act Section 8(a)(5)).

—————

Current Signers of Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid Statement

As of today, the following 32 union members have endorsed the Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid statement (apologies for any unintended omissions). (List in formation; affiliations listed for identification only.)

*Noha Arafa (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Alt. Vice-President)
*Julie Fry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Vice-President)
*Michael Letwin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former ALAA Pres., 1990-2002)
*Susan Olivia Morris (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., LGBT Rep.)
*Ivan Pantoja (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., Jr. Atty. Rep.)
*Azalia Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
*Jennifer Burkavage (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn, Delegate)
*Steve Terry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Florence Morgan (Criminal Defense-Queens)
*Mimi Rosenberg (Civil-Brooklyn)
*Antonia Codling (Criminal Defense-Bronx; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
*Roslyn Morrison (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Patrick Langhenry (Civil-Brooklyn)
*Marisa Benton (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Janet Forrester (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Lisa Edwards (Harlem Community Law Office)
*Brian Hutchinson (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Reda Woodcock (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Sigmund Israel (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Terrence Davidson (Criminal Defense-1199)
*Simone Berman-Rossi (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Kathryn Thiesenhusen (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Gregory Johnston (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Bahar Mirhosseini (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Stephanie Kaplan ((Criminal Defense-Manhattan)
*Katherine Fitzer (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Cheryl Williams (Criminal Appeals)
*Jonathan Garelick (Criminal Appeals)
*Steve Kliman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Marva Brown (Criminal Defense-Bronx)
*Adrian Lesher (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)(“I endorse this statement to the extent it opposes the proposed compromise.”)
*Laurie Dick (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)

2009.09.17: RE: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 3:40 PM
To: Wright, Deborah; ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: RE: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories
Debbie,

It should not be necessary to point out that 1199 members are our fellow union members at Legal Aid, with whom we have stood in close alliance, particularly during the 1990s. (Hence the slogan, “1199/ALAA: United in Spirit, United in Action,” attached.) Moreover, surrender of ALAA’s free speech rights will certainly impact on the rights of 1199 members.

As for your other point, please specify where the proposed “compromise” states that “The ALAA email group would remain intact in that we can all still use it and respond back and forth. . . . just like we do now” (or words to that effect).

Thanks,

Michael

 

——————————————————————————–
From: Wright, Deborah
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 3:07 PM
To: Letwin, Michael; ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: RE: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories
First, why is 1199 copied on this email? But more importantly, I need to correct a factual mistake under paragraph (2) that you keep putting forth. The ALAA email group would remain intact in that we can all still use it and respond back and forth. This would not be a one-way notification system, so in actuality, members could still respond to something that I or anyone else sends out, just like we do now.

——————————————————————————–
From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 2:50 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories
The following is in response to Debbie Wright’s message of earlier today.

1. To vote or not

If one thing is clear from the membership-wide discussion that began yesterday, it’s that vague oral reassurances at some offices in August, when many members were on vacation, have not clarified our rights, the proposed “compromise,” the events that underlie it, and options other than surrender.

There should be no vote until the membership has had a full and informed discussion of this issue — particularly since the “compromise” is no better than what management wanted to begin with.

2. Just a trial period

Even under the most liberal reading, we would lose both individual and collective free speech rights during any “trial period.” For example, under the new system, no one could respond to Debbie’s position — or for that matter, about how our free speech rights will have been diminished.

3. “Management-run email”

The union e-list was never meant be confidential — there is no such thing in a discussion list of 700 people — whether on or off LAS email. Moreover, the threat of censorship has come not from management “spying,” but from snitching within our own ranks.

4. It’s not just the war or Palestine?

But it is: the only known demands for censorship at Legal Aid involve messages against the war or in defense of Palestinian rights.

5. Management is just being “prudent”

Under the law, a hostile work environment means “discriminatory workplace harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age or sex. Additionally, the harassment typically must be severe, recurring and pervasive.” http://employeeissues.com/hostile_work_environment.htm. Clearly, none of these criteria applies to the political opinions under attack here — and management does not claim otherwise.

Therefore, the union’s responsibility is not to justify or excuse management censorship, but rather to defend those who risk unwarranted punishment for expressing protected political opinions. Members who demand that management silence and punish those views do not belong on the union email list.*

*(In response to questions about the history cited in yesterday’s statement, Allen Popper does not deny repeatedly demanding that management suppress and/or punish speech against the war or in defense of Palestinians. Rather, he says, “I am very proud of my conduct. If you do not like it. I really do not care.” As previously stated, reports about threats to Legal Aid funding (and the ADL’s involvement) comes from management and union leaders. Last week, the ALAA Executive Board (including Popper) rejected Susan Morris’ proposal to verify those claims through a Request for Information to management pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act Section 8(a)(5)).

—————
Current Signers of Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid Statement

As of today, the following 32 union members have endorsed the Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid statement (apologies for any unintended omissions). (List in formation; affiliations listed for identification only.)

*Noha Arafa (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Alt. Vice-President)
*Julie Fry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Vice-President)
*Michael Letwin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former ALAA Pres., 1990-2002)
*Susan Olivia Morris (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., LGBT Rep.)
*Ivan Pantoja (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., Jr. Atty. Rep.)
*Azalia Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
*Jennifer Burkavage (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn, Delegate)
*Steve Terry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Florence Morgan (Criminal Defense-Queens)
*Mimi Rosenberg (Civil-Brooklyn)
*Antonia Codling (Criminal Defense-Bronx; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
*Roslyn Morrison (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Patrick Langhenry (Civil-Brooklyn)
*Marisa Benton (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Janet Forrester (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Lisa Edwards (Harlem Community Law Office)
*Brian Hutchinson (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Reda Woodcock (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Sigmund Israel (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Terrence Davidson (Criminal Defense-1199)
*Simone Berman-Rossi (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Kathryn Thiesenhusen (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Gregory Johnston (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Bahar Mirhosseini (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Stephanie Kaplan ((Criminal Defense-Manhattan)
*Katherine Fitzer (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Cheryl Williams (Criminal Appeals)
*Jonathan Garelick (Criminal Appeals)
*Steve Kliman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Marva Brown (Criminal Defense-Bronx)
*Adrian Lesher (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)(“I endorse this statement to the extent it opposes the proposed compromise.”)
*Laurie Dick (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)

2009.09.17: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories

From:  Letwin, Michael
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 2:51 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: Response to Debbie Wright & Latest Free Speech Signatories

Importance: High

The following is in response to Debbie Wright’s message of earlier today.

1. To vote or not

If one thing is clear from the membership-wide discussion that began yesterday, it’s that vague oral reassurances at some offices in August, when many members were on vacation, have not clarified our rights, the proposed “compromise,” the events that underlie it, and options other than surrender.

There should be no vote until the membership has had a full and informed discussion of this issue — particularly since the “compromise” is no better than what management wanted to begin with.

2. Just a trial period

Even under the most liberal reading, we would lose both individual and collective free speech rights during any “trial period.” For example, under the new system, no one could respond to Debbie’s position — or for that matter, about how our free speech rights will have been diminished.

3. “Management-run email”

The union e-list was never meant be confidential — there is no such thing in a discussion list of 700 people — whether on or off LAS email. Moreover, the threat of censorship has come not from management “spying,” but from snitching within our own ranks.

4. It’s not just the war or Palestine?

But it is: the only known demands for censorship at Legal Aid involve messages against the war or in defense of Palestinian rights.

5. Management is just being “prudent”

Under the law, a hostile work environment means “discriminatory workplace harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age or sex. Additionally, the harassment typically must be severe, recurring and pervasive.” http://employeeissues.com/hostile_work_environment.htm. Clearly, none of these criteria applies to the political opinions under attack here — and management does not claim otherwise.

Therefore, the union’s responsibility is not to justify or excuse management censorship, but rather to defend those who risk unwarranted punishment for expressing protected political opinions. Members who demand that management silence and punish those views do not belong on the union email list.*

*(In response to questions about the history cited in yesterday’s statement, Allen Popper does not deny repeatedly demanding that management suppress and/or punish speech against the war or in defense of Palestinians. Rather, he says, “I am very proud of my conduct. If you do not like it. I really do not care.” As previously stated, reports about threats to Legal Aid funding (and the ADL’s involvement) comes from management and union leaders. Last week, the ALAA Executive Board (including Popper) rejected Susan Morris’ proposal to verify those claims through a Request for Information to management pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act Section 8(a)(5)).

—————

Current Signers of Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid Statement

As of today, the following 32 union members have endorsed the Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid statement (apologies for any unintended omissions). (List in formation; affiliations listed for identification only.)

Noha Arafa (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Alt. Vice-President)
Julie Fry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Vice-President)
Michael Letwin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former ALAA Pres., 1990-2002)
Susan Olivia Morris (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., LGBT Rep.)
Ivan Pantoja (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., Jr. Atty. Rep.)
Azalia Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
Jennifer Burkavage (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn, Delegate)
Steve Terry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Florence Morgan (Criminal Defense-Queens)
Mimi Rosenberg (Civil-Brooklyn)
Antonia Codling (Criminal Defense-Bronx; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
Roslyn Morrison (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Patrick Langhenry (Civil-Brooklyn)
Marisa Benton (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Janet Forrester (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Lisa Edwards (Harlem Community Law Office)
Brian Hutchinson (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Reda Woodcock (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Sigmund Israel (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Terrence Davidson (Criminal Defense-1199)
Simone Berman-Rossi (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Kathryn Thiesenhusen (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Gregory Johnston (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Bahar Mirhosseini (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Stephanie Kaplan ((Criminal Defense-Manhattan)
Katherine Fitzer (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Cheryl Williams (Criminal Appeals)
Jonathan Garelick (Criminal Appeals)
Steve Kliman (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
Marva Brown (Criminal Defense-Bronx)
Adrian Lesher (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)(“I endorse this statement to the extent it opposes the proposed compromise.”)
Laurie Dick (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)

 

September 15, 2009

2009.09.15: MEMBERS: INSTRUCT YOUR DELEGATES – VOTE NO

From: Morris, Susan
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 4:54 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: MEMBERS: INSTRUCT YOUR DELEGATES – VOTE NO

On Thursday, 9/17, at the Joint Council Meeting, a vote will be taken on what has been labeled the “Interim Memorandum of Agreement.”  This is an agreement between The Legal Aid Society and the ALAA involving a serious change in the Society’s contractual obligation to us as union members that allows us to communicate freely using the email system.

For the reasons listed below, we urge members to instruct their delegates to vote no on this so-called “Agreement.”

This agreement seriously curtails an existing contractual benefit.  As such, it should require the vote of the entire membership rather than the delegates.  Labeling the change “a vote to interpret” the contract as opposed to a vote to amend the contract is fallacious and inappropriate. The terms of this agreement result in a loss of an existing contractual right, and therefore should require a membership vote.  Preferably, this vote would be taken after contract negotiations are resolved, as a vote on any contractual alterations would be conducted.

The “Interim” period is not defined.  In the division meetings, we were advised that the terms would be for a trial period only, and there is no definition to the length of this period.

There are no protections in this agreement for our membership who may not live up to the unclear definitions and regulation provided.

The gravity of this change in contractual obligations is such that our ALAA leadership organized division meetings to ensure that all members were informed of the details; unfortunately, because of LAS’ timing in demanding the agreement be signed onto by ALAA, these meetings were held during the heaviest vacation period, and not well attended; indeed, some divisions have not yet had their meetings – and certainly not with enough time to have cluster/subdivision meetings to vote in order to instruct the delegates on how to vote at the Joint Council Meeting.

The LAS advises us that they would like to avoid arbitration, which was voted on by the JC in a prior meeting.  In spite of this claim, the agreement begins and ends with the position that arbitration is where we will end up.

The terms of the agreement could almost be compared to a “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy in that the “rules” are circular and nonsensical.

The agreement claims that the “opt-out” policy shall be adhered to; we currently have an “opt-out” policy in that ALAA list members have the ability to delete and/or set up rules to avoid those emails the members find disagreeable.

We have always had a free exchange of ideas in the ALAA, and we have always been able to use our ALAA email list and the LAS email system to foster this exchange.  The fact that certain people speak out passionately about issues that are dear to their hearts should not be reason for curtailment of our ability to speak out and to speak up. As lawyers who give voice to the silenced, it is inconceivable that we should allow LAS to curtail this exchange.  The fact that a few people find that the passions of some are in opposition to their views is not a reason to shut down the system that we have practiced for many years.

For the reasons outlined above, we urge the members to instruct their delegates to vote no and to not approve the “Agreement” which LAS has proposed.

Susan O. Morris, BK CDD

Julie Fry, BK CDD

(Please refer to the forthcoming email that will outline the history of free speech on the email system, which also includes the information that LAS has determined certain claims to be unfounded regarding the passionate political speech that is currently under attack.)

2009.09.15: Urgent Appeal to ALAA Members: Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 8:48 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: Urgent Appeal to ALAA Members: Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid
Importance: High

The attached Word document provides background and context in opposition to the proposed surrender of free speech rights on the union email lists, which is scheduled for a vote at this Thursday’s Joint Council meeting.

*To endorse this statement, please say so in a “reply all” message.*

Urgent Appeal to ALAA Members: Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid
September 15, 2009

Decades of free speech rights at Legal Aid are under serious attack.

On its face, the threat comes from management’s attempt to ban free speech on the union email list,[1] and a parallel ban against postings on the outside of doors to internal offices and workspaces.

But according to management and ALAA leaders, the driving force behind these policies are demands by union members and others to censor speech critical of U.S./Israeli policies.

If implemented, the ALAA office will be allowed to post email messages, but “the system may not be used as a forum for discussion of those announcements.” The ban “will be strictly enforced,” and violators will face “disciplinary action that may result in discharge from employment.”

The union has previously voted to grieve such email restrictions. But now, to avoid arbitration, union leadership advocates a “compromise” (attached) that, citing the very management policies in dispute, prohibits discussion on the union email list, and offers no free speech protection on “personal” email groups.

For the reasons below, the undersigned urges all members—regardless of political opinion—to direct union representatives at the September 17 Joint Council to vote against surrendering free speech rights at Legal Aid.

Free Speech Rights at Legal Aid

ALAA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement provides unambiguous protection for free speech: “The expression of personal religious, political, social or economic beliefs of each and every attorney is fully guaranteed.” § 3.5.

In that spirit, the Society joined ALAA and 1199 to defend attorneys’ right to wear “Ready to Strike” buttons in court, Frankel v. Roberts, 165 AD2d 382 (1st Dept. 1991), and to challenge the Giuliani administration’s retaliation for the 1994 strike.

The CBA also provides that, “The Union will have reasonable use of the Society’s internal communication mechanisms.” § 1.5.

For decades, the union and its members have exercised that right through access to LAS bulletin boards, individual office doors, staff mailboxes, telephones, fax machines, and/or conference rooms. This discourse has often included controversial political speech.

By the late 1990s, discussion had largely migrated to the Society’s email system. In 2000, management established union email lists.[2] Recognizing that free speech is essential, most members have debated, blocked or simply ignored content they dislike.

9/11: Censorship Rears Its Head

The following details the progression of censorship at Legal Aid since 9/11.

*October 26, 2001. Allen Popper (then ALAA Vice-President for CDD-Queens) unsuccessfully demands that the United Auto Workers remove ALAA president Michael Letwin for his vocal leadership of New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), which opposes the Bush administration’s post-9/11 policies.[3]

*October 28, 2001. ALAA’s citywide officers refute false claims that, in opposing the war, Letwin has purported to speak on behalf of the union.[4]

*February 21, 2002. After five months of obstruction by Popper and others, the ALAA Delegate Council overwhelmingly condemns the Bush administration’s attack on civil liberties and immigrant rights.[5]

*April 5, 2002. Popper files a grievance claiming that email messages “condemning Israel, supporting the Palestinians” are “antisemitic” [sic]. On threat of legal action against Legal Aid, he demands that the senders “be suspended or fired,” and that any staff attorney “who attends said [Palestinian rights] rally as a legal advisor be suspended.”

*June 13, 2002. Management unsuccessfully tries to impose a unilateral ban of all discussion on the union e-mail lists.

*2003-2006. Popper and other members—while posting their own political or other “non-work” messages—reportedly continue to demand that management ban messages critical of the war and/or Israel.

*July 2006. Popper (now in CDD-Brooklyn) files a grievance about an allegedly “anti semetic [sic] flyer” left on his desk.[6] The grievance is denied.

*June 12, 2007. Management and union leadership says that Popper, other unidentified union members, and/or the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL) have threatened to contact the City Council about “anti-Semitic” Antiwar Bulletins posted on the union email lists.[7] As a result, management tells Letwin not to post any messages about Israel or Iraq.[8]

*October 28, 2008. Management says that, in response to complainants that management would not identify, Letwin must remove a “Free Palestine” sticker from his office door. Brooklyn CDD members protest this policy by posting various materials on their own office doors, in response to which management suspends its order pending arbitration of the overall speech ban.

*January 13, 2009. Forty-four ALAA and 1199 members (many of them Jewish) issue a statement condemning Israel’s attack on Gaza.[9][9] Management receives additional censorship demands.

*May 12, 2009. After extensive discussion, Brooklyn CDD ALAA proposes an Open Letter to Steven Banks: Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid (below*), which is designed to enlist members in a campaign to have the free speech ban withdrawn, before ever reaching arbitration.

ALAA’s Executive Board rejects Brooklyn’s proposal as needlessly provocative to management, unpopular with members and insulting to union leaders. The leadership has yet to inform all members of the history and context of management’s censorship plans.

*August 2009. Union leaders criticize the targeted political speech as “divisive,” and argue that “we have no choice” but to accept management’s “compromise” that forbids collective discussion on union email lists.

*September 17, 2009. ALAA Joint Council to vote on management’s free speech ban.

Expediency or Principle?

For the reasons below, the free speech ban is just plain wrong.

*As Brooklyn CDD union representatives (both supporters and opponents of Israeli policy) have pointed out to management, antiwar and “Free Palestine” opinions are—like earlier demands to “Free South Africa”—clearly not ethnic slurs, but protected political speech.

*Accepting such a content-motivated speech ban—without even a fight—would make us complicit in the very post-9/11 witch-hunting, Islamophobia and erosion of civil liberties ALAA has previously vowed to oppose. It also invites demands for givebacks in other areas, of which there have already been many.[10]

*Surrender to a ban on email discussion (or posting on office doors) won’t resolve this issue. Those of us who are against the war and who support Palestinian rights will employ other forms of speech at the workplace and on newly established off-site union lists. What happens when the censors try to silence that free speech?

*The “compromise” isn’t. It simply tracks a speech ban that blatantly violates our contractual rights.

*By taking the moral high ground, a public membership-based campaign, with support from civil liberties and community allies, can effectively generate pressure on management to withdraw its free speech ban—without ever going to arbitration.

Signers

(List in formation; affiliations listed for identification only.)

*Noha Arafa (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Alt. Vice-President)
*Julie Fry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Vice-President)
*Michael Letwin (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former ALAA Pres., 1990-2002)
*Susan Olivia Morris (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., LGBT Rep.)
*Ivan Pantoja (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; ALAA Executive Bd., Jr. Atty. Rep.)
*Azalia Torres (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
*Jennifer Burkavage (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn, Delegate)
*Steve Terry (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Florence Morgan (Criminal Defense-Queens)
*Mimi Rosenberg (Civil-Brooklyn)
*Antonia Codling (Criminal Defense-Bronx; former member, ALAA Executive Bd.)
*Roslyn Morrison (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Patrick Langhenry (Civil-Brooklyn)
*Marisa Benton (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Janet Forrester (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Lisa Edwards (Harlem Community Law Office)
*Brian Hutchinson (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)
*Reda Woodcock (Criminal Defense-Brooklyn)

*Open Letter to Steven Banks: Defend Free Speech at Legal Aid

Submitted by Brooklyn CDD, May 12, 2009

The undersigned ALAA and 1199 members at The Legal Aid Society in New York City are alarmed and disappointed by your attempt to undermine our longstanding free speech rights by seeking to prohibit posted materials on individual office doors and to abolish collective discussion by union members on the Legal Aid email system.

The new policy violates ALAA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, which provides that “The expression of personal religious, political, social or economic beliefs of each and every attorney is fully guaranteed,” and that “The Union will have reasonable use of the Society’s internal communication mechanisms.” §§ 3.5, 1.5.

The policy also betrays decades of past practice and fundamental democratic principles. Moreover, it would have a devastating effect on our individual and collective ability to function as union members.

It is especially reprehensible that the new policy reflects an ongoing attempt to silence particular political opinions. Regardless of whether we agree with those viewpoints, attempts to chill their expression — either directly or indirectly — are an indefensible attack on the rights of all union members.

We expect you as Attorney-in-Chief to stand up for free speech at The Legal Aid Society by withdrawing this new policy, and look forward to your prompt reply.



[2] Rather than continuing to enumerate each and every type of rapidly changing communications technology, § 1.5 was shortened to its current overarching language.

[3] NYCLAW’s initial statement of September 27, 2001 was ultimately signed by 1,254 trade unionists, including fifty-eight union presidents (three from the UAW); fifty-eight ALAA members; and twenty-three Legal Aid 1199 members. 9.11 5th Anniversary: NYC Labor Against the War (9.27.01), http://nyclaw01.wordpress.com/2006/09/10/911-5th-anniversary-nyc-labor-against-the-war-92701/.

[4] Michael Letwin, George Albro and Charlotte Hitchcock, Labor Against the War Statement (October 28, 2001), http://nyclaw01.wordpress.com/2001/10/28/labor-against-the-war-statement-re-alaauaw-local-2325/. See also, Zuss: 9/11 and NYC Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), http://bobzuss.wordpress.com/2007/05/31/september-27-2001-nyc-labor-against-the-war-nyclaw/; Michael Letwin, Support for UAW Local 2325 Antiwar Resolution (April 14, 2003), http://nyclaw01.wordpress.com/2003/04/14/support-for-uaw-local-2325-antiwar-resolution/.

[5] “As a labor union whose members fight each day for the statutory and constitutional rights of indigent New Yorkers, The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325, is deeply opposed to the Bush administration’s broad assault on precious civil liberties and democratic rights.” In Defense of Civil Liberties, February 21, 2002, http://www.nacdl.org/public.nsf/ENews/2002e30?opendocument.

[6] Questioned by management, Letwin replies, “While I did not leave anything on Allen Popper’s desk, the flyer in question condemns U.S.-Israeli policy—a position shared by many Jews, including me—and is in no way anti-Semitic.”

[7] The ADL routinely brands as “anti-Semitic” supporters of Palestinian rights (including those who are Jewish). Its recent targets include Nobel peace laureates Jimmy Carter, Arch-Bishop Desmond Tutu, and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk; former Irish President and 2009 Medal of Freedom recipient Mary Robinson; Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson; former US Congress Member Cynthia McKinney; university professors; and trade unionists. Last month, for suggesting modest limits on illegal Israeli settlements, the ADL fired warning shots across Barack Obama’s bow.

[8] Antiwar Bulletins and other materials continued to be posted by Letwin and others, including Antonia Codling (July 2, 2007), Noha Arafa (September 10, 2007), Azalia Torres (October 23, 2007), Julie Fry (March 21, 2008), and Marisa Benton (April 15, 2008).

[9] Legal Aid NYC Union Members: Stop Israel’s Massacre in Gaza and End the Siege Now (January 23, 2009), http://laborforpalestine.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/legal-aid-nyc-union-members-stop-israel%E2%80%99s-massacre-in-gaza-and-end-the-siege-now/.

[10] See, e.g., Bob Zuss and Susan Morris, Vote No (December 13, 2004), http://bobzuss.wordpress.com/2004/12/13/vote-no/ ; Michael Letwin, The Real Issues in This Election (May 16, 2007), http://bobzuss.wordpress.com/2007/05/16/the-real-issues-in-this-election-michael-letwin/ .

Blog at WordPress.com.