ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

September 15, 2009


From: Morris, Susan
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 4:54 PM

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.)

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