ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

November 17, 2009

2009.11.17: RE: Extern Grievance

From:  Letwin, Michael
Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 1:04 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

Thank you, [D.]. This is just the latest in a seemingly endless series of union concessions (free speech, givebacks, etc.), yet again presented to members as a “done deal” and wrongly justified as “solidarity.”

_____________________________________________

From:  [D.]
Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 11:45 AM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

So what everyone seems to be saying is as long as it generates money for civil, it’s okay to overlook the fact that we are a union shop.  Perhaps we should just vote to get rid of the union altogether.

Allowing non-union employees to carry case-loads weakens the union.  It’s not acceptable.  We can’t run a shop where some people are covered by union protection and others aren’t.

Furthermore, the contract does specify that staff participate with management in the selection of new-hires.  Given that the externs are case-handlers and function in all senses as if they were a new hire, and here at CDD, staff had no say in the selection of the externs; that alone should be grievable.  We have a stringent application and interview process here at CDP; the externs did not go through that process.

We’re slowly eroding rights that the union has fought hard to secure.  This is setting a bad precedent when it comes time to negotiate with management.

___________________________________________

From:  [J.]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 4:59 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

Actually, the negative implications would be two-fold.

First, as the civil division has been suffering attrition over the last year and a half in order to preserve existing position, there are growing holes in our ability to serve our communities.  Civil is employing something like 31 externs this year and it allows us to continue doing the work we normally do, but in the face of an extreme financial crisis where the need for civil attorneys to deal with unemployment, public assistance, evictions and foreclosures is at a record high.  Externs help us better represent our clients by assisting with client screening, legal research and writing, etc.

I couldn’t tell if Mr. [P.]  was making light of the fact that Civil depends on big firm money.

Second, in the civil division, we rely on funds from over 70 grants from sources like the city, state, and federal government.  We rely on private foundations and private donors, including the large firms in NYC.  In light of the fact that civil funding statewide is in peril because the IOLA funds have dried up because of reduced interest rates and fewer lawyer escrow transactions, we can’t afford to lose other important funding sources.  So, yes, maintaining good relationships with large firms is important to our continued work.  Legal Services of NYC, our sister organization receives LSC (federal civil legal services) funds and we do not.  Those funds restrict their ability to work with undocumented populations and to bring class action lawsuits.  Legal Aid can do what other civil legal services can’t because instead of LSC funds, we get law firm funds.  Additionally, unlike the specific grant money we get that often funds very specified work, law firm funds are unrestricted funds.  This means that less “glamorous” practices such as public benefits which would otherwise go unfunded  but are certainly essential to poor and low income New Yorkers still receive funding.

Perhaps in CDD, you aren’t reminded of how your job is funded, but in Civil it is ever-present in our minds.  Many of us have to fill out grant reporting paperwork daily.  We get updates from our management about how we can’t fill positions because of the downturn in our funding.  It would be nice just to focus on the purely legal aspects of our jobs and not fear that we will be laid off this July.

I understand management screwed up initially, but subsequently as a union the extern issue has been discussed, rationales explained, issues raised, and agreements negotiated.  Why does one borough office feel so effected when they have little to gain or lose since they do not have externs?

_____________________________________________

From:  [J.]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 4:17 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

Why?

_____________________________________________

From:  [A.]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 4:13 PM
To: MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

I would think that the Big Firms which mostly fund the Civil Division, will tell Civil that they won’t fund them anymore..  That is what may happen..

_____________________________________________

From:  [J.]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 4:09 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

[J.] – what do you mean by “profound negative implications?”

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From:  [J.]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 4:06 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Extern Grievance

Although, you seem to try and limit this to CDD, asking for the use of externs to be found in violation of the contract would have profound negative implications for the other two practices, Civil and JRP.  I don’t understand the purpose of this grievance since Brooklyn CDD participated in union-management negotiations regarding externs( as directed by the EB)  and specifically asked that no extern be placed in Brooklyn CDD.

_____________________________________________

From:  Fry, Julie
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 1:06 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Extern Grievance

The  members of Brooklyn CDD have voted to file a grievance regarding the hiring of the so-called “externs” to work as staff attorneys in the Criminal Defense Practice.  We would appreciate support form other boroughs and practices as well.  We have asked that this grievance be put on the agenda of tomorrow night’s JC meeting.  Below is the grievance we plan to file.  Please review it before tomorrow’s meeting.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Julie Fry, VP Brooklyn CDD

Danielle Feman, VP Brooklyn CDD

Dear Mr. Banks:

On behalf of the Society’s criminal defense attorneys in Brooklyn, we hereby grieve placement of non-employee attorneys (“externs”) in the Criminal Defense Practice.

As stated in the Certification of Representation issued by the New York State Labor Relations Board on December 30, 1969, the Staff Attorney bargaining unit includes all non-supervisory attorneys and law graduates working at the Society. ALAA Collective Bargaining Agreement, § 1.1.1.

Terms and conditions of employment for Staff Attorneys, including various aspects of hiring, are governed by the CBA negotiated between The Legal Aid Society and the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325. Nonetheless, without the union’s knowledge or agreement, management now accepted law firm “externs” to do beginning unit work in our division.

These externs were not chosen through the normal union-management selection process. They are paid by their law firms at a much higher rate than Staff Attorneys, and are otherwise not being treated according to ALAA’s CBA. They are not eligible to be union members or receive union representation.

Therefore, we seek immediate removal of all externs from the Society’s Criminal Defense Practice. Please let us know as soon as possible when we can meet with you to discuss these issues.

Sincerely,

Julie Fry, VP Brooklyn CDD

Danielle Feman, VP Brooklyn CDD

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