ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

May 27, 2016

FYI: Remembering 2004 Marden Awardee Bob Zuss on his 73st Birthday (May 28)

Filed under: 1199 Alliance,1994 Strike,ALAA History,Uncategorized,Zuss — nyclaw01 @ 10:15 am

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Friday, May 27, 2016 10:15 AM
Subject: FYI: Remembering 2004 Marden Awardee Bob Zuss on his 73st Birthday (May 28)


For the final twenty years of his life, Robert Zuss (1943-2006) was a public defender at The Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn.

Zuss helped forge leadership within the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325 (ALAA) that promoted bottom-up democratic decision-making; membership mobilization conducted jointly with support staff members of 1199SEIU; and racial, economic and social justice — at home and abroad.



February 23, 2015

2015.02.23: RE: Follow-up from Union Meeting Today

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Monday, February 23, 2015 10:29 AM
Subject: RE: Follow-up from Union Meeting Today

Some essential background on our union’s previous unfortunate acceptance of bonuses, AKA givebacks:

2011.12.05: Re: Vote No On Tuesday in Solidarity with 1199

2011.11.21: RE: Questions about this extra day PLEASE READ!!!!

2007.10.29: Reasons to Vote Down the Contract

2007.05.15: The Real Issues in This Election

And earlier resistance to bonuses:

1999.03.26: History of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys UAW Local 2325

January 15, 2015

Legal Aid stands up in solidarity (Socialist Worker)

Legal Aid stands up in solidarity

Lucy Herschel, a delegate in 1199SEIU and paralegal at the Legal Aid Society, reports from New York City, on protests by some of those on the front lines of the justice system.


Legal aid workers are joining their voices with the Black Lives Matter movement (Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW 2325)

UNION ATTORNEYS at the Legal Aid Society organized a walkout from the Brooklyn Criminal Courthouse on December 17 in protest of a criminal justice system that railroads poor people of color every day of the week—yet is incapable of indicting police officers.

Led by members of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325, the walkout involved public defenders from other agencies, as well as members of my union, 1199SEIU, which represents the support staff at Legal Aid.

In my 17 years at Legal Aid, I have never seen anything quite like this. From the courthouse, we marched through the streets to the Brooklyn House of Detention, chanting everything from “Black lives matter” to “Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system in guilty as hell!”

At the Brooklyn House, we staged a die-in in remembrance of Akai Gurley, the unarmed Brooklyn man who was shot and killed by a police officer conducting a vertical patrol in an unlit housing project stairwell. We then marched around to other courthouses, taking over the entire Manhattan-bound side of the road leading to the Brooklyn Bridge. One of our last stops was the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, where we continued to chant our demands for indictment for police officers who brutalize and kill.

As Anne Oredeko, one of the main organizers of the action, stated:

We had to do this action to show solidarity with the communities we represent. We do work in communities of color, especially poor communities of color where the police consistently brutalize them, consistently assault them, consistently cause physical harm and damage to individual members of the communities. So we had do this protest today to show solidarity with them, to demand an end to “Broken Windows” policing, to demand the end of police brutality, to demand an end to mass incarceration.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE BROOKLYN action was part of an unprecedented wave of public defenders in several cities around the country holding protests and die-ins in December to denounce the bias of the criminal justice system in the wake of the Eric Garner and Mike Brown decisions.

On December 16, 250 lawyers, clients and supporters staged four-and-a-half minutes of silence on the courthouse steps in New Orleans. On December 17, die-ins were held at courthouses in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. On December 18, public defenders in five counties in the Bay Area held simultaneous lunchtime protests on the steps of their respective courthouses.

Public defenders are in a unique position of being in the front lines of the court system, able to see the overall picture of what kinds of cases are being prosecuted and how. Day in and day out, they see clients’ lives turned upside down over petty offenses. Every day, they see their mostly poor, mostly Brown and Black clients railroaded on weak and conflicting evidence. And every day, they fight an uphill battle in a court system that systematically defers to the police and prosecutor.

As another organizer of the Brooklyn action, Bina Ahmad, said, much of what is being prosecuted are crimes of poverty, from turnstyle jumping to sleeping on subway cars. “I have a client who was recently indicted [in felony charges] for driving with a suspended license,” Ahmad said. “His license was suspended because he couldn’t afford to pay all the fines and tickets he owed. So now he’s going to jail.”

She pointed out how the system is set up to profit off these arrests and to control poor populations. “I don’t think the system is broken,” she said. “I think it’s working just the way it’s supposed to.”

As Oredeko sees it, there is a direct connection between this kind of over-policing and level of police brutality and killings. “When you designate a whole entire population as criminals,” she said, “then you see what we see here today, and that is police brutality reaching dramatic levels.”

For many Legal Aid attorneys, this issue is not just about their clients, but about their own families and neighborhoods. As another coworker, Lisa Edwards, a 25-year veteran from the Harlem office, put it, “Our union has a history of mobilizing around issues like this. We have a duty to mobilize and take steps to address issues that affect our work and the people we serve. But I think this is even more compelling for people of color at Legal Aid.”

She told me this was brought home to her when she took her family to the December 13 Millions March. Her 10-year-old son made a poster with a drawing a person videotaping a cop shooting someone in the head. They then spontaneously organized their own form of performance art, her son laying down on the street, Lisa outlining his body in chalk and her daughter writing “Who’s next?” below. They did this about seven times through the march, including in front of lines of cops.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHILE THERE are many like Lisa who have been involved in this kind of work for decades, there has undoubtedly been an increase for several years now of staff members being involved in broad activism around criminal justice issues: from fighting the horrifying conditions at the Rikers Island jails, to ending stop-and-frisk policing, to fighting around the case of Kyam Livingston, who died while waiting to be arraigned in the Brooklyn Courthouse, to other cases of police killings like Ramarley Graham and Shantel Davis.

In large part because of pressure exerted by the union and its attorneys of color caucus, Legal Aid has been more and more successful at recruiting and retaining attorneys of color, many of whom are leading these recent actions. In general, we have been impacted by an influx of new attorneys, both of color and white, with activist experience and inclinations.

More and more, union members appear to be looking to merge the work we do every day with a broader vision of activism and social justice. Union members have also begun to push management and Legal Aid as an institution to lead around these issues.

I believe we still have a lot of work to do in terms of merging this fight for social justice outside the workplace with a fight for justice on the job. Part of fighting for quality legal services means fighting for the kind of pay and working conditions that allow people to make a life and a career. However, unlike most public defenders offices, we are unionized, which at least gives us the building blocks for taking on that fight.

Meanwhile, organizing around police accountability continues. Staff members at the Staten Island Legal Aid office where Eric Garner was a client are now organizing for a protest and vigil at the 120th Precinct on January 15, Martin Luther King’s birthday and the six-month anniversary of Garner’s death.

Members in all five boroughs are meeting to prepare to mobilize. As organizers in Ferguson have emphasized, it is going to take a sustained struggle around the issues of police brutality, mass incarceration, racism and inequality to change things in this country. Public defense workers in New York and around the country have begun to throw their weight into this fight.

December 4, 2014

December 4, 2014: NYC Protest for Eric Garner

UAW 2325 and 1199 union members from Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn office, stood with our clients and communities by leading a 100-strong contingent across the Brooklyn Bridge to rally with thousands tonight at Foley Square.

Chants included:
*Black Lives Matter: Justice for Eric Garner!
*No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police!
*End Broken Windows: Fire Bill Bratton!
*The System is Racist!
*Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!
*Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Shut it Down, Shut it Down!
*Who’s Streets? Our Streets!
*NYPD, KKK, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?
*What Do We Want? Justice!


IMG_8844 IMG_8847 IMG_8846 IMG_8845 IMG_8851 IMG_8850 IMG_8849 IMG_8848 IMG_8853 IMG_8854 IMG_8855 IMG_8856 IMG_8857 IMG_8859 IMG_8864 IMG_8866

December 8, 2011

2011.12.08: RE: To 1199 Members

Filed under: 1199 Alliance,ALAA History,Collective Bargaining,Key Documents — nyclaw01 @ 12:14 pm

From: Korotzer, Daniella
Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2011 12:14 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: To 1199 Members


I’ve read most of the e-mails regarding this past vote (although I have to admit I felt the debate had spent itself about half-way through) and weighed my decision carefully, often changing my position from day to day and, ultimately, at the last second. But I am sincerely perplexed as to how this became some kind of litmus test as to whether one supports 1199.

I have stayed out of the debate around the vote – largely because as a senior attorney I had such mixed feelings about it – but also because, frankly, I think the e-mail debate went on too long, got too negative and went off into odd tangents. But now I am disturbed to hear that some 1199 members would think that supporting them is “unpopular” in ALAA.   Huh? How did we get to this point via this vote?  I can’t really see the connection, and I can say I never heard an anti-1199 word come from any ALAA member’s mouth or e-mail.  From my reading of the very many e-mails leading up to the vote we were never asked by 1199 union leadership, or even by individual members, to vote a particular way – or to even refrain from voting.  I know that I would have voted as 1199 would have asked, as I believe many others would have – but it just wasn’t clear what, if anything, we were being asked to do or not do.

The idea that within ALAA it is unpopular to support 1199 is so bizarre to me.  I hope that no one really believes that.  I’m sorry this vote left such a bad feeling among so many.  I don’t have anything else to add and am unlikely to respond to any further e-mail threads.  I wish all my comrades in ALAA and 1199 a very happy holiday season,



From: [K.]
Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2011 11:34 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: To 1199 Members

I’ve been on trial while this issue was being hashed out over the e-mail, and haven’t read everyone’s positions and arguments, but I’m quite sure the recent vote cannot be boiled down to “whether you support 1199” or not. Painting it as such is divisive and destructive, and the wedge it might create is probably exactly what management wants. WE ALL support 1199, AND ALL THE SUPPORT STAFF.Enough already.


From:   [G.]
Sent:   Thursday, December 08, 2011 11:03 AM
To:   1199 Members
Subject:   RE: To 1199 Members

[W.] is not the only one who feels that way Noha… I and others do as well… too bad not many more of your colleagues don’t feel as you do…. Seems to me ALAA is  much different since the Michael Letwin- Robert Zuss Era.. [G.]

December 6, 2011

2011.12.06: Why I Cannot Vote Yes

Filed under: 1199 Alliance,ALAA History,Collective Bargaining,Key Documents — nyclaw01 @ 11:02 am

From: Arafa, Noha
Sent: Tuesday, December 06, 2011 11:02 AM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: Why I Cannot Vote Yes

I am sorry this e-mail has come at the 11th hour.  I was away while most of this has taken place, but after reading my colleagues e-mails and speaking with colleagues I have many concerns.

My main concern is that management has not spoken to 1199 members, nor did they have any idea about this proposal until we lawyers started talking about this in office.  I think it is highly disrespectful to our 1199 colleagues that management has yet to speak with them.  I also think it is highly disrespectful for us to vote until management has spoken with them.  Our 1199 colleagues are integral to our work.  Without their support we could not do our jobs.  We are no better than them because we are lawyers. I do not understand why a vote cannot be post-postponed.  I also do not understand why we cannot demand management speak to our 1199 colleagues and voice to management how disappointed we are at the lack of respect our 1199 colleagues have received.  I do not know the inner workings of 1199.  However, something seems completely off to me.

I would love to take the money.  We are all underpaid for what we do as well as under valued.  I cannot however take money and disregard principal.  This is not a value I was raised with.  I say this with all sincerity and do not mean to sound high and mighty.  Please excuse me if I do.

My other concern is the fact that this was voted on by the EB without the EB coming and speaking to the membership first.  This is disrespectful to us and is contrary to the values of a “union.”

Third, I do believe senior attorneys should be receiving more.  There are people who have been here for 15, 20, 30 years and the step increases they receive is a slap in the face to them considering the hard work that they do and considering their dedication to this organization.  Why can’t this money be distributed to implement raises, which we have not received since 2008, across the steps?  That would seem like the fair thing to do.

I have included 1199 in this e-mail, despite people asking me not to.  I want to let the people who support me every day and without whose help I cannot do my job that I support them.  This may be an unpopular move, but I also was not raised from cowering away from doing the right thing, regardless of how unpopular it is.

George, as our union leader I hope you voice the sentiments of disgust that many of us have to management for how they have dealt with this, regardless of how the elections turn out.  Those of us who dissent should have a voice too.  Their actions regarding this issue, amongst several others, has shown me that they do not care about their employees.  If they do, then they need to show it in a much better way.

I am open to discussion.  If I am mistaken about any of this please feel free to e-mail me.  Again, I was away for most of this.  Perhaps there are things I am ignorant about, but if in the end of the day no one can enlighten me, then I am voting NO!

In solidarity,


December 5, 2011

2011.12.05: Re: Vote No On Tuesday in Solidarity with 1199

From: Edwards, Lisa

Sent: Monday, December 05, 2011 9:43 AM



I am voting NO and I am not hysterical or paranoid.  [E] actually makes very good points.  I am voting no in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in 1199.  They took a different route and decided that management should come to the table and bargain on this issue.  According to my 1199 colleagues, when management approached ALAA with this offer they did not approach 1199 as well.   They only heard of this offer through George who contacted them as a courtesy. There was no courtesy extended to 1199 by management.  1199 has often received crumbs after ALAA has negotiated their contract with management.  Management states that acceptance of their offer is contingent on 1199 acceptance as well.  So why are we in such a rush to accept it.  As George stated this “windfall” of $2000.00 (minus taxes) will not make a difference to our bottom line.  I’ve heard attorneys state that they could buy their Christmas gifts on credit and pay it off when this “bonus” comes in January.  A lot of our 1199 brothers and sisters don’t have that option and live pay check to pay check struggling to make ends meet without the option of putting their Christmas gifts on credit because they have none. This is our money, not theirs.  We stood in support of LSNY employees, an attorney and support staff shop. Do we merely give lip service to that support or do we stand for what we believe in. I stand with my brothers and sisters in 1199.  I ask that you do too.  Management has always tried to divide and conquer us, but UNITED WE STAND and DIVIDED WE FALL.   VOTE NO!

In solidarity with 1199 and ALAA,


(Former VP, Alt VP, Delegate, Alt Delegate (many times over) and a former member of the ALAA Bargaining Committee)

2011.12.05: RE: 1199 members in the Bronx have been told ZERO about the proposed “adjustment”

From: Codling, Antonia
Sent: Monday, December 05, 2011 3:15 PM

Subject: RE: 1199 members in the Bronx have been told ZERO about the proposed “adjustment”

I do not question the integrity of the EB or any of its members.  However, I still think the better, more democratic practice of the EB should have been to allow for discussion at the Joint Council before calling a membership vote.  There was a way to put this question to the members to satisfy many of the concerns that have been expressed.

I agree that ALAA should coordinate it’s efforts on this matter with 1199.  Though I was not here in 1994, I am told that when ALAA called for a strike, 1199 members supported ALAA by not crossing our picket line.  If we vote “yes”, before an official offer is even made to 1199, we will undoubtedly take away any power 1199 has in their negotiation with management.

It is important to note that the EB does have a meeting tentatively scheduled for Wednesday in the event our membership votes, “No” on this proposed payroll change.

This proposed payroll change has seemed to cause more disharmony instead of unification amongst our members, and has the potential to cause the same with 1199.

In Solidarity with Democracy

November 21, 2011

2011.11.21: RE: Deja vu: Membership participation, lack of alternatives and 1199

From: Edwards, Lisa

Sent: Monday, November 21, 2011 2:01 PM


Subject: RE: Deja vu: Membership participation, lack of alternatives and 1199

Sisters and Brothers :


In 2006 many people raised the issue of democratic process and the lack of alternatives presented when we had to vote on a contract.  The issue was raised again during this past ALAA election when members objected to a short campaign season that was waged via email as opposed to a public forum.  In fact, a member asked that this issue be placed on the agenda of the next JC or EB meeting after the election, yet we have not had a response.  I can’t remember when we last had a general membership meeting.  I agree with Antonia Codling,  [M], [R] and  [J].  I’m not sure how I plan to vote.  I haven’t reviewed all the various explanations in the emails, but the process itself remains a concern.  Will these concerns continue to be ignored.

I am also saddened that the only response to a question regarding  a bonus for 1199 was that they are negotiating separately.   The 1199 members  in my office have not heard of this proposal by management at all.  We are all struggling without a cost of living increase but we all know that they struggle even more.  We can rally for LSNY union members but not express any concern for our brothers and sisters in 1199 ??

See excerpts from my 2006 email below and you will understand why my subject line is deja vu.

—-Original Message—–

From: Lisa R. Edwards

Sent: Wednesday, November 29, 2006 1:48 PM


Subject: Why I’m Voting No

…..Our shop has repeatedly asked for a membership wide informational meeting to discuss the status of bargaining and then to discuss the proposed offer and then to discuss the “tweaked” language for the purpose of hearing various points of view in an open forum. The vote is tomorrow. It has not been postponed and the time for such a meeting has run out. ….

…. People ask what alternative do we have if we vote this contract down. Unfortunately we have never been presented with one. We have only been told that the ratification of this contract is our only alternative. We have not mobilized our members. We have not laid the foundation to explore any other alternative but the ratification of this insulting contract. …..

September 9, 2011

2011.09.09: Attica @40

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 10:28 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Attica @40

7 p.m. Tonight: Attica is All of Us
“Join us on Friday September 9th 2011 at The Riverside Church for Attica is All of Us, an evening of music, performances and conversation to mark the 40th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion and Massacre and address current prison struggles. Free and open to the public.”

The Lingering Injustice of Attica (September 9, 2011)
“As America begins to rethink the wisdom of mass imprisonment, Attica reminds us that prisoners are in fact human beings who will struggle mightily when they are too long oppressed.”

Rebellion at Attica (September 9, 2011)
“Attica stands as an immense example of the courage of those behind bars to resist, to organize themselves, to build unity across racial lines, and to inspire those outside the walls.”

Today: Anniversary of Attica Prison Uprising (September 09, 2008)
“One of the leading Attica Brothers was Akil Al-Jundi (1940-1997), who later became a Manhattan CDD staff member, Orison S. Marden Award recipient, and senior 1199 delegate.”

Attica Anniversary Follow-Up — More About Akil Al-Jundi (September 10, 2008)
“The following tribute to Akil Al-Jundi — Attica Brother, Legal Aid staff member and 1199 senior delegate — was written for the March 26, 1999 commemoration of ALAA’s thirtieth anniversary.”

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