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September 29, 2015

2015.09.29: NLRB Email Settlement

Filed under: Uncategorized — nyclaw01 @ 11:14 am
Tags: , ,

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 7.55.04 PM

Settlement Agreement
Notice to Employees

From: Morris, Susan
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 11:14 AM
Subject: NLRB Email Settlement
Importance: High

Management has settled an unfair labor practice charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board by Susan Morris (CDP-Brooklyn) that challenged management’s ban on use of the Society’s email system for Union email.

As reflected in the materials below, the NLRB charge arose after CDP chief Tina Luongo threatened Susan with sanctions for having posted a message (below) that stated: “Long gone are the days when anyone with a union card has a voice in LAS.” In response to NLRB investigation, Scott Rosenberg (LAS Counsel) and Susan Morris signed a Settlement Agreement (attached) that requires management to comply with Purple Communications, 361 NLRB No. 126 (2014), under which union members cannot be prohibited from using work email to communicate about “the terms and conditions of employment [and] protected concerted activity.”

On September 18, pursuant to this agreement, Allan Fox posted a mandatory NLRB notice (attached) informing all employees, inter alia, that “WE HAVE AMENDED our e-mail policy in our employee handbook to allow employees to use out email system to communicate about terms and conditions of employment,” and that “WE WILL NOT threaten employees with adverse action for using our e-mail system to communicate about terms and conditions of employment on nonworking time.”

This is the second recent victory for free speech at Legal Aid. On May 1, Seymour James upheld a grievance (endorsed by ALAA) challenging management’s email restrictions against Michael Letwin (CDP-Brooklyn) for sending a message entitled “Racial Justice Update: Black and Palestinian Lives Matter.” That decision was issued two weeks after the public statement In Defense of Free Speech at The Legal Aid Society (April 14, 2015), signed by 118 ALAA and 1199 union members.

These victories show, once again, that we can successfully defend and exercise our rights. The next step is to ensure that management fully respects those rights by restoring ALAA’s longstanding, workplace-based email discussion list; lifting its prohibition on “unapproved” messages regarding Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements; and ending the indefensible discrimination that censors antiwar and Palestine human rights advocacy, while turning a blind eye to all manner of other “non-work” messages.

Attachments
Settlement Agreement
Notice to Employees

Related Links
Purple Communications, 361 NLRB No. 126 (2014)
Racial Justice Update: Black and Palestinian Lives Matter (March 6, 2015)
In Defense of Free Speech at The Legal Aid Society (April 14, 2015)
Great News: Free Speech Victory (June 23, 2015)

Exhibits (Below)

——————-
From: Fox, Allan
Sent: Friday, September 18, 2015 11:57 AM
To: LAS All
Subject: Amendment to our e-mail policy

We are notifying you of an amendment to our e-mail policy pursuant to a Settlement Agreement Approved by the Regional Director of Region Two of the National Labor Relations Board in Case 02-CA- 148285.  The amendment conforms our e-mail policy to recent decisions of the Board.  A copy of the revised policy may be found on LASnet hereand at pp. 41-44 of the Employee Handbook.

——————-
From: “Luongo, Justine”
Date:03/08/2015 1:54 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: “Morris, Susan”
Cc: “Ryan, Dawn” ,”Wright, Deborah” ,”Pate, Michael”
Subject: Re: RE:

Susan- this is precisely the type of email that I indicated is a violation of the policy. You have already been spoken to about this by your supervisors. Should you continue to use the email in this way, your use of all distribution lists will be suspended.

Sent from my iPhone. Apologies for any typos.

On Mar 8, 2015, at 1:46 PM, Morris, Susan <smorris@legal-aid.org> wrote:
Long gone are the days when anyone with a union card has a voice in LAS.

June 23, 2015

2015.06.23: Great News: Free Speech Victory

Filed under: Uncategorized — nyclaw01 @ 3:15 pm
Tags: ,

From: Torres, Azalia
Sent: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 3:15 PM
To: CRIMINAL ATTYS ALL
Subject: Great News: Free Speech Victory

Seymour James has upheld a grievance (endorsed by ALAA) challenging management’s email restrictions on Michael Letwin (CDP-Brooklyn) for sending a message entitled “Racial Justice Update: Black and Palestinian Lives Matter.” The decision (see below) was issued two weeks after the public statement In Defense of Free Speech at The Legal Aid Society (April 14, 2015), signed by 118 ALAA and 1199 union members.

This decision cites management’s failure to decide the Mass Free Speech Grievance (July 15, 2014), signed by 173 ALAA and 1199 members (and endorsed by ALAA). It also acknowledges that, under Purple Communications, 361 NLRB No. 126 (2014), union members cannot be prohibited from using LAS email to communicate about “the terms and conditions of employment [and] protected concerted activity.” However, the decision does not address the longstanding pattern of discrimination against antiwar and Palestine human rights advocacy at Legal Aid. 

As “we stand together” for a fair contract, let’s continue to stand up for our vital free speech rights at the workplace.

———————–

From: James, Seymour
Sent: Friday, May 01, 2015 6:52 PM
To: Letwin, Michael
Cc: Wright, Deborah; Taylor, Bret; Pate, Michael; Fredericksen, Jeremy; Luongo, Justine; Fox, Allan
Subject: Your grievances filed on July 15, 2014, and March 6, 2015

On June 25, 2014, you sent an email to all ALAA and 1199 staff on The Legal Aid Society’s email system with the subject line:  “6pm Today: Emergency Rally: Stop Israeli Crimes in Palestine.”  This e-mail was not related to any business purpose of the Society, nor did it relate to any term or condition of employment or other protected concerted activity under Section 7 of the NLRA.

On June 26, 2014, you were directed by Allan Fox, the Chief Human Resources Officer, not to send any non-work related emails over The Legal Aid Society’s email system. In response to this directive, you filed a grievance on July 15, 2014, contending that the email was protected under ALAA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) §3.5 (“Free Speech”) and §1.5 (“Union Activities”).

Section 1.5 of the CBA provides that the Union will have reasonable use of the Society’s internal communication mechanisms.  “Reasonable use of the Society’s internal communication mechanisms shall be interpreted to mean the following: The Legal Aid Society will maintain an e-mail group that permits the President of ALAA and her designee to send communications to all ALAA members and permits individual members to respond to the President of ALAA and her designee as the sender(s) and not to the whole e-mail group. The Legal Aid Society has provided ALAA with a one-time payment of $12,000 so that ALAA can develop and implement a free-standing e-mail group of ALAA members that is not on The Legal Aid Society’s computer network.”  Your email was not one sent by the President of ALAA or her designee pursuant to this provision, and therefore § 1.5 of the CBA is not implicated.

Section 3.5 of the CBA protects the expression of personal religious, political, social, and economic beliefs.  However, it does not confer the right to utilize the business equipment of the Society to communicate those beliefs except to the extent related to terms and conditions of employment or protected concerted activity.  Non-work related, non-Section 7 protected emails may, subject to ALAA’s internal procedures, be sent on the free standing email group of ALAA members that is not on the LAS computer network.

The email you sent on June 26, 2014 was not related to any business purpose of the Society, nor was it related to terms or conditions of employment or any other protected concerted activity at The Legal Aid Society. Accordingly, your grievance of July 16, 2014, is denied.

On March 6, 2015, you sent an email using Legal Aid’s email system to the CRIMIMAL PRACTICE ALL, CIVIL STAFF ALL, JUVENILE ALL, and all 1199 Members e-mail groups . Under the banner “Labor for Palestine” and “Tell New York City Council Members: DON”T TOUR APARTHEID,” the e-mail urged:  “Please Sign: Labor for Palestine to NYC Council Members: Don’t Tour Apartheid Israel.”  This email did not relate to any business purpose of the Society, nor did it relate to any term or condition of employment or other protected concerted activity.  Later on that same date, you received an email from Tina Luongo stating that despite prior warnings, your email violated the Society’s e-mail policy.  She further stated that in light of your disregard of prior warnings, your use of Outlook Distribution Lists will be limited for a six month period effective Monday, March 16, 2015.  She further stated that subsequent violations will result in further limitations in your use of Distribution Lists and may result in disciplinary action. You filed a grievance on March 6, 2015, based on your prior grievance of July 15, 2014.

During the grievance hearing on March 31, 2015, you requested that the email and the discipline restricting your use of the distribution lists be rescinded. You claimed that the email limitation was a denial of your free speech rights and violated §3.5 of the ALAA agreement and the right to engage in activity under Purple Communications. You further contended that there was lack of notice and therefore lack of good cause for the discipline. You argued that because you had not received a response to the July grievance, the issue had not been resolved, the notice was deficient and the disciplinary action restricting your use of the distribution lists did not constitute progressive discipline.

After giving consideration to your argument, I find that the email of March 6, 2015 was neither work-related nor related to any term or condition of employment or other Section 7 protected activity. Therefore, Ms. Luongo’s response to your email did not violate the holding in Purple Communications.  However, because the stated basis for Ms. Luongo’s temporary restriction of your use of Outlook Distribution Lists was your disregard of prior warnings, and because the July grievance concerning one such prior warning was not decided at that time, I am rescinding on that ground that portion of Ms. Luongo’s decision that temporarily restricts your use of Distribution Lists.

Please be advised that your use of Outlook distribution lists for communications that are neither work-related nor encompassed within Section 7 protected activity may subject you to discipline and restriction of your access to Legal Aid Distribution Lists.

September 29, 2009

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)

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