STAFF AT NEIGHBORHOOD DEFENDER SERVICE OF HARLEM ANNOUNCE UNION DRIVE

For Immediate Release

Contact: Alexi Shalom, 347-417-1715, ashalom@alaa.org

Staff members are calling on NDS to recognize their union and begin bargaining immediately

Harlem, NY — Staff members at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem (NDS), announced their intent to join the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325 today.  The attorneys, team administrators, client advocates, social workers, and investigators who work for NDS represent indigent clients in Upper Manhattan who face criminal charges, allegations of neglect or abuse, deportation, eviction, and termination of benefits.

Staff members are calling on NDS to immediately recognize their union after an overwhelming majority signed cards indicating their support for unionization. A broad cross-section of staff across practice areas and roles announced their intent to unionize on Friday afternoon in a meeting with NDS Management. The staff’s concerns include transparency, increased training and workforce development, effective supervision, client justice, and fair compensation to better serve NDS’s clients.

“Most of us at NDS spend the bulk of every day working directly with our clients—standing next to them in court and in the community, doing our best to fight for them in unfair and unfriendly spaces, and promising to work with them in a holistic and comprehensive way,” said Nicole Seigel, Family Defense Social Worker. Anna Arons, Family Defense Attorney, followed up by saying that, “The only way we, as a whole staff, can effectively do this is by having more of a voice with higher management to let them know what we need: manageable caseloads, specialized staff, ongoing training opportunities, and so on. We believe that forming a union will enable us to advocate for exactly what is necessary for us to best serve our clients; we cannot serve them if our management team isn’t properly serving us.”

Omar Saleem Jr., Criminal Defense Attorney, noted that “The prosecution and law enforcement view us as unequal. We want equality, and it starts within.”

“This movement is about more than just the workers, it’s about being able to provide high-quality representation for our clients and our Harlem community. We all do this job because we care for our clients, and this is why we’re asking for a seat at the table – so we can more effectively and zealously fight for our clients and our community,” stated Immigration Defense Attorney, Melissa Mora.

“Our newest members at Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem will join the thousands of non-profit and legal services workers around the country who are uniting to improve conditions across this critical industry.  We unionize not only to empower membership, but to improve representation for our clients” said Jared Truillo, President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325. “We congratulate our new members and welcome them to our union family.  We call on NDS management to immediately recognize the overwhelming desire of its employees to join together in a union.”

Union organizing among attorneys, legal services workers, and other professional employees has increased in the last few years, as attorneys and staff at legal services organizations like Youth Represent and CAMBA Legal Services have joined graduate teaching assistants at multiple universities, and newsroom staff at media organizations around the country to improve working conditions in their respective industries. If their union is recognized, the staff members at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem will join the 1,200 members of ALAA who are employed at the Legal Aid Society of New York City, the Nassau County Legal Aid Society, Federal Defenders of New York, The Legal Aid Society of Orange County, Youth Represent, and CAMBA Legal Services.  ALAA – UAW Local 2325 is the nation’s oldest union of attorneys and legal workers.

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