Statement on the Firing of Officer Pantaleo

“Our client Eric Garner was choked to death on camera, in broad daylight, surrounded by police officers. It is outrageous that Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD took five years to fire Officer Pantaleo and that the other involved officers remain a part of the NYPD today. To this day, our client Ramsey Orta, remains behind bars in retaliation for his brave documentation of Officer Pantaleo’s murder of Eric Garner. Our union’s 1,500 attorneys and legal support staff unfortunately know first-hand that justice is not dispensed equally in our city. We will continue to stand in solidarity with our clients and communities, fighting for their rights in court and to hold all members of law enforcement accountable for their actions.”

300 New Legal Services Workers Join ALAA in the First Half of 2019

With the amazing and inspiring campaigns and victories of A Better NYLAG and NDS Union, the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW 2325 has organized more than 300 new members to join our union in just the first half of 2019.  Legal Services workers at the New York Legal Assistance Group and Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem each voted by a more than 80% margin to join the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325.  The election of NDS workers represents the first alternate provider of criminal defense in New York City to unionize following their creation in the early 1990s.

These hundreds of attorneys and advocates are re-shaping the entire indigent legal services industry and refocusing the message on one simple truth: our working conditions impact our clients’ access to justice. In our case, collective bargaining is not just a tool to improve the lives of the workers of each organization, but also to vastly improve the lives of the most marginalized New Yorkers. When legal services workers come together, non-union or union, engaged in criminal, civil, family, immigration, or other practice, we are capable of shifting the entire terrain on which our clients navigate the legal system. Those who work at a unionized organization can tell you of the amazing difference it makes to them and to their clients, when retention, workload, resources, and job security are prioritized.

A great example of this has been the implementation of Universal Access to Counsel in Housing Court which was achieved through the amazing advocacy of the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition. After the victory of NYLAG employees, between our union and the Legal Services Staff Association, NOLSW/UAW Local 2320 NOLSW, UAW Local 2320, the overwhelming majority of workers at organizations performing this crucial work and guaranteeing legal representation in housing court as a right, are members of the UAW International Union. This allows us to demand the highest standard of zealous representation from both our managements across the city and from our funders.

Our union is here to fight for our clients, in the courts and in the streets, through collective bargaining and mass mobilization, until we obtain equal justice. As our union continues to grow, united deeply with our client communities, we will only be able to further amplify our voice, rejecting division and competition between organizations, to push for a better future.

STAFF AT NEW YORK LEGAL ASSISTANCE GROUP ANNOUNCE UNION DRIVE

For Immediate Release

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

STAFF AT NEW YORK LEGAL ASSISTANCE GROUP ANNOUNCE UNION DRIVE

Staff members call on NYLAG managers to recognize their union and begin bargaining immediately

New York, NY — Staff members at the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) today announced their intent to join the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325.  Over 200 attorneys, paralegals, financial counselors, and administrative staff make it possible for NYLAG to provide legal services across New York City to lower- and middle-income clients facing deportation, eviction, domestic abuse, employment discrimination, termination of public benefits, predatory debt collection practices, and many other hardships. NYLAG represents its clients free of charge.

On Thursday afternoon, staff members from each of NYLAG’s practice areas met with NYLAG’s management and announced their intent to unionize. An overwhelming majority of NYLAG staff members have signed cards to show their support for unionization. The staff members’ concerns include diversity in hiring, transparency, fair compensation, effective supervision, training, and opportunities for professional development. The staff also hope to encourage changes to case staffing that maximize NYLAG’s ability to advocate for clients, as the organization grows to meet surging demand for its services.

 

“NYLAG does incredible work,” said Rogelio Tec Moo, Tenants’ Rights Unit Paralegal. “In my unit, for example, we are the front lines of preventing eviction and homelessness throughout New York City. Yet our work can only go so far without proper training materials, fair case management systems, and adequate pay for our paralegals–a salary that hits the same range as other unionized legal service providers. Our union will support our attorneys’ work too by giving them a say in the number of cases they must handle.”

 

“The inadequate healthcare and workplace protections we receive as employees at NYLAG distract us from our roles as advocates for our clients,” said Alejandra Caraballo, an attorney in the LGBTQ Law Unit. “Having access to full comprehensive healthcare and livable wages for all staff would allow us to focus on our work with clients.”

Ervis Burda, Senior Financial Counselor, remarked, “As advocates and staff who are on the ground, interacting with and fighting for our clients on a daily basis, we are best positioned within our organization to understand our clients’ needs and identify the tools and resources required to protect their interests. We should be a part of the discussion about how to allocate limited resources and ensure NYLAG remains an organization that elevates and protects our clients’ interests first. We want what our management wants: to be the best we can be in the work we do, fighting for underserved populations throughout New York. An engaged workforce that feels valued and respected is fundamental to that goal.”

 

“We enthusiastically welcome the New York Legal Assistance Group to join the thousands of non-profit and legal services workers around the country in our union family. Unionization in Legal Services is not only critical to the empowerment of union members, but to the improvement of client representation,” said Jared Trujillo, President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325. “We call on NYLAG management to immediately recognize the overwhelming desire of its employees to join together in a union.”

NYLAG’s union drive comes at a time of intensified organizing to improve working conditions for public service professionals, who are often compensated significantly less than their private-sector counterparts. Workers from other nonprofit legal service providers, such as Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and CAMBA Legal Services, have recently won union recognition.

 

If their union is recognized, the staff members at the New York Legal Assistance Group will join the 1,300 members of ALAA who are employed at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, The Legal Aid Society of New York City, Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, 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.

 

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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