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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IN THE FACE OF A POTENTIAL STRIKE CAMBA DECREASES SERVICES TO CLIENTS TO ITS OWN MONETARY BENEFIT

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**

APRIL 2, 2019

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

BROOKLYN, NY –

Management has advised several of our members in recent days to give advice only to potential clients who have scheduled appointments for intake at our Brooklyn offices and deny them full representation. Scheduling appointments with potential clients who management has no intention of actually offering substantive legal services is unacceptable and must end now.

Management has advised several of our members in recent days to give advice only to potential clients who have scheduled appointments for intake at our Brooklyn offices and deny them full representation. Scheduling appointments with potential clients who management has no intention of actually offering substantive legal services is unacceptable and must end now.

When staff first formed a union last year, both staff and management agreed both sides should proceed in a client-oriented approach to make sure our neighbors seeking assistance with housing, immigration, and consumer issues would continue to receive the best possible service as bargaining moved forward. It is now clear to staff that management has abandoned the promise to the community and is blatantly choosing a path to its own favor. A path that is detrimental to the well-being of those in the community it claims to religiously serve.

By asking our members to proceed with these intake appointments but provide advice only, it is obvious management wants to receive credit under its contracts for meeting with as many potential clients as possible despite having no intention of actually taking on any of these potential clients for full representation.  This reprehensible policy is disrespectful to potential clients and staff. Clients often wait up to four hours in CAMBA’s undignified and inadequate waiting rooms to meet with an attorney. Our neighbors take off work, school, pay for childcare, and may spend hours waiting for Access-a-Ride.

It is unconscionable to expect potential clients to make this kind of sacrifice when management has no intention of actually offering full representation to them. Additionally, staff is losing a full day each week it could dedicate to serve current clients better.

We are calling on management to honor its promise to treat our neighbors with respect and cease scheduling out of court intake solely for CAMBA’s own monetary advantage. Our neighbors’ cases must be properly examined and not simply another ploy for CAMBA to rake in benefits it only shares with the top executives.  CAMBA needs to act in good faith to the community, as well as at the bargaining table.