For Immediate Release

Contact: Alexi Shalom, 347-417-1715,

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.




APRIL 2, 2019

Contact: Alexi Shalom, 347-417-1715,


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.



Contact: Alexi Shalom, 347-417-1715,

Spanish: Idalia Bisbal, 917-754-9306,


CAMBA Legal Services Staff are striking for a contract to address basic needs to reduce high employee turnover so clients can receive the quality services they deserve


BROOKLYN, NY — Staff from CAMBA Legal Services (CLS) are striking on March 27, 2019 for 24 hours to protest management’s continued intransigence in bargaining a fair employment contract. The union members will form a picket line in front of CLS offices located 885 Flatbush Avenue at 8:00am. A picket line will also form at 141 Livingston Street at 1:00pm where the CLS union will be joined by union members of other legal services providers. Finally, the union will picket CAMBA management offices at 1720 Church Avenue at 3:15pm.  The CLS attorneys and support staff have been negotiating their first contracts since unanimously voting to form a union and joining UAW Local 2325 in May 2018. Following more than six months of negotiations, CAMBA management has refused to engage in good faith bargaining on a number of key conditions of employment which are standard for legal services organizations in New York City, including paid parental leave, a step-based salary system for support staff, and competitive pay for all staff.

This lack of movement from management to address basic needs stands in stark contrast to the extravagant compensation that CAMBA executives currently take home.  

“We thought we worked for a non-profit whose mission is toconnect people with opportunities to enhance their quality of life” said Brittany Daniels, Staff Attorney at the CLS Staten Island office.  “We refuse to be warm bodies to a management who only cares about its top tier. We are striking because we believe in CAMBA’s mission, even if management does not.”

The poor working conditions at the CAMBA offices affect the ability of staff to provide adequate free services for its clients who are facing eviction, foreclosure, consumer, and immigration issues. “CAMBA glorifies its community efforts on the backs of their undervalued workers” said Ivette Vasquez, Paralegal at the CLS Flatbush office. “CAMBA, who boasts an overarching mission of ‘where you can’ is actually ‘where you can’t’ ever stay loyal to their employees.”

Turnover also plagues CAMBA Legal Services, which drastically affects the quality of services clients receive. “Since starting at CAMBA in 2016, I have handled cases that were previously handled by two attorneys that left” said Pooja Patel, Staff Attorney at the CLS Flatbush office. “The constant staff turnover does a disservice to our clients.”

CAMBA Legal Services, a subdivision of CAMBA, represents indigent clients in Brooklyn and Staten Island in housing, foreclosure, consumer, and immigration law.

CAMBA Workers to Vote on 1-Day Strike Authorization

After over 6 months of bargaining with CAMBA, our members: attorneys, paralegals, and case aides, have mobilized fiercely to achieve respect from their employer. While CAMBA employees have to go on food stamps in order to take parental leave, Joanne Oplustil, the CEO of CAMBA, rakes in over $400,000 a year. We must end the tale of two CAMBAs.

We have made our presence known on the shop floor, rallied in the streets, marched to the home of the CEO, and called on the support of local politicians. 

Despite all that, CAMBA has still refused to move on *basic* issues like annual salary increases for support staff, parental leave, and affordable health care. Moreover, CAMBA has unacceptably demanded that we bargain in separate years for support staff and attorneys, in an attempt to break the close bonds we have developed.

For these reasons, our members at CAMBA Legal Services will be taking a strike authorization vote on March 15th on whether to authorize a 1 day strike. If the members vote yes, then we are prepared to strike. It is not a decision that we take lightly, but it is a decision we must make for our future and the future of our families