1,000 Legal Aid workers in New York City hold walkout in contract struggle

Legal Aid and Legal Services workers, please contact us and tell us about your working conditions, what you think about the Legal Aid contract struggle and socialist Will Lehman’s exposure and challenge to the UAW union election.

New York Legal Aid attorneys protest (New York City Central Labor Council AFL-CIO Facebook) [Photo: New York City Central Labor Council AFL-CIO Facebook]

One thousand Association of Legal Aid Attorneys conducted a one-hour strike and informational picket for a new contract last week on Wednesday, February 8. They chanted “two percent won’t pay the rent” during lunch-hour pickets at Legal Aid Society offices in all five boroughs of New York City. The Legal Aid Society is a non-profit corporation operating in New York City, funded mostly by the city and state with some private donations. Among their responsibilities, legal aid lawyers and support staff are responsible for providing legal representation to lower-income tenants facing evictions who are employed by the Legal Aid Society and Legal Services, nonprofit corporations that contract with the city to provide these services.

This followed a strike authorization vote of 92 percent, with 93 percent of the eligible membership voting, announced by UAW Local 2325 on January 23. Local 2325 represents civil and public defenders employed by the Legal Aid Society. Their previous contract expired last summer.

The overwhelming strike vote was announced two days before negotiations with Legal Aid were set to begin. During the negotiations, Legal Aid proposed a derisory 2 percent wage increase amid soaring inflation and cost-of-living increases in one of the most expensive cities in the world. In the face of overwhelming strike authorization by the members, the UAW 2325 leadership rejected the insulting offer and called for the one-hour strike on Wednesday.

The strike announcement on February 6 stated the action was being taken in opposition to the management of Legal Aid and their funders in the state and city. In addition to the increase in the paltry wage, Legal Aid was offered nothing in response to the demand for workload caps to control crushing caseloads and offered a no adequate benefits package.

In 2017, over two years prior to the onset of the pandemic, New York City passed the Right to Counsel law, which guarantees legal representation for low-income tenants facing eviction. The pandemic greatly exacerbated the already critical housing shortage in the city. A temporary eviction moratorium was established by the state which forestalled, but did not solve, the plight of tenants who were faced with homelessness. With the removal of all COVID-19 mitigation measures, including the eviction moratorium at the beginning of 2022, a tidal wave of eviction actions was unleashed, greatly increasing the Legal Aid caseload, without any commensurate increase in staff or resources. More than 100,000 families in New York City received eviction notices last year. That number is expected to increase in 2023.

Related Posts