FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Mobilization for Justice, Inc. Employees Declare One-Day Strike
Employees Demand Pay Equity for Non-Attorney Workers, a Sensible Work from Home Policy, and a Contract That Recognizes the Value and Experience of All Employees.
February 9, 2021, New York, New York – The unionized employees of Mobilization for Justice, Inc. (“MFJ”) will stage a one-day strike today, February 9, 2021, to show their commitment to negotiating a fair contract that values the health, safety, value, and experience of all workers. MFJ is part of the Legal Services Staff Association (LSSA) 2320 a “wall-to-wall” union representing legal workers, attorneys & other non-management employees of Legal Services NYC (LSNYC) and MFJ. Founded in 1973, LSSA is a unit of the National Organization of Legal Services Workers (NOLSW), UAW Local 2320, Region 9A.
“We are fighting for a contract that works for our clients, that works for our lowest paid workers, and that raises the working standards of legal services workers,” said Dinah Luck, a Senior Staff Attorney in MFJ’s Housing Project. “Management, on the other hand, wants to lead a race to the bottom. By doing so, they refuse to acknowledge that quality work comes from retaining experienced workers and that a social justice organization must ensure justice in its own workplace.”
MFJ’s management has rejected key demands from employees, such as equitable pay for non-attorney workers, flexibility in working from home, and compensation that reflects the fiscal health of MFJ and values the work of its employees. Management’s refusal to pay non-attorney workers for their experience shows just how shallow their commitment to racial justice is.
“MFJ management does not seem to understand what ‘social justice’ means,” says Orly Rogers-Figueroa, a paralegal in MFJ’s Housing Unit. “Their choice not to recognize the value and skills of all their employees, particularly BIPOC workers, demonstrates their superficial commitment to social and racial justice.” Rogers-Figueroa was placed on the lowest step of MFJ’s salary scale when she was hired in 2018, despite having 19 years of relevant experience. “If I were an attorney, I would automatically be placed on the step that corresponds to my experience level. Management’s refusal to recognize the value of my experience and pay me accordingly shows they have a two-tiered pay structure and value system for all of its employees.”
Also at issue is Management’s refusal to recognize that COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way that people work. Though employees have zealously represented MFJ’s clients for nearly a year from our homes, management does not trust us to work effectively without the significant monitoring and rigid structures of in-office work.
“Our jobs are challenging. We work with clients who are in crisis, who face incredible obstacles, including systems that are oppressive and rigid and unbending, that treat them as though they deserve less, as if they aren’t to be trusted. Much of our work is toward changing those systems, to recognize the humanity and individuality of our clients,” said Tanya Kessler, a Senior Staff Attorney in MFJ’s Disability and Aging Rights Project. “We then face a rigid and unbending approach from our own employer, who wants to limit our ability to work from home to one day a week, without reason. After working so hard from home for 11 months, overcoming all kinds of challenges posed by the pandemic while still providing excellent advocacy to our clients, the message we are hearing from MFJ is: we don’t trust you and we don’t respect your professionalism. We want to keep an eye on you.” Ms. Kessler was one of three staff members who directly addressed the Board of Directors last week.
The Union has demanded Management’s best and final offer by February 12, 2021 and will vote at the end of the month whether we will accept Management’s offer or we will return to the picket line.