Solidarity with Striking Teamsters

Our union is proud to have acted in solidarity with Teamsters Local 814, which represents about 40 drivers, helpers, and warehouse workers who were locked out on July 5th and replaced with cheap subcontractors after Waldner’s refused to negotiate a new contract for months. Local 814 members have since been picketing Waldner’s clients, asking them to drop the large office furniture supply company and demand that they negotiate with their union workers.

On July 27th, our union members arrived at our downtown Brooklyn office location to find locked out Teamsters outside. They had traveled from Maspeth, Queens, trailing the Waldner’s replacement workers as they attempted to deliver furniture to the office manager in a building where our members work. We honored the Teamsters’ request that we not cross their picket line and enter the building. Instead, our members grabbed our UAW wheels and joined their picket line! We picketed with the Teamsters until the replacement workers left.

We then successfully persuaded the building manager to call Waldner’s and tell them he’d only accept deliveries from unionized workers. The Teamsters Local 814 Executive Board sent our union a thoughtful letter thanking us for our support. They wrote:

Your solidarity, along with so many others, was instrumental in our victory. Special thanks to your members at the Court St office in Downtown Brooklyn who saw our members picketing a scab delivery there and quickly joined the picket line en-masse, complete with signs and banners. Their militant display not only lifted our members spirits but lead to the building manager calling Waldner’s and threatening the company with the loss of an important and long-standing account. The settlement that you helped us achieve guarantees that Waldner’s will continue to provide New Yorkers with good, union jobs.

Read the full letter here.

[document url=”https://lssa2320.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/UAW-2320-Letter-from-Teamsters-re-Waldners-Strike-Support-summer-2017.pdf” width=”200″ height=”200″][document url=”https://lssa2320.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Hardship-Decision-Ltr-Approval.docx” width=”200″ height=”200″]Sample Content[/document]

Teamsters Local 814 proudly settled the lockout on August 30th. Under the agreement settling the unfair labor practice lock-out, Waldner’s committed in writing to use companies that pay their workers fair wages and benefits, and Waldner’s secured jobs for former employees at those delivery companies. Under the agreement, workers will also receive significant severance, in many cases equaling thirty weeks’ pay.

“This agreement should put all moving companies and all Teamster employers on notice that we won’t stand by while you try to bust our union. We will fight back, we will go to your customers, and we will win,” said Jason Ide, President of Teamsters Local 814. “New York is a union town.”

We are proud to have been able to support our union brothers and sisters of Teamsters Local 814.

Charlottesville

The terrorism that came to the streets of Charlottesville this weekend was sickening and grotesque. The racism and violence slung proudly by white nationalists and Nazis should have no place here.

Yet we know what happened in Charlottesville was not an isolated incident. The racists who stalked and killed black people during slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, supported by a white supremacist system that permitted and forgave their terrorism, have now taken off their hoods and emerged onto our streets in the light of day, knowing that too many of our top political leaders agree with them in their hearts and will wink and nod at their actions.

We all know we are not playing on a fair field. When people of color lead peaceful rallies, the police do not hesitate to patrol heavily and often violently. Meanwhile, when massively armed white men bearing torches descend on our streets, the police stand back and watch. The police routinely shoot and kill black men and women on the slimmest of pretexts, falling back on their own racist fear as justification, yet in Charlottesville, as in Charleston and so many other places, the police managed to arrest a murderous white man and take him into custody without harming him.

We also know that inequality and white supremacy are baked into our laws, structures, and institutions. Many of the low-income clients of color that our union members represent live in neighborhoods they were red-lined into, and after generations of government disinvestment in those neighborhoods, our clients are now fighting to keep their homes and preserve their families and communities despite predatory equity and speculators trying to force them out. Many of our union members have dedicated their careers to fighting the effects of systemic racism such as this.

The Legal Services Staff Association urges all members and allies to stand with those who fought white supremacists in Charlottesville this weekend, those fighting them in Boston this Saturday, and all those who are fighting every day to end the system of white supremacy that kills black people’s bodies and all of our souls. The target aimed most squarely at black people will not hesitate to hit us all.

And in particular we urge white people to support our friends, colleagues, and clients of color, and to hold ourselves accountable for helping to change this system that benefits white people as a group. Those of us who are white didn’t ask for the privileges of whiteness, but we receive those privileges anyway, and we are responsible for working to eradicate white supremacy. Those of us who are white need to step up.

In addition to the demonstration tonight at Trump Tower at 5:30pm, you can also click here to find other events occurring over the next few weeks. In particular, mark your calendars for a National Day of Action against white supremacy on Saturday, August 19th.

We also invite you to join a national call tonight, Monday, August 14th at 9pm, sponsored by the Movement for Black Lives and Beyond the Moment/The Majority to learn more about the national day of action on Aug. 19th to defend our communities & confront hate and white supremacy in all its forms. Please register for the call using this registration link.

Photo credits: Eden, Janine and Jim via flickr; Fibonacci Blue via flickr.

After the Election, the Path Forward

uaw-in-new-hampshire
As union members who have dedicated our careers to providing free legal services to low-income New Yorkers, we are devastated by the election of Donald Trump, a man whose open hostility toward immigrants, racial minorities, and women make him singularly unqualified to be President. He poses a unique threat to our country, our clients, and the progressive issues to which we are committed. A Trump Supreme Court is likely to decimate public unions, weaken unions nationally, and to roll back our civil and economic rights. Immigrants, people of color, Muslims, Jews, LGBT people, women, and the poor will be under attack. We will feel this pain for a long time.

How did this happen? We will read many analyses in the coming days that attempt to understand and explain, and there are probably multiple reasons. But Trump’s election underscores how crucial it is that we come together as a union movement to fight for the future that we want to see.

One of the few bright spots of this election is what happened in New Hampshire. 50 UAW members, including three of our own Legal Services Staff Association members, traveled to New Hampshire in the week before the election, and together knocked on over 5,200 doors. Clinton ended up winning New Hampshire by 1,437 votes, and Maggie Hassan defeated her incumbent Republican opponent by only 716 votes.

Without the work of our union members, we may well have lost both races. Instead, we helped deliver New Hampshire’s four electoral votes for Hillary Clinton, and helped create the first all-female, all-Democratic congressional delegation in American history. While the Republicans, with the help of 7 Democrats who caucus with them, will likely continue to control the New York Senate, the New York Assembly now has 107 Democratic members out of 150 seats. Many of these members are strong progressive allies who understand the issues that our members and clients face.

Our other electoral losses are heart-wrenching. But we will deal with this new reality and move forward. And we will be ready to fight. Along with our sisters and brothers at the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (ALAA), the union that represents the lawyers at the Legal Aid Society, we are planning a forum to assess how this week’s election is likely to affect our communities, the organizations we work for, and the progressive issues we care about. Our members should stay tuned for the date and location. There is work to do.

Reporting from New Hampshire

0754c093-4ee2-400c-bf1c-584e25abbf96Our union traveled to New Hampshire to participate in the UAW’s New Hampshire Primary Educational Program. We were there with almost 70 other UAW members from Region 9A of the UAW, which covers eastern New York, New England, and Puerto Rico. Our union has members who work at Foxwoods Casino, build giant submarines and auto parts, work in education and at the Legal Aid Society, and more.

One of the surprises was how accessible all of the candidates were. We ran into them everywhere — including in the lobby of our hotel. Luckily, we had a training on how to intercept the candidates to ask them questions, so we managed to ask many of the Republicans tough questions on everything from immigration to the minimum wage.

jeb bush questions

We didn’t just meet the candidates and ask them questions. We did political theater to try to bring attention to issues that affect working people.

703169d5-48aa-4ede-ac9b-2408ddd0ff1b

Salon covered our Superheros for the Super Rich action outside a Marco Rubio event. We held signs saying things like “vaporize the middle class” and “chanted sarcastic slogans that were the equivalent of a Bronx cheer: ‘We don’t need no middle class … Marco Rubio’s got our backs!’ in order to “talk about one of the central themes of this election, that of the effects on society of the vast wealth-inequality gap between the very rich who are funding most of these campaigns, and everyone else.”

From Twitter:

Twitter

We also did a flash mob in the lobby of the hotel where all of the press and candidates tended to gather. To the tune of Pharrell’s “Happy,” we interrupted business as usual to sing and dance a song that called for equal pay for equal work, and fair taxes for all. Check it out here.

flash mob screencap

Fast Food workers in Manchester, New Hampshire held their first strike, walking off the job to fight for a $15 minimum wage and the right to unionize. We were there in support.

5f230259-2907-4bca-87d2-4e980166273e

We went to a huge Democratic Party event where both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders spoke.

Bernie Hillary

Members volunteered in their off-hours for whichever candidate they supported. We knocked on doors throughout New Hampshire and did election protection work on primary day, making sure that voters were able to cast their vote without interference.

4efe74a3-dd45-441c-afa0-24123af58706

We even ran into an LSSA alum from MFY who has been working as a field organizer in New Hampshire for Bernie Sanders.

a930a173-8880-4d8b-8e80-38265a8834c9

Some of our UAW members got to meet Hillary Clinton in person!

8e8c3f2b-30e6-4307-b742-980d2060e351

Former President Jim Braude of the National Organization of Legal Services Workers (NOLSW, our parent union) was reporting on the New Hampshire primary for WGBH, the public radio station in Boston, so we had a mini-reunion.

cf8a2b52-defd-4ad7-96c7-57783134559b

L to R: LSSA President Sonja Shield, NOLSW Financial Secretary/Treasurer Pam Smith, former NOSLW President Jim Braude, former NOLSW Recording Secretary Karen Rosenberg, former NOLSW President Ellen Wallace, former LSSA President Scott Sommer

On our last night, we gathered for a party after the polls closed to watch the results come in.

0bafc126-8b5c-4b74-a558-83da38bc851e

The UAW goes to New Hampshire every four years during the Presidential Primary, and all members are invited.

LSSA Announces Political Priorities

Political PrioritiesThe Legal Services Staff Association, UAW/NOLSW 2320, is a union of progressive workers. We represent the non-management employees of Legal Services NYC and MFY, two New York City nonprofits that provide free civil legal services to low-income New Yorkers.

As workers, we help secure New York City as a vibrant and diverse home for working and low-income people. We fight for our clients against displacement by eviction and foreclosure; against exploitative employers; for access to government benefits and subsidies; for educational services to which their children are entitled; and more.

As union members, we engage in principled labor struggles to promote a safe and just workplace, to fight for respect from our employers, to demand justice for our lowest paid and most vulnerable colleagues, and to advance policies that encourage and reward a career in legal services. And as determined social justice advocates, we stand unified and committed to further social and economic justice in the lives of our clients and in the communities in which we all live. We chose careers in legal services because we believe in our collective ability to dismantle the systemic injustices that our clients confront each day.

It is with that deeply-rooted commitment to social and economic justice in mind that the Legal Services Staff Association publicly announces its support for the following political priorities that are instrumental to the struggle for equality and social justice: the principles of racial justice, labor rights and workers’ rights, anti-displacement and anti-gentrification, and LGBTQ rights.

RACIAL JUSTICE

Our union stands in solidarity with community-based movements that aim to eradicate systems of racial privilege and oppression. We aim to identify and dismantle racial injustice as it exists in society writ large, in our legal services organizations, and in our union. We also aim to critically examine the role that legal services organizations play in the fight for racial justice and the ways in which the provision of legal services can have the unintended consequences of perpetuating racial inequity and exclusion, if not done through the prism of an anti-racism lens and mindset.

Racial justice requires leadership and accountability, not just from our governments and elected officials, but also from all of us: ourselves and our families, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and employers. As legal workers dedicated to racial justice, it is incumbent on all of us to demand an end to the disproportionate rates of police violence, arrest, and incarceration that affect communities of color, and an end to heightened barriers to employment, safe housing, good schools, decent healthcare, and flourishing neighborhoods that affect people of color across this country.

Racial justice also requires that we acknowledge the ways in which race and privilege color our experiences each day. It requires an examination of the ways in which racial inequity and oppression directly impact the lives of our clients and the ways in which implicit racial bias operates in our society and drives attacks on policies that seek to remedy racial inequality.

For these reasons we stand with Black Lives Matter and other racial justice movements that work toward ending the ongoing oppression and mistreatment of people of color in our city and country.

LABOR RIGHTS & WORKERS’ RIGHTS

We live in an era where the unionized worker has become an endangered species. Although almost 25% of New York State residents are union members, union members comprise only about 11% of workers nationwide, and less than 7% of private sector employees. As one of the first unions of white-collar legal services workers nationwide, we at the Legal Services Staff Association recognize the importance of expanding union rights to non-traditional workplaces. We also recognize that unionization increases the average wages for workers of color, and protects against unilateral, retaliatory, and discriminatory acts by employers, helping to ensure job stability and continuity.

We therefore stand in solidarity with the Fight for 15, a nationwide movement that is fighting for a $15 minimum wage and the right to join a union for all fast food workers. We are also supporters of the Brandworkers, immigrant workers in the food production sector whose fight for justice has resulted in better working conditions and substantial financial awards for unpaid wages. These member-led movements are empowering communities and changing the national conversation about the minimum wage and the rights of workers.

ANTI-DISPLACEMENT & NEIGHBORHOOD PRESERVATION

New York City is in the midst of rapid gentrification causing serious harm to low-income people and communities of color as individuals and families are displaced from their longtime homes, neighborhoods are fractured, and City residents are divested of valuable real estate while wealthy developers and corporations realize major economic gains.

As legal services workers, we have a long history of fighting displacement by representing our clients in housing court and foreclosure proceedings and working to stop abusive and predatory practices by landlords, banks, and other financial institutions. As a union and as residents of New York City, we believe that economic development and investment in housing and infrastructure must be directed toward building vibrant healthy communities for all NYC residents, not only for the affluent. By working in partnership and solidarity with community groups fighting gentrification and displacement, we aim to build and maintain diverse and prosperous neighborhoods in our city, ensuring neighborhoods where our clients and our families can both live and thrive.

We have therefore signed on to support the Homes for All and Real Affordability for All, campaigns which aim to stem homelessness and create real housing affordability for the lowest income New Yorkers. We have also signed on to support the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side, a group fighting against the development of sky rises and luxury housing in communities of color in Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

GENDER AND SEXUALITY JUSTICE

Following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which guaranteed the right of same-sex couples to marry, many mistakenly believed that this country had finally turned the page on discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. Disappointingly, not even days passed before stories lit up mainstream media about legislators, municipal officials, and even judges who rallied against the mandate of the Supreme Court and pledged to see its undoing. But same-sex marriage is just the tip of the iceberg, and is far from the last necessary fight for LGBTQ rights.

The low-income New Yorkers our members represent in legal proceedings face much more dire survival issues than marriage. Many are denied jobs because they identify or are perceived as LGBTQ, or are forced to be closeted. They face discrimination at the city, state, and federal government agencies that are supposed to serve them equally. Discrimination and violence based on gender identity or gender expression is rampant. People who are transgender or gender nonconforming are disproportionately likely to face discrimination or violence at school, in the workplace, and in sex-segregated facilities like bathrooms, shelters, and jails. As workers, we fight for the equal rights of our clients. And as union members, we fight for our own equal rights.

LSSA has a long history of supporting LGBTQ workers. In 1993, LSSA fought for and won domestic partner benefits for Legal Services NYC employees. This extended health insurance coverage to an employee’s same-sex partner and children, and provided for bereavement, sick leave, and parental leave rights. LSSA’s success in gaining domestic partner benefits preceded the passage of New York City’s Domestic Partnership Law by five years.

More recently, LSSA ensured that Legal Services NYC added protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression to its list of protected categories. LSSA has also joined with a coalition calling on Governor Cuomo to support the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and thanking the governor for confirming that the state Human Rights Law protects transgender and gender-non conforming New Yorkers. These laws will help ensure that LGBTQ people have protections against discrimination in workplaces, schools, sex-segregated facilities, and more.

We at the Legal Services Staff Association are proud to announce our collective commitment to working towards racial justice, labor rights and workers’ rights, anti-displacement and anti-gentrification, and LGBTQ rights.