Labor Resolution to Defend Legal Aid
September 10, 2001
As reported in the September 9 New York Times, lame-duck mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani is attempting to saddle his successor with nonunion contracts that threaten to further weaken—or even eliminate—The Legal Aid Society’s thirty-five year role as New York City’s primary public defender.
These new contracts are designed to insulate and/or extend seven existing runaway shops funded out of the $160 million already cut by this administration from Legal Aid, whose unionized UAW attorneys and 1199 (SEIU) support staff have long championed high-quality legal representation for poor people.*
As a result of these cuts, the Times reported in April 2001, “[a] hobbled Legal Aid Society represented about 200,000 indigent defendants last year, roughly the same number it did six years ago, but with a fraction of the resources.”
The mayor’s war on Legal Aid reflects relentless retaliation for a legally-protected 1994 strike; deep antipathy to poor New Yorkers; and systemic efforts to eliminate union jobs in the municipal sector—targets of which have included Health and Hospitals staff (DC 37 Local 420 and Teamsters Local 237), subway workers (TWU Local 100), Staten Island bus drivers (ATU Division 726), and others.
In December 1995, the New York City Central Labor Council issued the public statement that “it is both offensive and illegal for the Mayor to retaliate against Legal Aid Society clients because their attorneys belong to a union and have exercised their legally-protected right[s].” As New Yorkers look forward to a new era in city government, this last-gasp of Rudolph Giuliani’s vendetta against The Legal Aid Society simply cannot be tolerated.
We, therefore, urgently call on the City Council and all candidates for elected office—especially those running for mayor—to join us in ensuring: (1) Immediate withdrawal of Rudolph Giuliani’s plan to diminish Legal Aid’s role as New York’s primary defender; and (2) Full restoration of all previously-cut Legal Aid funds.
Signed (list in formation):
Dennis Rivera, President, 1199/SEIU
Phil Wheeler, Director, UAW Region 9A
*[FN]These runaway shops are:
“Appellate Advocates” in the Second Department (Lynn Fahey)
“Bronx Defenders” (Dan Arshack and Robin Steinberg)
“Brooklyn Defender Services” (Lisa Schreibersdorf)
“Center for Appellate Litigation” in the First Department (Bob Dean)
“Queens Law Associates” (Joe Vaccarino and Laurie Zeno)
“New York County Defenders Association” (Michael Coleman, Carolyn Wilson and Kevin McConnell)
“Battiste, Aronowsky & Suchow” (Staten Island)