2006.11.20: Re: Unauthorized and Risky Picket (Legal Aid)

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Monday, November 20, 2006 1:41 PM
To: James Rogers; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Re: Unauthorized and Risky Picket

Last Wednesday afternoon, Jim Rogers broadcast the e-mail below asserting that “certain ALAA Members are involved in the planning and carrying out of tonight’s unauthorized picket by some 1199 Members at the Annual LAS Boardof [sic] Directors Meeting.” That, he claimed, “will seriously jeopardize the most recent efforts to improve the Board’s offer to our union,” so “[a]ll ALAA Members are strongly encouraged to not participate.”

His statement is wrong both factually, and as a matter of principle.

The facts are that last Tuesday morning, 1199 members voted by nearly 60 percent to reject management’s latest contract offer. At the end of the vote, a group of 1199 members discussed distributing a leaflet at Legal Aid’s annual meeting on Wednesday night. In the spirit of solidarity, I forwarded that leaflet to the ALAA e-list; to my knowledge, ALAA members neither planned nor participated in that leafleting.

As a matter of principle, it is unconscionable for an ALAA president to denigrate efforts by sister-union members to fight for a fair contract.  Equally damaging, it reflects a dead-end policy of disarming our own union in exchange for a contract that still doesn’t include retro pay or meaningful increases above step five, and which still sharply limits or denies the use of comp time to most attorneys — the third round in an astounding series of give-backs in just three years.

The refusal to even speak up about such issues at the annual meeting echoes and surpasses Rogers’ February 2005 public declaration — without membership discussion, vote or even knowledge  —  that “strikes. . . . won’t happen on my watch.”

Our own history offers better alternatives.  In 1992, for example, ALAA and 1199 were “United in Spirit, United in Action” behind a “no contract, no work,” policy, backed up by a joint “inside” campaign of informational pickets, one-day strikes and a wide range of other public action.

As detailed in the attached union document from the 1993 Bargaining Committee, that rank-and-file orientation gave us necessary muscle at the bargaining table to beat back management’s demands for give-backs and to extract the best possible terms — without the need for an all-out strike.

Yes, as we saw in 1994, there are risks in standing up.  And yes, we face threats now that we didn’t then.  But surrender without a fight only ensures that management will keep coming back for more.

Let’s reclaim our legacy as a fighting, democratic union, and creatively adapt it to current conditions.  And let’s demand that union leadership stop sabotaging, and start organizing, solidarity and resistance.

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