Monthly Archives: October 2007

2007.10.29: Reasons to Vote Down the Contract (Legal Aid)

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Monday, October 29, 2007 4:09 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Reasons to Vote Down the Contract

The shortcomings in the proposed contract now before us are self-evident:

* Three percent when contract is ratified (retroactive to October 1, 2007), and just 1 percent more, effective January 2008.

* Senior attorneys are again denied the same raises offered to junior attorneys.

* It does not regain any of the unprecedented series of give-backs recommended by the leadership, and ratified by the majority of members (below*).

The reasons for this poor offer are equally clear.

It’s not that there’s no money: Despite rising health insurance premiums, and due largely due to our unions’ efforts, Legal Aid has a $180 million annual budget.

It’s not that Union Executive Board members haven’t tried hard enough at the bargaining table; no doubt they have, and their effort is appreciated.

Rather, the reason is that Union leadership has done nothing to mobilize the membership — not even a rally or informational picket line. Without such pressure, management simply doesn’t *have* to offer more, and (with some minor adjustments) can pretty much unilaterally decide on the contract terms.

But Union members still have the final say. We can ratify the contract, thereby reconfirming management’s low estimation of us — for this and future contracts. In that case, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Or, as Azalia Torres argued in her presidential campaign last May, “we can work together to recapture the spirit that we need to reestablish ourselves as a strong and effective union.” That means giving the Executive Board some leverage by voting down this contract, and organizing the pressure necessary to get one that’s better.

[*]Givebacks: 2003-2006

* October 2003. Union permits management to break its promise of a 3 percent salary increase.

* June 2004. Union surrenders employer-paid TransitCheks and “defers” a 1.5% bonus for two years.

* December 2004. Union agrees to substantial increases in attorney health premium contributions, one-year reduction of employer pension contributions by more than half, and complete surrender of the “deferred” bonus (above).

* November 2006. Union accepts no meaningful increases above step five; sharp limits on use of comp time; no retro pay.

2007.10.19: NYCLAW Response to Anti-Boycott Attacks (Chief-Leader)

The Chief-Leader, NYC Civil Service Newspaper October 19, 2007
Thompson and Israel

To the Editor:

The undersigned trade-union activists disagree with New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson and the Jewish Labor Committee, who have joined the witch-hunt against British unions for boycotting Israel (Sept. 7 issue [*]).

Palestinian trade-union bodies have long asked international labor to support the boycott; endorsers now include the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and unions in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada.

It is no more unfairly selective or one-sided than the isolation of apartheid South Africa, a campaign in which we and many others actively participated. This boycott — many of whose supporters are Jewish — DOES NOT target Israel for its ethnicity, but for theft and colonization of Arab lands, denial of equality to Arab-Palestinians in Israel, and violation of Palestinian Refugees’ right to return home.

South African apartheid — racist oppression of the black majority — was consolidated in a 1948 white-only election. At the same time, apartheid Israel began with the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1947-49, when Zionists systematically terrorized, dispossessed and ethnically cleansed the Palestinian majority. Some 13,000 Palestinians were massacred, 531 towns and villages erased, 11 urban neighborhoods emptied, and more than 750,000 (85 percent) driven from 78 percent of their country.

In 1967, Israel seized the remaining 22 percent — including East Jerusalem, the’ West Bank and Gaza — which remains under military rule.

Today, at least 70 percent of the 10 million Palestinians are in exile — the world’s largest refugee population. Those who managed to remain — today, 1.4 million (or 20 percent of the population in Israel) — are confined to 2.5 percent of the land, subject to more than 20 discriminatory laws, and deemed a “demographic threat” to be “transferred” elsewhere.

In East Jerusalem and the West Bank, 140 illegal, ever-expanding Jewish-only settlements and road systems dominate the water resources and control 40 percent of the land. Palestinians are confined, separated and degraded by an 8-meter-high separation wall, pass laws, curfews and 600 military checkpoints. In Gaza, 1.4 million suffer sealed borders; air, artillery and ground strikes; economic blockade; designation as “enemy entity”; and suspension of essential services.

During the past seven years, 4,274 Palestinians in these 1967 territories have been killed, compared with 1,024 Israelis. The military has seized 60,000 political prisoners; it still holds and tortures 11,000.

Apartheid Israel has also aggressively exported itself beyond Palestine. It was apartheid South Africa’s closest ally. Especially since 9/11, it has promoted the demonization of Arabs and Muslims. It has 200 nuclear weapons, but manufactured phony “evidence” of WMD for the Bush administration to invade Iraq.

There, in Afghanistan and in Lebanon, the U.S./Israel alliance has killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, using Israeli-perfected techniques of collective punishment, air war, human shields, home demolition, assassination, kidnapping, rendition, detention, torture, separation walls, partition and ethnic cleansing. Working people in this country have also paid a high price for these wars to dominate the oil-rich Middle East. Now, Israel is at the forefront of escalating attacks against Syria and Iran.

Moreover, apartheid Israel is sponsored by the U.S. In the past ten years alone, it has provided $17 billion in military aid, which the bipartisan Congress has just increased by 25 percent. U.S. trade-union officialdom is a shameful accomplice, and tries to silence union members who oppose this apartheid regime.

Ending this support would strike a critical blow against war and racism — abroad and at home. As in South Africa, points out Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, a boycott “will not change [the regime’s] position in a day, but it will send a clear message that [apartheid is] racist and unacceptable in the 21st century . . . They would have to choose.”

Workers in Palestine, the United States, and around the world, deserve no less.

Former president, Mail Handlers Local 300

Former executive board member, TWU Local 100

Former president, Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325

Former president, AFSCME DC 1707

[Signers affiliated with New York City Labor Against the War; other affiliations listed for identification only]

*The Chief-Leader, September 7, 2007

Thompson Hits Israel Boycott by Brit Unions


City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. Aug. 28 blasted several British unions, including the Transport and General Workers Union
(TGWU), for supporting a boycott of Israeli goods.

Various groups have called for boycotts of products made in Israel and for institutions to divest from companies that do business in Israel to protest the country’s 40-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Mr. Thompson sent letters to several trade-union leaders saying, “Boycotts of this nature will result merely in a failure to achieve a just and fair resolution of the Middle East conflict.”

Labor Leader Applauds

Jewish Labor Committee President Stuart Appelbaum, who is also president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, praised Mr. Thompson’s stance.

“I thank Comptroller Thompson for his bold words against these ill-conceived anti-Israel resolutions,” Mr. Appelbaum said in a statement. “It is my hope that Comptroller Thompson’s words will be followed by similar actions by others truly concerned about seeking a just and fair resolution, and peace in the Middle East.”

The JLC issued a statement signed by dozens of American labor leaders opposing such boycotts and divestment campaigns. The president of the TGWU’s American counterpart, James C. Little of the Transport Workers Union of America, signed the statement, but Roger Toussaint, president of TWU Local 100, has not made his stance on the issue public.

‘Bring Them Together’

“Trade unionists and their organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be assisting those working to bring the two sides together in direct talks and then negotiations,” the JLC’s letter said. “In this regard, we call for increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We support efforts of Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and their organizations to maintain contact and cooperative and mutually supportive activities, even in the midst of tumult and political change within their respective communities and polities.”

Mr. Thompson was pleased to see American unions signing the JLC’s statement.

“The Comptroller is concerned about any issues that affect trade and the economy,” a spokesman for Mr. Thompson said in an email. “In this instance, as he indicates in his letter, he is concerned that ‘antagonism or retaliation’ are being employed whereas constructive dialogue would be a more productive route.”