2008.09.10: Attica Anniversary Follow-Up — More About Akil Al-Jundi

From:     Letwin, Michael
Sent:    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 10:33 AM
To:    1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject:    Attica Anniversary Follow-Up — More About Akil Al-Jundi

[The following tribute to Akil Al-Jundi — Attica Brother, Legal Aid staff member and 1199 senior delegate — was written for the March 26, 1999 commemoration of ALAA’s thirtieth anniversary. See also, the ALAA history, posted at: http://www.alaa.org/pages/History.pdf%5D

Since the early 1990s, ALAA attorneys and 1199 Legal Aid support staff have forged a strong and enduring inter-union alliance. But building and maintaining an alliance between ALAA and 1199 has not always been easy. Legal Aid management traditionally played on differences in class, racial demographics and culture.

This gulf was reflected in ALAA’s initial decision to define itself as an attorneys’ union — in contrast with the “wall to wall” union at legal services — and 1199 members’ perception that the lawyers had not done enough to support their 1981 strike.

In the early 1990s, the two unions overcame this legacy in order to stand together as one. The success of that alliance is owed, in very large part, to Akil Al-Jundi (1940-1997).

Guild members knew Akil as an Attica Brother and lead plaintiff in Al-Jundi v. Mancusi. But at Legal Aid, Akil was, above all, the senior 1199 delegate who, since the mid-70, had boldly voiced the anger and hopes of poorly-paid and ill-respected support staff.

Like others, Akil initially had his doubts about the depth of ALAA’s commitment to an alliance with 1199. But in 1990, when ALAA extended its hand, Akil chanced a leap of faith and grasped it. From that moment on, lawyers and support staff across the city have stood firmly together under the banner “ALAA and 1199: United in Spirit, United in Action” — most notably in joint strikes on January 29, 1991, July 15, 1992 and October 1-4, 1994.

In the course of these actions, Akil helped to lead not only his own members, but ALAA’s as well. A veteran organizer, schooled during the movements of the 1960s and possessed of the cadence, insight, directness and courage of Malcolm X, he frequently chaired our joint rallies and gave both attorneys and support staff perspective on the events in which we were engaged.

In the process, Akil used a combination of boldness and humor to demand respect and a relationship of equality for the most disenfranchised constituency at Legal Aid. With his unshakeable commitment to the inter-union alliance, Akil was a rock on whom both unions came to depend. There was no better comrade.

Akil is sorely missed, but the alliance he helped to build lives on.

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