Workers with the New York Legal Assistance Group alerted the nonprofit indigent legal services provider of their intent to form a union with Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, the union announced Thursday.
According to the union, over 200 attorneys, paralegals, financial counselors and administrative staff work at the organization, providing free legal services, from eviction actions to predatory debt collection practices, for New Yorkers in need. An “overwhelming majority” of the staff have signed cards in support of unionization, ALAA stated.
“Unionization in Legal Services is not only critical to the empowerment of union members, but to the improvement of client representation,” said ALAA UAW Local 2325 president Jared Trujillo. “We call on NYLAG management to immediately recognize the overwhelming desire of its employees to join together in a union.”
Among the staff members’ concerns was diversity in the hiring process at NYLAG, compensation rates, training and opportunities for professional development, the union said. Staff at the nonprofit legal services provider said they hope to encourage changes to case staffing, to maximize NYLAG’s ability to advocate for clients, given the growth in demand for services, according to the union.
Alejandra Caraballo, an attorney in the LGBTQ law unit at NYLAG, called the health care and workplace protections at the nonprofit “inadequate,” and that distracts attorneys from their work on behalf of clients.
“Having access to full comprehensive healthcare and livable wages for all staff would allow us to focus on our work with clients,” Caraballo said in a statement provided by the union.
According to ALAA, NYLAG’s union drive follows efforts at other New York City-based legal services providers to form bargaining units as well. The union pointed to recent successful unionization efforts at Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and CAMBA Legal Services. Should the union’s efforts at NYLAG succeed, those workers will join approximately 1,300 workers already represented by the union in legal services provider offices around the city.
In a statement provided by an NLYAG spokesman, the legal organization called for an official process to determine unionization.
“As we consider this important change, we want to ensure that every one of our colleagues who might be represented by the union has an opportunity to voice their view and decide what makes the most sense for them,” the organization stated. “To that end, we believe that the decision to create a union at NYLAG should be made through a democratic, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)-supervised secret ballot election after our colleagues have received information from all the parties. We will adhere to and welcome the decision that is made through this election process.”