May 23, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Talks between Legal Services NYC and their staff broke down on May 1 and the union representing attorneys, paralegals and support staff, the National Organization of Legal Services Workers, rejected management’s offer and voted to strike last week. Watch Video
The LSC staff provides legal assistance to about 45,000 low-income New Yorkers and the elderly who otherwise would not be able to secure legal representation.
According to the union, which is part of the United Auto Workers Local 2320, LSC is seeking major concessions on healthcare and retirement programs.
Outside the agency’s offices on 40 Worth Street where NOLSW members picketed on Wednesday evening, Lynn Ventura, a senior staff attorney at LSC and a member of the local’s bargaining committee, said the local agreed to concessions for the first time in its history that would raise members’ health care contributions. In return, the union asked management for job protections, but they have refused to bargain on that issue.
“We entered the bargaining process with very modest proposals, but they offered extreme proposals, such as reducing retirement contributions by 29 percent and requiring our members to contribute more for healthcare coverage we feel is financially unnecessary,” said Ventura.
According to LSC’s website, management submitted a proposal based on a 50 percent drop in federal funding, about $8 million. They’re threatening to lay off 50 employees if the union doesn’t accept their proposed changes to healthcare and pensions.
But the union says funding for LSC has actually increased; President Barack Obama’s FY 2014 budget includes a $70 million increase for LSC, and the agency is allocating the money to pay for managers who oversee the staff by a ratio of one to three.
Ms. Ventura said she and her co-workers would prefer to be working, but are prepared to stay out to ensure they receive a fair contract.
“We’re prepared to do that. They want to turn this into a job that people can’t build a career on and we believe that poor people deserve experienced advocates.”
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