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Legal Services NYC Responds to Union Strike Vote

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

  • Organization: Legal Services NYC

Below is the press release from Legal Services NYC:

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For immediate release:
May 15, 2013

Contact:
Raun Rasmussen, 646-442-3590, rrasmussen@ls-nyc.org

Legal Services NYC Responds to Union Strike Vote

Legal Services NYC, the largest provider of civil legal services for low-income people in the country responded today to the announcement that the Legal Services Staff Association (LSSA) voted to strike rather than accept LSNYC’s proposal to respond to a 50% drop in Federal funding ($8 million total) with small changes to healthcare and retirement programs. Without those changes, LSNYC will be forced to lay off as many as 50 people by the end of 2014. Effective May 16, LSSA’s 220 members will be on the picket line instead of in the courts and offices fighting for their clients.

In response, Raun Rasmussen, Executive Director of Legal Services NYC, said:

“We are disappointed that the staff was unwilling to come to an agreement on how to close our budget gap while maintaining services for tens of thousands of New Yorkers. A strike is not good for our staff, our clients or their communities. We are very hopeful that we can return to the bargaining table quickly and resolve this impasse to restore programs like foreclosure prevention and immigration assistance for the New Yorkers who depend on us.

“We have attempted to deal with our budget gap by making limited changes to our health insurance program that will allow us to get competitive bids from other health insurance companies, thereby reducing costs in the future. But the union was not willing to accept any changes.
“Our first obligation is to our clients. All managers are prepared to handle the cases of their staff members. It will not be easy, but all clients will be well served in the event of a strike. The bigger problem is that we will not be able to accept as many new clients if there is a strike; and given the limited resources available, they may have nowhere else to turn. We have the most committed, compassionate and hard working staff in the country. For the good of our clients and our staff, we hope that we can end this strike soon so that we can refocus our efforts on fighting together for the civil rights of low income New Yorkers.”

Background

Legal Services NYC has approximately 300 employees, nearly 220 of whom are in the union. In recent years, federal funding for LSNYC has been slashed nearly fifty percent, leading to a 20% drop in overall funding. Despite cutting more than 20% of the management positions, consolidating programs to reduce overhead and freezing management salaries, LSNYC reduced forces by 40 people in 2012. If no changes are made to its health insurance program and other costs are not reigned in, LSNYC faces the prospect of laying off as many as 50 people by the end of 2014.

LSNYC pays significantly more for health care than any other civil legal services provider, like the Legal Aid Society or Urban Justice Center. Currently, LSNYC’s program has no employee contribution. LSNYC suggested limited changes to the health insurance program that would allow LSNYC to get competitive bids from other health insurance providers and to accomplish more significant savings in the future. Even after the changes, LSNYC’s health insurance would still be more expensive than that of any other similar provider.

Despite the budget deficit, LSNYC’s offer provided salary increases for all union members, a payment of $1500 to our most senior staff members, and a retirement plan contribution of 6% per year over the two years of the contract.

LSNYC also offered to further reimburse the full retirement plan reduction if the funding situation improves before the end of the year.
 

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