Tag Archive for: NOLSW 2320

New York, New York – Seeking to strengthen high-quality free legal services for New Yorkers and fight high turnover, union members of Mobilization for Justice (MFJ), a nonprofit legal services organization, hit a historic landmark this week as their strike enters its seventh week. The strike is the longest legal services walk-out in New York City history since 2003, when unionized MFJ staffers held a nine-week long strike.

The Union is fighting for a fair and dignified contract to maintain its quality of free legal services to New Yorkers by addressing MFJ’s unprecedented staff attrition rate. The strike has garnered support from state and national elected officials, such as U.S. Congressman Jamaal Bowman, who joined the picket line last week. Labor leaders have also joined the strikers in their demands that MFJ offer a fair contract. In a rally in North Carolina last week, UAW International President Shawn Fain issued a stern rebuke against MFJ Management’s union busting: “the management at MFJ is a disgrace and they are betraying the values that they claim to hold dear. But I know one thing: our members are strong, that the community’s behind them, and that they are going to win!”

In 2003, Mobilization for Justice (then known as MFY Legal Services) staffers struck for nine weeks when Management offered a contract which would eliminate spousal/partner health coverage. Chaumtoli Huq, an Associate Professor at CUNY School of Law and former MFJ staff attorney, was part of the 2003 strike. Professor Huq said that the proposed healthcare cuts would have disproportionately affected lower-paid, BIPOC workers. “I was pregnant with my son during the 2003 strike. Cutting my spousal health care would have meant that I would have had to pay more out-of-pocket expenses for family care. Legal services workers should have a right to support our loved ones, especially when we make so little money.” Professor Huq said that she “absolutely” supports the ongoing strike and Union members’ demands for a fair contract. “MFJ’s corporate board has forgotten an important lesson from the 2003 strike. You cannot strip frontline workers’ healthcare benefits and pay and expect them to take it without a fight.”

The current strike comes in the context of the worst homelessness crisis in modern New York City history, increasing evictions of poor and working-class tenants, and the unprecedented need for legal services for immigrants given recent waves of mass migration of asylum-seekers and refugees. Striking workers from MFJ include attorneys, paralegals, and social workers who advocate and represent these individuals in courts and in front of city, state, and federal agencies every day when working. “MFJ Union members are at the courts multiple days each week as part of our strike-focused Court Watch. We’re watching, with heartbreak for our clients, as MFJ managers clearly cannot handle the caseloads,” said Craig Hughes, social worker at MFJ’s Bronx office. “Executive Director Tiffany Liston has prolonged a strike on the backs of the clients MFJ is sworn to support. She is clearly indifferent to what happens to our clients, frontline staff, middle management, and the sustainability of the organization as a result.” He continued, “seven weeks in and MFJ is falling apart. Where is the leadership?”

Union members say that MFJ Management has delayed resolution of their contract negotiations, engaged in unfair labor practices, and mounted an aggressive union busting campaign. MFJ Management terminated staff healthcare without notice to staff hours after the Union declared a strike. This sudden, unannounced interruption in benefits caused Union members significant problems, including a Senior Staff Attorney whose three-year-old child was hospitalized with Leukemia. MFJ Management did not return to the bargaining table until the fourth week of the strike. MFJ Management also hired temporary strikebreakers to cover the labor shortage. Union members say that the untrained strike breakers are unable to adequately cover the organization’s caseload, which reached over 15,000 last year. Members expressed concerns that MFJ Management’s prolonged refusal to bargain in good faith will negatively impact their clients.

The MFJ Union will be picketing at the following locations this week:

– Wednesday, April 10, 1pm to 3pm: Bronx Housing Court (1118 Grand Concourse)
– Friday, April 12, 9:30am to 11:30am: MFJ Manhattan office (100 William Street)