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Two legal nonprofits form union for safe working conditions during coronavirus outbreak

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Two New York City nonprofits announced that they will be teaming up with a legal union to ensure safe working conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Children’s Law Center and the Safe Passage Project partnered with the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325. The workers are calling on their respective managements to recognize their unions immediately amid this crisis.

“On the legal front, the COVID-19 pandemic can only be addressed by a highly organized labor force which is willing and ready to confront the upcoming challenges,” said Jared Trujillo, President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 23235, “By forming a union, the staff of CLC and SPP have taken the first step in ensuring that in this and future crises their well-being and the well-being of their clients is prioritized.”

While the workers say that the plan to unionize was not caused by coronavirus itself, the outbreak has only furthered their resolve, as a unionized workplace can safeguard against occupational hazards and serve as a vehicle of advocacy for their clients. The workers feel that as attorneys, paralegals, social workers, and others, these workers are a different kind of emergency responders providing crucial services in this time of crisis.

“We need to ethically and zealously advocate for clients, and we cannot do that if we’re burned out and without case caps,” said Arlette Herrera, Legal Clerk at the Safe Passage Project.

Over the last few years, union organizing among attorneys, legal services workers, and other professional employees has increased. Should this new union be recognized, the staff members at Safe Passage Project and Children’s Law Center will join the 1,600 members of ALAA who are employed at the Legal Aid Society of New York City, the Nassau County Legal Aid Society, Federal Defenders of New York, The Legal Aid Society of Orange County, Youth Represent, CAMBA Legal Services, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, New York Legal Assistance Group, Asian Americans for Equality, and the Center for Family Representation.

“I support the union, because I believe it will enhance our staff’s collective voice in the organization and will ensure better and more predictable salary and benefits for all staff. This, in turn, will lead to greater retention of the hardworking and passionate people who are attracted to CLC’s work, and will ultimately strengthen our common goal: the best possible representation of our clients.” said Laura Solecki, Senior Writing Attorney at the Children’s Law Center.

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