February 9, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—The approximately 70 staff members represented by the Legal Services Staff Association entered this week still picketing MFY Legal Services on 299 Broadway because management didn’t propose a counteroffer over the weekend.
The union, which is part of the United Automobile Workers Local 2320, issued a statement early on Monday morning that the strike would continue until management stops stalling. According to the statement, there was progress between the union and the employer on Thursday because MFY addressed some of the union’s demands for pay equity, but by Friday management hadn’t made a complete counteroffer. The union told MFY they were willing to negotiate over the weekend; management declined and said they would make a counteroffer over the weekend, but they never did.
In the accompanying video we interviewed MFY staff attorney Shafaq Khan, who explained the union’s decision to go on strike.
“There’s a couple of key points on why we’re on strike. One is to support staff equity. We’re a wall-to-wall union, which means that our attorneys, paralegals and support staff are all part of the same union. We want to make sure that our support staff’s experience is valued at the same level with the same importance that an attorney or paralegal’s experience is,” said Khan. “Second, we want to make sure that our senior, experienced staff sticks around so that means salary increases which keep up with the cost of living so that people can save money and make sure that legal services is not just a short stop before a real career, but rather a career in and of itself.”
According to a recent report in the New York Law Journal on February 3, MFY s Executive Director Jeanette Zelhof said that the non-profit law firm’s compensation was “among the highest in the nonprofit legal services sector” and that the firm pays the entire cost of staff members’ health insurance. But Khan said the current strike isn’t over the issue of healthcare costs.
“With regards to salary, they’ve offered us 2.25 percent per year, which is actually less than what they are paying now under the current contract. The pie is increasing, but our piece of that pie stays the same. If we want to make sure that experienced staff sticks around and that low-income New Yorkers are able to have the most experienced staff representing them in a moment of crisis, we have to make sure that salary increases are meaningful and reflect MFY’s great financial strength,” Khan said.