February 6, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Staff attorneys working for MFY Legal Services and represented by the United Automobile Workers walked the picket line for the fourth day before both sides return to the bargaining table on Friday.
In the accompanying video, we interviewed a staff attorney and administrative staff to learn why they were compelled to go on strike.
Peter Barker-Huelster has been a staff attorney for MFY since 2012. He said he and his fellow co-workers decided to strike because management refuses to offer pay equity for the lowest-paid workers such as administrative staff.
“There are a lot of reasons why we’re on strike, but for starters pay equity for our lowest-paid workers in our organization. There are only four people doing support work for an organization of over 70 people and they are stretched to the limit. They should be paid better for what they do. We’re also trying to get paid parental leave policy that would allow people to do this work and raise a family so that they can stay committed to it over a lifetime rather than for a short time—that’s why I’m out here,” said Barker-Huelster.
He hopes that MFY’s management takes the union’s demands seriously at the next bargaining session.
“The first thing is we need to be treated with respect at the bargaining table for our demands to be taken seriously, and for the work we do for this organization to be recognized. We also need some commitment to pay equity and to make a paid paternal leave policy that works.”
One of the administrative staff members, Jessica Cepin, has been working at MYF for fourteen years but she and three other administrative staff aren’t earning the same amount as other staff members.
“What it’s important for me is that I work with a group of four women of color working for a staff of 56 and MYF doesn’t want to give parity. We’re asking for a fair contract, fair raises and no givebacks,” said Cepin.
She also believes that management will have to bend at the bargaining table in order to end the strike.
“Management needs to move on bargaining. They need to show us that they don’t want a strike. We want appreciation and movement at the table. That’s all we’re asking for.”