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Queens Defenders Staff Announce Union Drive

Published Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Queens Defenders Staff Announce Union Drive

(QUEENS, NEW YORK) - Staff Attorneys and Social Workers employed at Queens Defenders (QD) have announced their intent to Go Union with the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys-United Auto Workers (ALAA-UAW) Local 2325 by filing an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

QD provides criminal defense and related services for indigent clients in Queens.  The almost 70 Staff Members are composed of Criminal Defense Attorneys, Immigration Attorneys, Licensed Social Workers and Law Graduates.

QD Staff expressed their desire to avoid a lengthy NLRB election and instead begin directly bargaining with management immediately after voluntary recognition of their Union.  

If Queens Defenders Staff successfully Unionize, it would mark the first time in 25 years that the majority of Public Defender Agencies in New York City were Unionized.

It was revealed that 90% of eligible QD Staff Members had signed cards to show their support for Unionization.

The Staff Members’ concerns include health and safety, organizational transparency, fair compensation, diversity in hiring and management, and a high standard of client representation.

"QD ‘has been a fierce and committed advocate for its clients for decades and our Union will make us that much fiercer,’” Staff Attorney Christopher Van Zele said.

“Social Workers ‘are dedicated to pursuing social change and advancing meaningful participation in decision making for all.’  We recognize that ‘every Member of our Staff plays an important role in this agency.’  A QD Union ‘provides another avenue for participation while we support one another and our clients,’” said Emily Duran on behalf of QD’s entire team of Social Workers.

“Unions ‘help Workers’ job stability and safeguard their rights.’  ‘I want a QD Union because it will only make our organization stronger and make us better lawyers for it,’” Staff Attorney Anna Avalone said.

QD’s Union drive comes at a time of intensified organizing to improve working conditions for Public Service Professionals, who are often compensated significantly less than their private-sector counterparts.

Workers from other non-profit legal service providers, such as Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, the Center for Family Representation, CAMBA Legal Services, and The Bronx Defenders have recently won Union recognition.

If their Union is recognized, the Staff Members of QD will join the more than 2,000 Members of ALAA who are employed at the Legal Aid Society, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, The Bronx Defenders, Center for Family Representation, New York Legal Assistance Groups and many others.

ALAA-UAW Local 2325 is the Nation’s oldest Union of Attorneys and Legal Workers.

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