There’s been a peculiar kind of labor unrest in Williamsburg over the last few weeks. Attorneys at the Broadway office of Legal Services are angry at their management, but not quite riled enough to strike. Instead, in keeping with the hard-working public interest attorney ethos, they’ve been diligently going to work every day–then spending their lunch hours picketing and leafletting outside their own office.
The complaint is that the chapter’s director has promoted too many staff into management positions–with hefty raises–leaving the office without other crucial resources. Recently, for example, one front desk worker was promoted into a paralegal’s job, assigned to work on domestic violence cases. She excelled at the job but was quickly demoted, simply because there was not enough cash.
“There always seems to be money for whatever [Project Director Marty Needelman] wants to do,” explained Gibb Surrette, one of the office’s union delegates. “But there’s not money for things we desperately need.” Surrette said that struggles over resources and cash flow were becoming increasingly common in the office: “When it comes to managing finances, he’s a nightmare.”
Needelman, admitting that he “did not have a good handle on the finances,” countered that union leaders were primarily trying to stir up trouble. “It’s a family squabble,” he said. “This office has a high sensitivity on union-management issues. The [union] leadership is ideological, and believes that the class war must go on. To me, it’s become very distracting.”
Needelman also pointed out that the union’s citywide contract would expire on June 30, and charged that union leaders were trying to highlight this conflict as a “cause celebre.”
Union president Nicole Salk said that the union was looking into grounds to file an official unfair labor practices complaint.