Workers at Brooklyn Defender Services and Neighborhood Defender Services, Inc. Hold Pickets in Support of Contract Fights
The BDS Union (a chapter of ALAA-UAW) held a lunchtime picket on Wednesday in downtown Brooklyn to show management that it’s time Brooklyn Defender Services get serious in its efforts to reach a strong fair contract as soon as possible. In 2020, faced with immense burnout, unlivable wages, and disorganization, the staff at BDS decided to unionize and the union won an election in a landslide. Since then, they have been in negotiations with BDS for a first contract. Management has consistently demonstrated a lack of interest in reaching an agreement even after the union provided reasonable offers in a package proposal, which they entirely rejected.
BDS continues to propose measly salary increases that would leave members severely underpaid compared to other public defenders, absurd healthcare proposals, and discretion to entirely eliminate telecommuting, requiring staff return to an ill equipped office where managers are consistently absent. Most concerning recently is a rise in discipline of members without just cause protections yet in place. BDS staff have proudly provided excellent public defense representation to New Yorkers since 1996.
Meanwhile, in Harlem, Neighborhood Defender Service Inc. (NDS Inc.) promises to provide “the highest quality legal representation through community-based, holistic, public defense.” Members of the NDS Harlem Union—UAW Local 2325, sounded the alarm at a lunch-hour informational picket on Thursday, highlighting that unsustainable caseloads, low pay, and high staff turnover are seriously jeopardizing NDS’ stated mission. The NDS Union kicked off contract negotiations in May 2023 with hopes that NDS would fulfill its promise to Uptown residents and address these pressing issues. After three months at the bargaining table, however, NDS continues to ignore these issues and drag its feet. This picket was the culmination of a national week of action for all three NDS units (NDS Harlem, NDS Detroit, and NDS Texas).