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CAMBA legal service attorneys announce intentions to unionize

May 14, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Attorneys from CAMBA Legal Services have announced their intention on joining the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys. Photo courtesy of Association of Legal Aid Attorneys
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Staff attorneys at CAMBA Legal Services, a social services provider in Brooklyn that helps community members facing eviction, foreclosure, immigration issues, consumer fraud and other issues, announced that they plan to join the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys.

The 25 staff attorneys announced their intent to unionize on Thursday and cited issues such as fair compensation, increased training and workforce development and a higher standard of representation for CAMBA’s clients as reasons for unionizing. 

“We have organized because it will allow us to provide higher-quality service to our clients and surrounding communities” said Pooja Patel, staff attorney at the Flatbush office. “We hope that CAMBA will recognize us.”

“This is about more than our rights as workers” said Steven Swenson, staff attorney at the Flatbush office. “It’s also about getting the resources and training to provide relentless advocacy for our clients.” 

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The attorneys are hoping that CAMBA would immediately recognize their right to unionize. Representatives for CAMBA declined a request for comment from the Brooklyn Eagle.

CAMBA helps more than 45,000 individuals each year in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Of these people, 85 percent are living in poverty and more than 50 percent are immigrants. 

“We are calling on CAMBA to respect the choice of their staff to join together and form a union without interference” said Deborah Wright, President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325. “The attorneys at CAMBA are joining a movement of hundreds of legal service workers across the country who are uniting to win justice for themselves and their clients.” 

Part of what Wright is concerned about is that New York City has begun to guarantee attorneys to income-eligible people facing eviction. Right now, that only applies to three zip codes in Brooklyn, 11225, 11221 and 11216, but it is expected to be extended to the entire borough by 2022. This means much more work for attorneys, and there are concerns about whether or not compensation will match. 

“As universal access to legal counsel begins to roll out in New York City, it is crucial that staff at legal service providers like CAMBA organize to ensure the highest standards of working conditions and legal representation for their clients,” Wright continued.

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