Lawyers, paralegals, and administrative staff working with the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), the non-profit organization that provides free legal assistance to all New York City residents, took part in a two-day strike action Feb. 21.

Hundreds of NYLAG office workers stood out on the picket line in front of 100 Pearl Street, where NYLAG is based. On Feb. 22, the union president was out in front with a guitar leading members as they sang traditional union songs like “Which Side Are You On?”, “We Shall Overcome,” “If I Had a Hammer,” and a song specifically for the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys union. 

“We’re making history because this is our first ever strike,” Ervis Burdo, who works with NYLAG’s financial empowerment services, told the AmNews. “As other New Yorkers are doing, we’re striking for a fair contract, which is: fair wages, better work-life balance, and a specific workload proposal.”

According to a statement from their union, A Better NYLAG (ABN)-UAW Local 2325, workers have held bargaining sessions with NYLAG for a better contract “since June 2022, and eight months later, NYLAG has still refused to move meaningfully on the issues most important to its workforce: salary, healthcare, and a sustainable workload.”

The group says these legal assistance workers provide underserved communities with resources that are often beyond their reach. Yet these often-heralded advocates for others are, during their own workday, overburdened with cases.

The only contract NYLAG is offering so far increases salaries at a paltry .9% a year. ABN’s Bargaining Committee states that it “has repeatedly told NYLAG in bargaining and elsewhere that they will not allow their members to continue to be underpaid and undervalued when they are on the front lines of eviction prevention and recent arrival removal defense.”

Questions for comments about the strike action from NYLAG were not answered by press time.

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