Lambda Legal Employee Union Ratifies Inaugural Contract

Announcement comes nearly 16 months after bargaining began and one week before Labor Day.

(August 26, 2019 – New York, NY) Today, Lambda Legal’s employee union announced the ratification of its inaugural contract (which can be read here) and the following statement:

Two years ago, Lambda Legal staff made the decision to unionize after learning firsthand how tenuous non-union employee protections can be. Today, we announce the completion of our inaugural contract.

We are grateful for the support of our colleagues and advice of our union, the Washington-Baltimore News Guild. Though the road here was neither quick nor easy, we are proud to have reached this agreement. And more importantly, we are proud to move forward together to ensure that Lambda Legal's own workplace reflects its mission and organizational values.

For Lambda Legal staff, unionizing was about guaranteeing that those of us putting in 50-60 (or more) hours of work each week do not have to worry about what will happen when we need a break. It was about ensuring that we and our partners and families do not need to choose paying rent over affording to take our sick children to the doctor. It was about getting the health care that we need – care that our clients and communities depend on us to fight for. It was about our futures, and our futures at Lambda Legal.

This contract is security. It is knowing that Lambda Legal will be there for us so that we can continue to be there for those who need our help. It is the increased strength and efficacy of an organization – an organization that we and so many others believe in – when staff are guaranteed a seat at the table.

That is what unionizing means, and that is what this day means to us.

In solidarity,
The newest WBNG Unit

Lambda Legal Union Employees Hold Lunch-Out

The lunch-out occurred as the result of staff frustrations at management’s continued stalling of progress on a contract agreement.

(March 21, 2019 – New York, NY) Today, Lambda Legal's employee union (Washington-Baltimore News Guild Local 32035) held a brief collective lunch-out at the organization’s New York Headquarters on Wall Street.

Employees in other Lambda Legal offices also showed support for the lunch-out by posting pictures holding signs reading “LAMBDA LEGAL STAFF DEMAND A FAIR CONTRACT NOW” on social media.

Since negotiations began in May of 2018, Lambda Legal management and its representatives at known anti-union law firm Seyfarth Shaw have been reluctant to schedule bargaining sessions, typically agreeing only to one or two per month. Further, management has cancelled or postponed one third of scheduled bargaining sessions (seven out of 21) – four of them in 2019 alone. These cancellations are frequently attributed to the Seyfarth Shaw attorneys’ inability to attend previously-agreed upon dates, despite the fact that five separate Seyfarth Shaw attorneys (and multiple interns) have appeared at various bargaining sessions and that Lambda Legal management representatives initially agreed to bargain without labor attorneys present at all.

Although six weeks remain until the anniversary of the first bargaining session, Lambda Legal management shows no signs of urgency towards completing a contract. Staff have been left waiting for a response to proposals on important issues like salaries and retirement benefits for a month and a half or more. Moreover, management representatives continue to take positions at odds with the organization’s stated values. At the most recent bargaining session, management representatives objected to contract language that would have committed the organization to ensuring transgender employees’ continued access to medically necessary transition-related health care.

“Lambda Legal respects and supported our employees’ right to unionize and looks forward to working together to support the shared goals of the newly-formed union and the organization,” the organization wrote in a statement in October of 2018. However, these continued delays belie the organization’s stated commitment to resolving negotiations as quickly as possible.

Today’s lunch-out was organized with the intention of building solidarity, demonstrating to management that the staff – despite these continued stalling tactics – is committed to reaching a fair contract as soon as possible, and demanding that Lambda Legal management bargain in good faith and live up to the organization's publicly stated values.

After the lunch-out, employees returned to work as normal.

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For more information:

Email: lambdaunites@gmail.com; Twitter: @lambdaunites; Online: lambdaunites.org

Lambda Legal Union Statement on Resignation of CEO Rachel B. Tiven

(August 3, 2018; New York, NY) Earlier today, Rachel B. Tiven announced that she will be stepping down as CEO of Lambda Legal. In response, Lambda Unites, the organizing committee of Lambda Legal’s employee union, issued the following statement:

The staff at Lambda Legal have worked tirelessly for over 45 years for the communities we serve. Every attorney, every administrator, every accountant, every director, every legal assistant, every communications staffer, every fundraiser, every community educator – and all who are listed here and all who are not – are proud of the work we have done to make Lambda Legal the institution that it is today.

Many of our achievements were considered impossible at the time that Lambda Legal took them on, and it is a fact that they would not have been possible without Lambda Legal’s dedicated and brilliant staff – past and present. It was the staff who pushed for positive change in society during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, when the survival of our very communities seemed in doubt. It was the staff who worked night and day on Lawrence v. Texas, our groundbreaking Supreme Court victory that saw sodomy laws overturned nationwide. It was the staff who led the fight for marriage equality. It was the staff who fought (and continue to fight) for the rights of transgender people in prisons, schools, health care settings, and in our nation’s military.

And it was the staff who voted to unionize here at Lambda Legal. When our health care and retirement benefits were cut; when long-serving, talented members of the organization were forced to leave, either directly or by the many changes that have occurred over the past two years; and when internal inequitable, top-down power structures meant that organizational changes were made in unilateral fashion, without soliciting staff feedback, and while keeping staff in the dark – we rose up. We recognized our worth, and we came together – because we believed (and we still believe) in what Lambda Legal stands for. And we and others on staff continued to fight back against toxic leadership in our organization even after then.

We see this new opportunity for a change in leadership as a fresh start, and a way for Lambda Legal to prove its commitment to the staff that has worked so hard to make this institution what it is. We have been in the process of working on a union contract for five months now, and Lambda Legal management’s actions have frequently indicated to us that they have not been as invested in quickly coming to an agreement as we are. However, we have hope that this process can and will be better going forward. We are firmly committed to developing a contract that allows Lambda Legal’s devoted staff the opportunity to focus on our work without fear of financial insecurity, job insecurity, and insufficient health care coverage (including our current lack of necessary coverage for all transition-related care for transgender staff).

We are our community, and we are who we fight – who we sue, who we advocate, who we educate – for. We are queer people who need a safe work environment. We are trans people, disabled people, people living with HIV, partners, and parents who need access to equitable health care.

We will not accept anything less.

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For more information:

Email: lambdaunites@gmail.com; Twitter: @lambdaunites; Online: lambdaunites.org

Lambda Legal Union: Our Employer Publicly Supports Unions but Refused to Voluntarily Recognize Ours

“It is our hope that, going forward, our leadership’s support for unions extends to us…”

(January 19, 2018, New York, NY) Today, Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Janus v. AFSCME, a case pending at the United States Supreme Court. The brief is in support of unions that represent public sector employees. In the crosshairs of this lawsuit are “fair-share fees” – cost-sharing arrangements paid by all public employees who benefit when unions negotiate the best contract possible for everyone. In response, Lambda Unites, the organizing committee of Lambda Legal’s employee union, issued the following statement:

“We are proud to stand behind this brief and the hard work that our talented legal team put in to make it possible because supporting unions is consistent with our values as an organization. That said, we feel we must also note that our CEO, Lambda Legal’s leader, failed to mirror these same values in recent months.

“Unions have been invaluable for many LGBTQ and HIV+ workers – especially in states without explicit statutory protections or federal court rulings – through collective-bargaining agreements that ensure LGBTQ and HIV+ employees are treated equally and provided reprieve when they aren’t and the law falls short. And historically, Lambda Legal has been supportive of unions and the rights of workers to organize and have a collective voice in determining the terms of their employment.

“For example, in 2007, Lambda Legal authored and joined a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a case on behalf of LGBTQ workers in Michigan when the Governor claimed that union contracts – which provided health benefits for same-sex domestic partners – were a violation of Michigan’s constitutional amendment that said marriage was “between a man and a woman.” Additionally, Lambda Legal’s Know Your Rights: Workplace web resource details the many benefits of employee unions for LGBTQ and HIV+ workers.

“As an organization, Lambda Legal has many times taken a stand for the rights of workers to organize and fight for the dignity, fair treatment, pay and benefits they and their families deserve. We, as employees, are proud to work for an organization that, in just the past year, has won federal protections for workers in Indiana in our Hively v. Ivy Tech case, brought Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital to the front door of the United States Supreme Court, argued in federal court on behalf of LGB employees in Zarda v. Altitude Express and launched the Out At Work campaign. But we are also disappointed to work for an organization where, in our experience, the CEO has not practiced what it  preaches.

“Lambda Legal is an ally to and advocate of unions. However, there is a serious disconnect when our CEO refuses to honor the rights of employees by voluntarily recognizing our staff union after a supermajority signed and mailed pledge cards in support of organizing, which instead forced a mail-in vote over the 2017 holiday season.

“But, as we tend to do, and as Lambda Legal employees: we persisted, and we won. We voted by an overwhelming majority to form a union. We did this because changes to our health care and benefits were made for us, unilaterally and without consultation;  changes that hurt us and disproportionately affected staff who are paid less, staff with children and families – in particular single parents, staff living with disabilities, staff living with HIV and those of us who are transgender. We organized because this is not what Lambda Legal does – or should – stand for. We are activists, and we know that as a collective our voices will be heard. Lambda Legal would not be what it is today if we did not rise up together for those most vulnerable among us.

“It is our hope that, going forward, our leadership’s support for unions extends to us and our CEO and her legal representatives engage in good faith during this process. It would be hypocritical to have one position externally and another internally.

“We look forward to negotiating for the needs of all of our staff as we move forward, because together we can build a Lambda Legal that is truly equitable for every employee, in every state, in every situation and with every background, identity and need.”

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For more information:
Email: lambdaunites@gmail.com; Twitter: @lambdaunites; Online: lambdaunites.or

Lambda Legal Employees Win Union Election

“We did it—now let’s move forward together.”

(December 29, 2017, Washington, D.C.) Today, employees at Lambda Legal voted 42-8 in favor of forming a union at the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization working for the civil rights of LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV. Eligible staff in all six regional offices, including lawyers, fundraisers, communication and administrative and support staff will be members of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild. Alexis Paige, a legal assistant in the Midwest Regional Office of Lambda Legal and one of the leaders in the organizing effort, issued the following statement on behalf of the staff:

“Lambda Legal’s staff are some of the most hardworking, talented and dedicated individuals I know, and today I am proud that we came together across departments and regions, and stood up for ourselves and one another. Today’s election is the direct result of hard work and unwavering commitment to each other and Lambda Legal. Because of that hard work and commitment, we will have a seat at the table when the decisions that directly affect our lives are being made. We call on Lambda Legal leadership to join us at the table in good faith to negotiate a mutually agreeable contract that aligns with Lambda Legal’s ideals and moves the organization forward.

“The goals of our leadership and the well-being of employees are not mutually exclusive. Forming a union is consistent with Lambda Legal’s values of equality and inclusion. We fight in the courts and on the ground for LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV because we fundamentally believe that when our communities have a voice, our society will be a better place for all of us. Forming a union is a big step toward giving our employees a voice so Lambda Legal can be a better place.

“In the coming weeks, we will work with one another and with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild to agree on our priorities and negotiate a contract for our unit. We are looking forward to building a strong union that is inclusive and truly representative of our staff and our interests, and to a productive and respectful relationship with our leadership.”  

“We did it—now let’s move forward together.”

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For more information:
Email: lambdaunites@gmail.com; Twitter: @lambdaunites; Online: lambdaunites.org