Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Freelancers Union



"Hi Tom the Temp,

Re: Health Care/Sick Leave Laws

Legislation requiring health insurance for all employees is a
necessary step that, unfortunately, is not a reality for all legal temps at this time.

I have worked as a legal temp in New York for two years and have been
struck by the inability of temporary attorneys and paralegals to work
together to obtain decent and affordable health insurance. We're an
educated and resourceful group, but we're scattered and transient.
There is, however, an organization that unites an independent labor
force and offers them the chance to obtain affordable health
insurance- Freelancers Union. Your blog is great place to launch my
proposal for a letter writing campaign to request that The Freelancers
Union cover legal temps.

Freelancers Union has been mentioned in the comments section of your
site a few times, but I don't believe there has been a focused effort
on advocating the admittance of legal temps into the union. Currently, the
Freelancers Union offers health insurance in 31 states and life and
dental insurance in 50. It allows independent workers not only from
the arts and entertainment, but also Media, Financial Services,
Technology and Traditional health care fields. There is no reason that
independent workers in the legal field should be excluded.
So, please, I'm asking that readers of this blog, legal temps, and
friends of legal temps please contact Freelancers Union stating that
there is a need and demand for coverage of independent legal workers.
membership@freelancersunion.org

718.222.1099
800.856.9981 (toll free)
Fax: 877.707.3576 (toll free)
Member Services
Freelancers Union
45 Main Street, Suite 710
Brooklyn, NY 11201

http://www.freelancersunion.org/

Until legislation requires health insurance for all employees. obtaining insurance through Freelancers Union is the best hope for independent legal workers that need affordable, comprehensive insurance."


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In other news, the Hudson Legal "Newark" project is up and running full tilt. You have no doubt seen Hudson carpet bombing craigslist with ads for the $35 an hour Newark, NJ review, which has been generating a lot of noise online since it's the first huge "cattle call" project in quite a while. Not since the infamous Paul Weiss sweatshop have so many entry-level doc reviewers been dumped aboard a single gig. Rumor has it that 500-600 heads will be on the job by early February. A full report in our next posting. Stay tuned.........

http://newyork.craigslist.org/jsy/lgl/539737228.html/

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

You should also provide a link to the website:

http://www.freelancersunion.org/index.html

Anonymous said...

The law blog is at it again....another example of person decided after the fact, that law school was a waste...

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2008/01/16/law-blog-qa-kirsten-wolf-law-school-naysayer/?mod=homeblogmod_lawblog

Anonymous said...

I agree. Freelancers Union may be our best bet for decent healthcare. Write and tell your friends to write!

Anonymous said...

1:08 is correct! I will be working on my letter this weekend!

Anonymous said...

A. Cohen's horns must be as sharp as ever. Fk Hudson!

Anonymous said...

3:57, you sounds so intelligent! Are these the bullsht "guerilla tactics" that are going to help our piss poor situations?

Better hope the head of the Freelancers Union doesn't see this or you'll have a hard time making your case as "professionals" deserving of medical coverage.

Furthermore, better hope the decision-maker from the Union isn't Jewish with all that horn talk.

The Black Sheep said...

Look, I agree that there needs to be some organized resistance to the staffing agencies. This means that whether you like it or not organizing might be a good idea. You are all lawyers with internet access, look it up. If a Union put out the word not to work on a large project like this one for Hudson and walked a picket line in front of Hudson and the Law Firms office, the hourly would likely go up pretty quick. Or Hudson would lose a shitload of business. Either way is a win right?

As far as blogging goes, it is a good first step, but there needs to be more done. The next step is organizing. Then a show of power. Not a strike, but maybe a one day sick out. What are they going to do on those big jobs if the entire floor calls out sick. They will piss their pants because we are organized. What they would not do is fire the floor, it would take to long to get enough new people "up to date".

As for that Newark project, I have heard rumors that it is either a Dechert site for multiple projects, or a McCarter English site covering at least part of the Astra Zeneca project. As to numbers, if it is McCarter, then I doubt the 500-600 number is for that one site alone. I think that they have about 300 contractors in Philadelphia now (and 125 of them started this week). I think that the NJ site is more likely to have about 300 people. Incidentally, Hudson starts its contractors on the McCarter Job in Philly at only $30/hour (after 6 mths $33, after 12 mths $35). Also straight time until 45 hours.

Oh, also I think it is company wide, but Hudson has decided that instead of giving its contractors 6 paid holidays as it has in the past that they are only going to give 5. The holiday that they got rid of? MLK day. This announcement was made about 2 weeks ago in Philadelphia. Sounds like a good day for a sick out to me, what do you think? Okay maybe not enough time for that this year. How about Presidents Day though?

Anonymous said...

No more MLK day? With all the African American slaves Hudson has generating profits for them? Hudson is clearly racist.

Flocker said...

For those of you that think a union is a bad idea, consider the history of unions. People went through a lot worse then getting blacklisted just to get us the right to unionize. Now there are protections in place to prevent employers from firing you from unionizing. The real threat is that whoever leads the charge to unionize will find themselves without a job when their contract job ends because their name will get around. I think that the way to avoid this is to achieve a critical mass before going public with a union. Get enough people together that want to form a union, and then there is less a fear that those people will not get hired anywhere else. What is enough though? The Freelancers might work, but if there are so many contractors in NYC then maybe a spin-off specifically for contract attorneys would be a good idea. Also, new graduates from law school should be recruited for the union early.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I WHOLEHEARTEDLY support an attorneys' union, although I do think that Freelancers Union might be a good idea at least for getting insurance now. I'm surprised it hasn't come up in discussion more on this blog (unless I missed something.)

We should not just complain, we should actually get out there and do something. 11:39 you have some great ideas.

jli said...

Count me in as someone who wholeheartedly supports the notion of a union.

However, in order for a strike to be effective, we have to be organized. The organization part is the big hurdle. As we're all scattered and working for different firms and agencies, how can we logistically put this together?

Do we need a separate website? This is a such a huge issue that comments under one post will hardly do the trick.

Do we need a meeting? Perhaps we should gather, you know, in a physical space rather than online so that we can brainstorm ideas. Maybe we could meet up with a union organizer.

In the meantime, let's write to the Freelancers' Union and ask that they consider legal temps for their healthcare plan.

Anonymous said...

It's been said before and apparently needs to be said again:

A STRIKE FUND WOULD BE NEEDED TO EFFECTIVELY STRIKE.

The agencies and firms all know temps have big student loan bills to pay. Scabs wouldn't be too hard to recruit, especially after a week or two. There would need to be a fund to pay strikers. That's how a strike maintains its steam, or else people can't hold out too long.

And the strikers don't have the power to beat up those who cross the line, like was done back in the old days when unions first formed. Nor is there currently any organized union to ostracize those who cross the line, in lieu of physical beatings.

Think before you write, 12:36.

Unionize first, preferably with a power union like the Teamsters.

Then strike, once that's solidified.

Anonymous said...

"Unionize first"

Yeah right, Jimmy Hoffa will rise from his cement grave before any of you lazy whiners with an inflated sense of entitlement do anything other then complain on blogs.

Anonymous said...

Who wants to bet a temp's weekly salary that this BS unionizing talk will be as effective as the temp sick out.

HAHAHAHAH!!

Anonymous said...

Unionizing could be effective, if you can recruit the majority of current contractors to be a part of the union. Honestly if you have less then 50% participating, then it would fall apart quick. Also, this means recruiting people at large job sites like McCarter. If 90% of that review signed up, that would go a long way to getting all contractors unionized. As far as how to unionize, check out the AFL-CIO website. Sometimes I cannot believe that some of you actually went to law school and graduated. As far as 9:50 and 10:54, if you are contractors, then you are complete idiots. If you are associates, partners, and/or agency employees, then watch out, we will be coming for you. And we won't be taking heads, rather money out of your wallets.

jli said...

7:14 PM -

I think you may have misunderstood my post. I was advocating for the actual organization of a union BEFORE a strike. Once we actually are organized, (which agreed, is highly ambitious and would take months..years...), then a strike is possible.

I was writing in response to a poster above who was pushing for a strike as early as President's Day. That's impossible - we need massive organization before such action can be taken.

Anonymous said...

are you sure you need "massive organization"?

i thought the effective route was "guerilla tactics"? i.e. saying petty, mean things about firms and recruiters. is that not the plan anymore? everyone here talks about how effective that has been.

Anonymous said...

Look, a one day sickout does not require a union.

It does require some organization among the contractors on the job. If enough people call in sick on one day it is a show of power that organization may exist. If 300 people on one large project call in sick, it will effectively shut down the project for one day. Yes, the contractors will not get paid for that day. But a strike fund will not be necessary for such a move. The contractors will not be fired for such a move. What will happen is that the law firm and the contract firm will do is start digging and trying to find out whose idea it was. They might fire those that they suspect (which might be illegal as they are not allowed to fire someone attempting to form a union). The other thing that will happen is that they will try to figure out what they can do to prevent this in the future. This will come in the form of asking the contractors what they want.

To prevent the breaking of a fledgling union the answer is simple. Do not rat out fellow contractors, and respond to questions of what you want to change to prevent this with simple demands that relate to your specific job site. For Hudson employees it might be getting that sixth PTO day back, getting 7 or 8 PTO days a year instead of 5, or getting $5 more an hour. Or if you are on that job in Philly, getting the same pay as Newark. We are down here earning $30/hour and overtime does not kick in until 45 hours/week.

Simple demands that are realistic will work if they are echoed by everyone. Unrealistic demands at this point would be things like internet and cars for late night workers. Those are demands for a union to address. They are unrealistic because as the overpaid idiot associates who will soon be joining our ranks when the economy tanks point out they sound whiny and trivial. We are supposed to be working after all. These demands would not pass muster with our employers or the rest of the world.

You want someone to communicate demands to the law firm and/or contract firm, then use the lightening rods that you have. Use the bloggers to send e-mailed demands. Ask Tom the Temp, the Black Sheep, the Temp of the MyAttorney blog in DC to write them and tell them what you want. They could maintain their anonymity using their pre-established aliases. They might just be willing to do the messaging pre-unionization, after all they already give us a voice. If they are not willing, then I am sure that when people are questioned about the obvious sick out, all answers being the same will get the message across.

If one such sick out at a major doc review site could be accomplished prior to officially starting a union, then there would be little question in the minds of any contractor that unionization could occur on a larger scale, and you could formalize the union and rack up members like crazy. People won't even mind paying the union dues that would be applied to the strike fund. And as for the people who are happy with their doc review positions it will be a simple matter of why not join the union.

A show of power like this would be more effective then a union drive by a few people at a large job site. Especially when you consider the types of personalities you meet doing this sort of work at a large site. I cannot tell you the number of people who are fresh out of law school and happy enough just to be working at a place that pays them something close to what they think that they should be making. They trick themselves in believing they are happy for a few months. Or longer. It is not usually until they have been left out in the cold a time or two by a contract firm that they start to realize things are not going to get better for them. Even then some of them like it because they like mindless clicking and have no regard for their future career or future wages. You also have several of the type that are doing this while taking classes to find some other line of work (because they either do not like the law anymore, or they do not want to be mindless coders for the rest of their lives). You also have those that are winding down into retirement, who wouldn’t mind pocketing a few extra bucks. These people might all jump on the bandwagon if they know that there is enough momentum to accomplish results.

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