Why are City Attorneys members of a union (CSBA)?
There are a number of good reasons, starting with the most basic: No city employee has either the resources or the leverage to bargain with or fight against the City of New York. All too often, when a new supervisor, assistant commissioner or general counsel takes over, a previously well-regarded attorney is suddenly deemed to be a poor performer. Union representation becomes essential to protect your rights and sometimes even your job.
Here’s a very recent real example of how being a CSBA member made all the difference: An Agency Attorney member reported to work as usual on a Friday morning, and was told to immediately report to HR. There the member was handed termination papers, no charges, just “You’re Fired”, and was summarily escorted out of the building by security. The member then called us, and after asking a few questions, we determined that the member had successfully completed probation. I then called the Deputy Commissioner, and demanded that the member be immediately reinstated, and that the CSBA collective bargaining agreement be followed. I then sent an e-mail memorializing the conversation. By day’s end, the member was reinstated onto the payroll.
QUESTION: What if the person was not a CSBA member? What if there was no union?
Important: If you are summoned to a meeting with someone other than your immediate supervisor, and you reasonably believe it may lead to disciplinary consequences, please call us immediately! Generally speaking, you have a right for us to be present at such a meeting.
There is also a mechanism whereby members who are performing more sophisticated and/or complex legal work than is appropriate for their attorney level’s job description can file an Out-of-Level Grievance. This is one way our members may receive the salary increase that they deserve. Please contact us for further details.
What are my rights?
The first places to look for your rights as a unionized employee of the City of New York are the collective bargaining agreements (“CBA”) that you are covered by. Also referred to as “the contract”, you are actually covered by two such CBAs:
- The CSBA CBA [on this site] specifies salaries and related economic terms including recurring increment payments, longevity differentials and the biennial registration fee reimbursement, and also sets forth the grievance procedure for various types of covered disputes; and
- The Citywide CBA covers time and leave issues such as annual leave, sick leave, comp time and overtime, as well as other standardized issues affecting virtually all city workers. Kindly note that, for employees hired on or after July 1, 2004, the Citywide Agreement has been amended by the terms of the 2002 District Council 37 Memorandum of Economic Agreement (“2002 DC 37 MEA”).
As you undoubtedly know, there are also numerous Federal, New York State and New York City laws, policies and agencies designed to offer protection from discriminatory, retaliatory and/or otherwise arbitrary conduct by the employer. To mention but a few, there is the NYS Civil Service Law, which affords extra protections to non-competitive employees with at least five years of continuous service; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. Sections 2000e et seq); the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) (29 U.S.C. Sections 621-634); and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Some protections are stronger than others. Be mindful of the applicable statutes of limitations!
What benefits am I entitled to?
As described above, CSBA is here to assist you in asserting your contractual rights. Some of these rights are specified in Article VI – Grievance Procedure, which in most cases offers a level of protection after one year of service in title. Beyond protection from wrongful disciplinary action, CSBA seeks to engage in collective bargaining, and continuously advocates for our members both publicly and privately. When problems arise, we strategically meet with affected members, and often demand a Labor-Management meeting. Given the proper circumstances, we may initiate an individual grievance or even a group grievance, and/or file an Improper Practice.
There are also valuable, cost-saving benefits for you (and sometimes even for your dependent family), which are provided through our Welfare Fund. Please go to our Welfare Fund page for a detailed description of these bargained-for benefits.
What is CSBA’s relationship with Teamsters Local 237?
CSBA is an independent affiliate of City Employees Union Local 237, International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Whereas CSBA has our own elected Board of Directors (Officers and Directors) and our own Welfare Fund for active employees (directed by our elected Trustees), our members voted in 1973 to become affiliated with Local 237. This was done because CSBA, which was even smaller back then, was having very little success in its negotiations with the City and its Office of Labor Relations. Local 237 is one of New York’s largest and most influential municipal unions, with approximately 23,000 members.
Does CSBA work with other NYC municipal unions?
Yes, we are a member of the Municipal Labor Committee (“MLC”), a coalition of unions representing the majority of New York City government employees. This enables us to regularly network with some of the most powerful and influential labor leaders in New York.
How can I get more involved?
We have General Membership Meetings each March and October. Our Annual Meeting is in June. Attending these meetings is an excellent way to get to know more about your union, as well as a great networking opportunity with fellow attorneys from other agencies. Hopefully, you will like what you see and hear, whether it is from me (Saul Fishman, CSBA President) or from one of the Committee Chairs, Officers, Directors, Trustees, Staff, colleagues or invited guests.
We currently have a Professional Development Committee, a Student Loan Reduction Committee, a Legislative & Political Action Committee, and an ACS Family Court Legal Services Committee. Other committees and/or subcommittees being discussed are for Health & Safety and a Social/ Networking Committee. Please consider volunteering for one or more of these committees!
Our Board of Directors has six Officers and twenty-one Directors. We meet about eight times a year (over and above General Membership meetings). From time to time, a vacancy occurs. If you would like to be considered, please let us know!