"This Is McCarthyism All Over Again": Suppressing Unions' Free Speech Rights over Gaza (w/ Allie Goodman, Michael Letwin, & Dany Greene)

0:00 / 53:45
November 21, 2023

With each passing day, more Israeli bombs are falling on Gaza, more bodies are being blown apart and buried under the rubble, over a million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes. Over the past month and a half, the world has borne witness to a genocidal military campaign to clear out Gaza once and for all, and every day, every hour, it feels like the chance to stop one of humanity’s most inhumane crimes is slipping through our fingers, and the powers that be have shown no interest whatsoever in listening to the thundering calls for a ceasefire coming from governments and mass demonstrations around the world, particularly the Biden administration in the US, the increasingly fascistic Netanyahu government in Israel, and the arms manufacturers and war profiteers who are raking in billions from manufacturing mass death. This is prompting people of conscience around the world, including unions and worker-led groups, to speak out and take action to try to stop the slaughter.

One of those unions is the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325 (ALAA), whose members include legal aid workers at over 25 organizations, including the Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, Neighborhood Defender Service, and the Legal Aid Society of New York City. Last week, ALAA members were preparing to hold a vote on whether or not to approve the union publicly issuing a "Resolution Calling for a Ceasefire in Gaza, an End to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, and Support for Workers’ Political Speech." In the lead-up to the vote, union members at different legal aid offices reported strong opposition from management. “These statements call for the elimination of the state of Israel and the annihilation of the Jewish people,” Twyla Carter, Chief Executive Officer of the Legal Aid Society, reportedly told staff, expressing concern that certain donors would pull funding from the Legal Aid Society if the union passed the resolution. Then, on Thursday, Nov 16, as Akela Lacy reports at The Intercept, "attorneys at the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County sued in New York State Supreme Court to stop the vote, saying it posed an ethical dilemma for attorneys that would make it “impossible for them to properly do their job as Public Defenders.” Those four attorneys were ALAA bargaining unit members. "On Friday," Lacy continues, "the court granted a temporary restraining order enjoining the vote. Voting had gotten underway at 9 a.m. and only 15 minutes were left on the clock when the injunction was issued. The tally never got underway."

In this urgent mini-cast, we speak about this unprecedented attack on union democracy and workers' free speech rights with three ALAA members: Allie Goodman, an attorney in the Family Defense Practice at Bronx Defenders; Michael Letwin, a former public defender at Legal Aid in Brooklyn for 37 years who also served as president of ALAA – UAW Local 2325 for 13 years; and Dany Greene, who has worked as a public defender for six years, four of which were spent at Bronx Defenders, where they helped found and organize the BXD Union, and who now works at an appellate office focusing on criminal appeals.