Open Letter to the Board of Directors and Interim Management

To the Board of Directors and Interim
Management:

We write with grave concern to you about
news that we learned last week. We understand that, on July 25, 2019, the Board
considered and passed a motion that would result in layoffs and restructuring,
should the organization fail to meet certain fundraising goals by a designated
date. We understand that the layoffs and restructuring would effectively
dissolve the Impact Litigation Unit and significantly reduce the size of Direct
Services.

We
are deeply disappointed and troubled by these actions.
Despite
our repeated attempts to establish lines of communication with the Board, which
to date remain unanswered, the Board has approved a plan that would
dramatically impact our organization’s ability to accomplish its mission. Worse
still, the Board has done so without any meaningful consultation with line
staff. Only the day before the Board’s vote, the Board and Interim Management
held a fundraising event at the Westin Bonaventure celebrating the liberation
of the El Monte garment workers through the work of Impact Litigation and Direct
Services. The organization sees no irony in appropriating the El Monte case, a
landmark victory in workers’ rights, for the purposes of fundraising and
creating positive press around the organization,[1]
while attacking its own workers, including dissolving the very unit that
liberated the garment workers.

There
are no credible justifications for these actions.

The units that would be affected are financially solvent, and the organization
is hiring new staff, including, for the first time, a second Human Resources
position, whom will likely be compensated with general operating funding and
whose job description appears to be redundant with the responsibilities of the
Human Resources Director. The organization has at least three months in reserve
funds, which expert analysis has concluded is consistent with good financial
health. Even if there are financial concerns that must be addressed, layoffs
should be a last resort. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the Board or
Interim Management has considered alternatives to layoffs, including but not
limited to wage reductions and furloughs.

Furthermore,
we believe that these developments are only the latest in a series of
anti-union actions
that Interim Management has taken,
with at least tacit approval from the Board. Interim Management has repeatedly
stalled negotiations of our first collective bargaining agreement. Over recent
weeks, it has represented that it is uncertain when, if ever, it will respond to
the bargaining unit’s economic counter-proposals. Interim Management has frozen
wages, despite the organization’s long-standing practice of granting
cost-of-living adjustments each year. Throughout negotiations, it has submitted
counter-proposals that would minimize the rights of line staff and the union.
Now, despite its legal obligation to bargain with the union on terms and
conditions of employment, the Board and Interim Management have unilaterally
and covertly authorized the termination of a number of line staff employees. It
is also troubling that the terminations were authorized weeks after the
bargaining unit filed an unfair labor practice charge. These actions are not consistent with the organization’s mission or
legacy as a champion of workers’ rights.
We believe that these actions are
designed, at best, to intimidate line staff into submission or, at worst, to
retaliate against line staff for engaging in activities protected by federal
and state labor law. Either explanation is deeply disturbing.

We remain cautiously optimistic that we
can find a mutually agreeable way forward. With
this in mind, we demand the following:

  • We
    demand a moratorium on layoffs, at least until the collective bargaining
    agreement has been finalized;
  • We
    demand any and all written documentation related to the motion considered by
    the Board on or around July 25, 2019; the names of all individuals who voted
    for the motion; and a comprehensive explanation of the rationale for the motion;
  • We
    demand that the Board immediately recommence the search for a permanent
    Executive Director;
  • We
    demand that the Board and Interim Management meet and confer about this motion
    and any and all plans for layoffs with the union and line staff as soon as
    possible.

We
further demand a complete response
from the Board and
Interim Management to each demand enumerated in this letter no later than 5:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight
Time on Friday, August 9, 2019
. The bargaining unit reserves all rights to
take further action as it deems necessary.

Thank you for your attention to these
important matters. We look forward to receiving your response.

Sincerely,

Advancing Justice-LA Line Staff Collective
Bargaining Unit


[1]              During the week after the event at
the Westin Bonaventure, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation declaring
August 2, 2019, as “El Monte Thai Garment Workers Day” in the State of
California.

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