An Open Letter to the Board

To: Nita Song, Jade Leung

CC: Board Members, Sylia Obaji, Aileen Louie, Anthony Roh, Directors 

August 22, 2019 

Dear Nita, Jade, and Members of the Board:

This letter on behalf of our union serves as a follow-up to our August 14, 2019 all-staff meeting with the Board and Interim Management. This is a trying time for everyone. The staff want to be partners in solving the pressing matters afflicting the organization. However, we feel recent actions by Management have made the staff feel shut out, rather than respected as partners in problem-solving. The staff are passionate about the mission of the organization and dedicate ourselves day in, day out, to delivering on it. Our common interest is in maintaining the stability of Advancing Justice.

To date, we remain unsure about the scope of the challenges the organization faces – but the threat of layoffs is permeating the atmosphere, undermining morale and causing further duress. At the meeting, we learned that as of August 2019, the organizational deficit has been reduced to $633,000. If another $316,500 (half the total) were raised, the organization would be able to prevent layoffs. Let’s co-develop strategies to close the gap! We can generate new revenues that will strengthen the organization. We urge you to speak directly and openly with all staff – line staff, directors and supervisors – and to provide staff with the facts needed to create alternatives to layoffs. Together, we can forge a new path to meet the organization’s full potential for years to come. The organization’s clients deserve no less!

To that end, we seek your cooperation in providing the following:

1. Deliver Unit Budgets and Overall Organizational Budget – The union requests these budget documents for the last five years, including all salaries, so that we may accurately assess expenditures and assist in crafting cost-cutting and revenue-generating solutions. We understand the current Organizational Budget is a “moving target” and promise to take that into account.

2. Increase Transparency – In the last meeting, Stewart stated that Unit Directors may invite additional staff to follow up meetings with the Board. We ask that all meetings of this type be opened to all staff, to enable greater inclusivity of staff perspectives. We also request that you share with us your anticipated timeline for implementation of Management’s proposed “10 to 12% layoffs,” to equip staff with the necessary information to make informed recommendations. Moreover, to facilitate critical staff engagement around potential cutbacks, we ask that you commit to including the union in any and all formal budget-related discussions from here on out.  

3. Engage in Mediation – As an expression of our good faith to collaborate and engage in productive, solution-minded dialogue, we would welcome third-party mediation with Management and the Board as long as there is a moratorium on layoffs during the pendency of mediation.

4. Pledge a Moratorium on Layoffs – On August 14, we were told that your proposal to reduce staff by 10 to 12% has been tentatively approved, but is still not final. That is good – because taking drastic action before all other options have been explored is obviously ill-advised. We urge you in the strongest possible terms to place a moratorium on layoffs effective immediately. This will vastly improve labor-management relations while we work through the challenges together. The moratorium should remain in place until both parties strike an agreement through collective bargaining, to prevent unnecessary harm to Advancing Justice-LA, the staff, and the community our organization serves.

We have asked many times before that we be embraced as partners in co-developing solutions that will stabilize the organization, which we all care deeply about. That is our continuing goal with this letter, and we hope that you make it yours as well!

We expect a comprehensive response from you no later than 5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Monday, August 26, 2019.

Sincerely, 
Gary Guthman (on behalf of the Collective Bargaining Unit (CBU) Members of AAAJ) Union Representative, AFSCME District Council 36

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