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Legal Workers Rank and File

The Legal Workers Rank and File is a cross-union, multi-employer organization of legal service workers. We are committed to rebuilding and revitalizing a militant labor movement across the legal services industry to defend and advance the interests of our communities.

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Statement of the Legal Workers Rank and File in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

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We, the Legal Workers Rank and File, acknowledge that we issue this statement while on the traditional territory of the Lenape people, and that we are organizing within systems built from colonial violence.

As COVID-19 sweeps across the United States, it lays bare the deep inhumanity of a society that prioritizes profits over people. Those most likely to be harmed by both the virus itself and by the economic effects of the pandemic are those who are already disproportionately marginalized under capitalism.

Federal, state, and local government responses to the pandemic have ranged from unforgivable measures, including trillions of dollars in corporate welfare, to helpful measures such as eviction moratoriums, the release of some incarcerated people, and the suspension of certain debt obligations. These responses demonstrate that the demands of the poor and working class have long been within reach, but have been blocked by the political might of the capitalist class.

In these moments, it is critical that our vision and our demands go beyond the limits imposed by mainstream political leaders, the corporate media, neoliberal think tanks, and the nonprofit industrial complex. These forces will never hand down the changes we need from on high; only struggle from below can win the more human world the current crisis calls for. We stand in solidarity with workers like those in Amazon warehouses and at Whole Foods taking wildcat actions to win basic protections and dignity, and encourage those in our industry to learn from these inspiring actions.

Recognizing that militant, organized labor is in a powerful position to demand and to create meaningful change for all people, the Legal Workers Rank and File calls on our unions and on our comrades across New York, across the country, and around the world to join us in the following demands:​

  1. Ensure all workers are economically and physically protected throughout the crisis. This must include:

    • Government guaranteed living-wage income for all who have lost their jobs

    • Adequate physical protection for essential workers

    • Job protections for militants organizing strikes and other labor actions

  2. Release all people who are detained or incarcerated in jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers.

  3. Cease all arrests, ICE raids, and deportations as well as the racist and oppressive surveillance and separation of families by federal, state, and local agencies.

  4. Provide aid, including but not limited to food, shelter, money, and proper medical assistance, to all people regardless of income, immigration status, criminal record, disability status, or lack of permanent housing.

    • We demand legal status for all undocumented immigrants living in the US, and all those who seek to migrate here

    • Every person must be tested for COVID-19 and provided free and comprehensive treatment upon testing positive

    • Redirect police funding to social services

  5. Provide safe, free housing that allows for social distancing to all people, regardless of immigration status.

    • All vacant living spaces including condos, hotel/motel rooms, apartments, and houses, whether or not privately owned, must be used to house the homeless, including those currently in shelters, as well as people discharged from immigration detention centers and jails

    • No evictions, no foreclosures. Automatic right to renewal leases in all buildings, including those not currently subject to rent regulation

  6. Immediately cancel all consumer debt including debts owed for rent, mortgage, utilities, healthcare, credit cards, property taxes, auto loans, and student loans. These debts must not be simply postponed, but written off entirely.

  7. Extending policies that meet these demands past the end of the COVID-19 crisis.

We support and stand in solidarity with the organizations and communities that are fighting for justice and liberation in the face of this public health crisis. COVID-19 has exposed the failures of America’s private, profit-driven health system. We need a new world in which healthcare and housing are guaranteed and health care and medical industries are nationalized under workers’ control, a world where children are not held in cages and working people are not crushed by debt. We call on all workers to take collective autonomous action, and to call upon union leadership to take up our demands. We support collective direct action and organizing to win these demands, including, but not limited to, rent strikes, appropriation of empty or unused living spaces, and solidarity strikes. We call on our fellow rank-and-file legal workers to organize to collectively resist the inevitable attempts to roll back the victories we will win in response to this crisis.

We urge all legal service providers to offer legal support to communities as they take necessary action both within and outside the legal system to address the needs of our communities.

We further support and commit to engaging in mutual aid to help our neighbors and fellow workers during this public health crisis, and we encourage the use of these connections as opportunities for organizing going forward. We encourage the formation of a united front of union members, the unemployed, community activists, and all other workers to demand that we put people before profits.

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