Bylaws of the Legal Workers Rank and File*
ARTICLE I - Name
The name of this organization shall be the Legal Workers Rank and File
ARTICLE II - Purpose
Section 1: Mission
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.
Section 2: Shared Principles
As members of the Legal Workers Rank and File, we agree to the following principles:
We organize together to build a more democratic and just world, one free of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism, and any other form of oppression. We fight not just for the rights of legal service workers, but for the rights of the poor and working class that have been neglected by the American legal system. The American legal system systematically disenfranchises indigent individuals and families, with a disproportionate impact on people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ folks. We seek alternative models and systems that respect the human rights of all, rather than protect the interests of those who have money and property.
We believe that the labor movement can and should play a leading role in this project. Only rank and file workers, organized on a radically democratic basis, can accomplish this task. Our unions in the legal services sector are often hampered by a bureaucratic, limited approach to politics and organizing. We seek to build and strengthen our unions, to go beyond those limits.
Our greatest power as union members and workers is our ability to strike. We support all workers’ right to strike, including political strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity strikes, and other direct actions on the shop floor. Our power lies in our ability to withhold our labor, and we stand in solidarity with striking workers anytime, anywhere.
As nonprofit workers, we provide essential services to the poor and working class New Yorkers we serve, but we recognize the limits of the nonprofit model. Our organizations are politically hamstrung by a restrictive funding structure and the influence of donors and unaccountable board members. Our bosses cannot organize for radical change because they are too entwined in this system. We support radical democracy in the workplace and believe the rank and file are best situated to meet our clients’ needs and organize with them for a better world.
To that end, we seek to create change through our position as rank and file workers and union members by preserving bottom up democracy and standing in solidarity with other unions and working class people.
We support the election of militant leadership that is accountable to the rank and file.
We support the use of our unions’ resources to bolster other rank and file-led actions in our city and globally.
Our strength is in our ability to work in coalition with all legal service workers, across job classification and title. All workers laboring within our institutions are entitled to respect within the LSRF.
We support non-union legal service organizations in their journey to organize a union in their workplace. We have seen how time and time again non-union and union shops are pitted against each other to create a competitive bidding environment that leads to a race to the bottom. To change the legal system, we must leverage our power together among all legal service workers.
We aim to build solidarity and a higher level of coordination between unions. The City and State use competitive bidding to pit legal services organizations against each other. LWRF sees worker democracy, solidarity, and coordinated bargaining as the keys to counteracting these pressures and building worker power.
ARTICLE III - Membership
Section 1: Eligibility for Membership
All rank and file legal workers shall be eligible for membership. This component of eligibility may be waived by 2/3 vote of the eligible voting membership present at a general meeting. All members shall sign onto and endorse the Mission and Shared Principles described above in Article II.
Section 2: Dues
The Legal Workers Rank and File shall not require payment of dues for membership unless these bylaws are amended in accordance with Article VI, below.
ARTICLE IV - Steering Committee
Section 1: Composition
The Steering Committee shall consist of five (5) to seven (7) members and up to one (1) alternate, who shall be elected annually to serve a one year term.
Section 2: Responsibilities
The membership shall be the highest deciding body of the Legal Workers Rank and File. The Steering Committee serves as the executive agents and provides guidance to the membership.
The Steering Committee shall generate and circulate the proposed agenda for regular meetings of the membership, based on proposed agenda items put forward by the membership;
Decisions for direct action, campaigns, and other business shall be generated by the membership in general meetings, and by the Steering Committee between membership meetings. Steering Committee decisions, where possible, shall be voted upon by the membership at Regular Meetings;
The Steering Committee shall make itself available and open to communication to and from all members.
The Steering Committee shall be responsible for retaining accurate minutes of all meetings.
The Steering Committee shall be responsible for distribution of the minutes to all Regular Members via email and/or upload to a shared drive accessible to Regular Members.
The Steering Committee shall be responsible for the receipt and deposit of any such dues, contributions, or income as may be authorized by the membership.
The Steering Committee shall keep accurate records of monies received and expended and make a financial report at each steering committee meeting.
The Steering Committee shall keep an up to date membership list for both Regular Members and Associate Members.
B. Alternate Steering Committee Members
Alternate Steering Committee members :
1. May attend all Steering Committee meetings as non-voting members;
2. Shall serve in place of any steering committee member who is unable to complete their term for the remainder of said term.
Section 4. Procedures for Nominations and Elections of Steering Committee Members
A. Nominations for Steering Committee positions.
1. Nominations at the general meeting during which steering committee elections are held shall be made by members during discussion, and seconded by voice at the meeting.
2. Nominees may submit a short statement, in writing, to the membership via email in advance of nomination to signify their desire to run for the Steering Committee.
B. Elections of Steering Committee Members.
The Steering Committee Members shall be elected by secret ballot. They shall take office following the adjournment of the meeting at which they are ratified. Steering Committee Members shall serve a term of one (1) year unless they resign their position prior to the end of said term. Election of Steering Committee members shall be conducted using the voting method chosen by the membership prior to the election.
Section 5. Vacancies in Office.
A. Temporary Vacancies.
In the event that a member becomes ill, or is otherwise unable to serve temporarily, in the absence of an available Alternate Steering Committee member, the membership can elect a new member to serve in the interim at any general membership meeting.
B. Resignations. Steering Committee members may resign by doing so in writing at least ten (10) days before the regularly scheduled membership meeting. Vacancies in office shall be filled within thirty (30) days by a member elected by the membership who shall serve until the next annual membership meeting at which the other steering committee positions are filled, and at that time all open positions will be filled by regular election.
C. Removal from Office. Any Steering Committee member who misses two (2) consecutive Steering Committee meetings without prior notification shall be considered derelict in duty and the office declared vacant. Any steering committee member who is otherwise derelict in their duties may be removed by a majority vote of the steering committee or the membership.
ARTICLE V – Meetings.
Section 1. Regular Meetings.
Regular meetings shall be scheduled, communicated, and held at least every other month. Unless explicitly stated otherwise in these bylaws, decisions shall be made by majority vote of the voting members present at the meeting.
Section 2. Voting.
In order to be eligible to vote at meeting of the Legal Service Rank and File, members must have attended at least two (2) other meetings or events of the Legal Service Rank and File in the past six (6) months.
Section 2. Quorum.
A. Membership Meetings.
The quorum for regular meetings and any special meetings of the membership shall be ten percent (10%) of the total membership.
B. Steering Committee Meetings. A quorum for meetings of the Steering Committee shall be a majority of the members then in office.
Section 3. Steering Committee meetings.
Regular Steering Committee meetings shall be held at least every other month. The Steering Committee shall provide a summary report of its meetings to the general membership at each general meeting.
ARTICLE VI – Amendments.
To enact By-law changes, thirty percent (30%) of the voting membership must attend a general meeting. 30 days’ notice of the proposed amendment must have been provided to the membership by email or in-person at a regular meeting. 2/3 vote of attending members must approve the amendment.
*As of August 14, 2019, the above bylaws are proposed bylaws and on February 14, 2020 shall be ratified in full, with any amendments, at the majority vote of members.