Mobilization for Justice strike ends after 13 weeks

A new contract ratified by 72% of the nonprofit’s union members secures double digit raises for the labor movement’s lowest paid members.

Members of the Mobilization for Justice union rally outside City Hall in Lower Manhattan.

Members of the Mobilization for Justice union rally outside City Hall in Lower Manhattan. Gokul Krish - MFJ Union

The union at Mobilization for Justice ended its 13-week strike, securing a new contract that honors major victories for the union, the labor movement said in a press release issued Thursday.  Marking the end of the longest New York City legal services strike since 1991, members of the union returned to work at the nonprofit legal service agency, after 72% of participating members voted to ratify a new contract that secured core demands such as double-digit raises for lowest paid workers, expanded workplace protections, and no benefits givebacks.

“It’s disappointing that MFJ Management put its staff and clients through months of unnecessary hardship when it was in their power to meet these demands all along,” Brenden Ross, union bargaining team member and staff attorney in MFJ’s Mental Health Law Project, said in the release. “But they underestimated us. Our members fought hard, had each other’s backs, and we won an incredible contract.” 

Key contract wins include a new base salary of $60,000 for paralegals and support staff, with increases of 17% for support staff, 13% for paralegals and an 18% increase in law graduates' base salaries (now $79,000) and key cost-of-living adjustments from raises of at least 4% for remaining staff (including attorneys, paralegals, and specialists) in 2024, followed by 3% increases in 2025 and 2026, with all staff receiving a $2,350 ratification bonus.

“Raising the salary floor to $60,000 is a step towards correcting the stark wage disparities at MFJ,” said Tara Joy, MFJ’s housing intake specialist. “Our lowest paid workers are predominantly women of color, so it is an economic and racial justice issue. We hope this sets a precedent for eliminating wage tiers and sets a higher standard for all legal services workers.”

Additional wins include no changes to the current healthcare plan, workplace protections such as more flexible working hours, and a multitude of expanded benefits, including: a 15-week parental leave, tripled funding for childcare, alternative family planning and gender-affirming care, expanded eligibility for student loan repayment, increased protections for law graduates and more. The management has also agreed not to solicit work from other legal services organizations facing a strike, ensuring that union members will not undermine fellow union efforts, including Legal Services Staff Association at Legal Services NYC  – both of whom will soon negotiate a new contract.

A spokesperson from MJF was not available for comment when New York Nonprofit Media reached out.

Throughout the strike, union members mobilized weekly pickets, office lobby occupations, boycotted galas, and initiated a strike-focused Court Watch effort. The union also garnered widespread political support from city, state, and federal politicians, leading to a City Comptroller probe into MFJ’s contractual obligations during the strike.

Moving forward, union members are hoping to continue negotiations concerning the cost-of-living adjustments, which have yet to surpass the city’s 3% increase for 2024 and match it in following years.

“Our members all feel the pinch of relentless inflation, grappling with the harsh reality of survival in New York City,” said Dorien Brown, an administrative assistant and executive secretary at MFJ. “Despite our hard-fought wins, disrespect towards front line legal services workers persists. Nonprofits must pay us for the true value of our labor.”