Bronx prosecutors threaten to strike over labor grievances – but DA warns of ‘strike’ law

So much for law and order.

A group of renegade prosecutors at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office threatened to quit the job over poor working conditions if their demands weren’t met by Monday, prompting their boss to suggest they could be arrested under state law, The Post learned.

Enraged government lawyers used the email address to send the threatening letter to District Attorney Darcel Clark on Nov. 5, according to a copy of the note obtained by The Post.

The disgruntled crew are referred to internally as “line assistants,” or the city’s low-level prosecutors who handle most of the criminal cases that come to court.

“Line assistants stand together in these unprecedented times,” the email said. “Aware of the MAJOR RESIGNATION, management has failed to act, failed to protect the mental health, happiness and financial status of the Line Assistants.

“The line assistants require you to recover compensatory days and pay us fair wages for holiday shifts. Line assistants want to pursue justice with integrity, but you’re forcing us to flee in drastic numbers.”

Prosecutors threatened that if their “simple requests” are not met, they would collectively take either sick time or paid time off on a “day of our choice” of which the office “will not be informed.”

The facade of the Bronx Criminal Courthouse where prosecutors work.
The workers threatened to be fired if their demands were not met by Monday.
Christopher Sadowski

“We will wait until 9am on November 14, 2022 for a response before taking any action,” the letter said.

If a large number of non-regulatory ADAs took off in a single day without notice, it would be “very bad,” a former city attorney said.

“It would completely turn the office’s work upside down,” the Post’s lawyer said, calling the threatened strike “amazing.”

Clark managed to stave off the potentially crippling walkout by responding in a staff-wide letter two days later. While noting that she was “deeply disappointed” by the “tenor and tone” of the email, she appeared to be trying to play nice by acknowledging workers’ grievances and promising that a hybrid work week and pay rises were in the works .

“Please understand that other actors in the criminal justice system – the courts, the defense agency and other prosecutors – also face the same retention challenges. We’re not the only ones feeling the weight of holding this system together with our sweat and strength,” Clark wrote to employees.

“Our finance team has worked hard with us to reallocate resources to provide appropriate annual increases and bonuses. … Subsidies for night, holiday and weekend shifts have already been discussed and approved.”

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark speaks during an event.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark responded to the letter two days later.
Kevin C Downs for NY Post

Three days later, an opposing group of assistant district attorneys, emailing, jumped into the fray and demanded that Clark fire the plaintiff prosecutors, who they called “cowardly,” “entitled, and selfish.” .

“A small group of legitimate and selfish ADAs (cowardly hiding behind an anonymous Gmail address) have decided to make ‘demands’ to the 9th floor leadership. … I and many other current and former assistants are appalled by this behavior,” read the email, also sent from an anonymous account.

“We sincerely hope that you will not face or capitulate to these demands. Additionally, we sincerely hope that you will terminate any unruly employees you discover associated with this stubborn riot.

“The select few who attend not only harm the Office’s mission, but also create more work for the many assistants who show up every day. … We hope the consequences will be harsh.”

The facade of the Bronx County Hall of Justice.
Prosecutors grumbled about her salary and workload.
Christopher Sadowski

A few hours later, Clark fired another letter to staff – this time warning the rebel “line assistants” that they could be breaking the state’s Taylor Law if they went on strike. The law prohibits public employees from striking and allows them to be imprisoned if they do so.

“I want to make it clear that anonymous email exchanges, particularly those containing veiled threats, are not part of the culture that we intend to adopt in this office,” her email read.

“This anonymous communication does not meet our standards as it does not promote transparency and is not representative of the decency or professional courtesy of our dedicated employees. The threat of a “strike” not only endangers the people of the Bronx, but also unsettles our colleagues.”

She warned that a strike would have “consequences”. Clark said their actions were “resembling a strike,” citing the state’s Taylor Act, which bans public workers from striking and could land them in jail.

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark speaks during an event at NYPD headquarters.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark suggested that people participating could be arrested under the Taylor Act.
J. Messerschmidt/NY Post

“We remain open to meeting anyone who would like to further discuss the content of the ‘bxdawalkout’ email; and we stand ready to seek legal remedies and disciplinary action as necessary,” the letter concluded.

A spokesman for Clark said in a statement that “the consequences could include discharge and prosecutors are not suggesting, implying or saying that anyone will be arrested.”

In March, the county’s chief prosecutor acknowledged the problems her staff are facing.

During a City Council hearing, Clark testified that rising crime and the harsh detection reform implemented along with the controversial bail overhaul in New York had resulted in a “significant increase in attrition.”

Clark said her office alone lost 96 attorneys and 51 professional staff in fiscal 2021 — and up to 104 attorneys and 90 staff by the end of February this year.

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark speaks during an event.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark previously acknowledged that criminal justice reforms have created staffing problems.
Robert Mueller

“Former employees have cited the responsibility of investigating, managing the backlog of cases and increasing night and weekend shifts as top reasons for leaving the office,” Clark told the council.

“People are in tears telling me they love what they do for the Bronx community,” she said.

“But now the job is overwhelming.” Bronx prosecutors threaten to strike over labor grievances – but DA warns of ‘strike’ law


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