April 22, 2019, Patch
CAMBA, a Brooklyn nonprofit with 3,172 employees, provides 160-plus programs that include housing, youth development, job training, microloans, and legal services. One of those programs, the one that provides free legal services to approximately 45,000 low-income individuals in housing court, will start showing signs of delay, since the staff has been on strike since April 15, 2019. The strikers claim that CAMBA management has refused to increase their salaries or provide paid leave for new parents. The staff raised $6432 on a GoFundMe page (that has since closed donations) to compensate for their lost pay as they walk a picket line.
The unionized staff has been negotiating a new contract. The existing contract provides birth mothers 13 weeks at 70 percent of their salary, and nothing for fathers, adopted parents, or stepparents. Mothers report that have gone on food stamps while out on maternity leave.
According to the 990 filed for 2017, CAMBA has a budget of $143 million and its president/CEO, Joanne Oplustil, made $503,090, with other compensation of $126,223. Four executive employees make over $300,000, and ten members of the staff make between $160,000 and $300,000.
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CAMBA workers claim that 25 percent of the attorneys have quit because of low paychecks and the absence of benefits. “Dozens have left during my time here,” says Paola Rodriguez, a law graduate at the Flatbush office. “They all had to leave for the same reasons: lack of competitive pay, lack of benefits, lack of care for their work-life balance, and poor training.” A case aide on Staten Island said she’s striking because her salary has been stagnant for six years.
CAMBA states that they have made offers to improve benefits and increase pay over three years, which they say is more than what’s available at other New York City organizations that provide legal service.
Pay ratios between industry CEOs and their employees have widened alarmingly over recent years, but this sector is supposed to stand for a different set of values based on the good of entire communities. The look of wide salary disparities for any nonprofit is a bad one, but in one standing for justice, it’s arguably just a bit worse.—Marian Conway