Heroes on the Front Line: Monica Halas

UAW Local 2320 National Organization of Legal Services Workers (NOLSW) represents more than 4,500 members across the country.  They are UAW’s only national amalgamated local union.  Its members provide free legal services to low income residents needing assistance with housing, domestic violence, safety net services, health care and more.

Members from Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) unit jumped into action immediately when COVID 19 started impacting Boston’s low-income communities. Using the power of individual representation, hands on training and support, systemic advocacy and legislation to support their clients and immigrant worker centers, the Employment Unit at GBLS has never been busier.

Its members Audrey Richardson, Hannah Tanabe, Elizabeth Whiteway, Luz Arevalo, Joey Michalakes, Brian Flynn and Monica Halas. They are working around the clock to protect Boston’s most vulnerable residents and families.

Their successful efforts have led to raising awareness about the states recently enacted moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, drafting legislation to help immigrant workers receive state stimulus money,, developing and implementing assisting hundreds of non-English speaking workers apply for unemployment benefits,  and representing clients denied unemployment or not receiving stimulus payments.

According to Regional Director, Beverley Brakeman, “UAW’s legal services attorneys and staff are experts in their field.  They know the law, but as importantly they know their way around the system.  They are quick, resourceful creative and flexible in solving problems.   And they don’t discriminate – they help – and they do it in good times and in bad - and they always make a difference.”

Halas, a longtime UAW member and retiree is an expert in unemployment law.  Without hesitation she rejoined GBLS staff on a full-time basis to help during this time.   With the others they quickly put together town hall “Know Your Rights” meetings to help residents, allies and UAW members faced with sudden unemployment.   Their work has been replicated by other legal services programs in other states.

“Any region who needs this type of support should reach out to me or NOLSW President Pamela Smith,” continued Brakeman.

This is an incredible team effort,” said Halas. “We have an amazing and talented group of advocates at GBLS.  Everyone is working super hard to help people who might not otherwise receive assistance or be able to navigate systems that would help them.”