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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

MELS protects job and family of Local 1549 member


Local 1549 member Katrece Small is feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for her union after a MELS attorney came to her aid in Family Court to protect her job and family.

“God sent me an angel in Senior Attorney Lynn Graham,” said Small, a police administrative aide (PAA). “I would have lost two of the most important parts of my life—my only son and my career with the Police Department.”

“When I think of what could have happened,” Small said, “I could have lost custody of my child. I could have been brought up on charges and terminated from my job. I could have been another name added to the unemployment list. I could have lost everything.”

Fortunately, the worst-case scenario was prevented thanks to MELS, the free legal services DC 37 provides for its members.

In 2020, a family member attacked her son. “My sister fought my child, ripped his clothes, hit and scratched him. He was traumatized. I was very upset,” Small said. “I contacted my union. MELS took my case and told me to file an Order of Protection for me and my 11-year-old son.”

Her sister countered by filing an Order of Protection against Katrece. NYPD opened an internal investigation. The case went to Family Court.

“I realized that it could get serious. As an NYPD employee, I have to have a spotless record in order to keep my job,” Small said.

With help from Graham, the judge downgraded the case to harassment. Two months later, the judge dismissed the case.

“It feels so good to have the union on my side,” Small said. “If I didn’t have Ms. Graham, I would have lost everything. I would be in debt for thousands of dollars for legal fees. My union lawyer went above and beyond for me.”

“Even through the pandemic we are working hard for our members and their families,” said Graham, a MELS lawyer for more than 33 years.

“Having a union is an investment for every dues-paying member,” said Local 1549 President Eddie Rodriguez. “Their union exists to protect and serve their needs as city employees, even in personal, domestic matters such as that faced by Katrece Small. I strongly encourage members who might find themselves in need of assistance to visit and get to know all the services available.”