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Monday, May 14, 2007

Lawyers and unions: Norma Rae, esq.?

With the lawyers in the Attorney General's Office engaged in an attempt to unionize, Minnesota Lawyer's Dan Heilman decided to take a look at the interplay of unions and public sector lawyers. According to the article in this week's Minnesota Lawyer, prosecutors in nine counties belong to unions. The latest to unionize was St. Louis County, which unionized late last year, shortly after a 28-year incumbent County Attorney was unseated by a newcomer.

“It was a hotly contested election in St. Louis County, and I think it woke some people up,” said Eric Lehto, organizing director for AFSCME’s St. Paul-based Council 5. “People knew there would be changes at the top level. There was a high level of seniority that seemed to be shifting. The county attorneys felt the only way they could count on job security was to work toward a collective bargaining agreement. They all completed sign-up cards, indicating their desire to form a union.”

The assistant St. Louis County attorneys are still negotiating the terms of their collective bargaining agreement with the county, said Melanie Ford, who took over as St. Louis County attorney in January. However, their agreement would likely be similar to that between Hennepin and Ramsey counties and AFSCME, which represents about 1.4 million workers nationwide.

A union representative has a nice sum up in the article. “Organizing does seem to be on the rise,” Council 65 Executive Director Steve Preble said. “Lawyers aren’t typically union people, but why not? They’re concerned with a lot of the same issues.”

For more, see "Unionization ‘on the rise’ among lawyers in the public sector." (Password required.)

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