Thursday, November 29, 2007
Friday, November 9, 2007
Dear Anonymous. Thank you for your November 8, 2007, response to our update on the union activities. (see below for actual letter) You have asked some interesting questions, and we appreciate the opportunity to respond and clarify. We understand that you put your “memo” in the in boxes of many of the staff at the AGO.
#1 (why are you anonymous?) People fear losing their jobs, plain and simple. You obviously understand the value and necessity of anonymity, as your memo is also anonymous (and typewritten!)
#2 (didn't BMS reject the cards?) No! If you read the update closely you will see that the cards were not rejected by the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS). In fact, the BMS was prepared to certify our group as a bargaining unit. All that was needed was an official list from Ms. Swanson of the non-managerial attorneys in the office. Lori refused to provide even that information, and the BMS could therefore not proceed any further. Please keep in mind that we chose to pursue a voluntary recognition route, meaning we obtained cards from a majority of the attorneys in the office, and asked Lori to meet and confer with us on the terms of our working conditions. We chose this process because we wanted to work cooperatively with the Attorney General. It is Lori’s refusal to recognize the will of her staff that has put us in the position of petitioning the BMS for recognition.
#3 (why cards are locked up? what good is 30% if 50% didn't work?) We keep union cards under lock and key because that is what we promised to do. We keep our promises, unlike Ms. Swanson, who promised to support labor when she was endorsed by the unions. Presenting a petition supported by cards from at least 30% of the attorneys in the office will do two things.
- First, it will force the issue of recognition and meet/confer. Once the petition is presented, the BMS is obligated to seek a response from Ms. Swanson. If she challenges the petition, a mediator is brought in to try and resolve the differences.
- Second, the petition will be a first step toward a law change to PELRA that would allow us to meet and negotiate the terms of our employment
#4. (Hatch is gone, so aren't the problems?) If you read the update closely, you will note that the departure of the prior attorney general may have lessened some of the tension in the office, but it certainly did not solve the problems. In fact, the departure of numerous attorneys after his resignation illustrates the continued problems in the office.
#5 (leaders?) While some staff involved in the organizing effort have left the office (both voluntarily, and not), many remain and continue to work hard to better the working conditions of everyone in the office.
#6 (who got a raise and why?) We are glad you raised the issue of compensation. In fact, we are aware of many staff who received either no raise at all, or only meager raises. There has been no mechanism for salary increases, no consistency, and no fairness to the process. We recently saw the results of a request (not by us) for a list of all employees in the AGO and their salaries. We were shocked and saddened at the disparity in salaries among similarly situated employees in the office. This information only deepened our commitment to fight for and obtain fair and transparent processes in the AGO.
#7 (support worker email?) We are not privy to the email you mention and invite comment on this blog. And yes, anonymous is ok.
#8 (change to PELRA?) A petition is a first step toward a law change. Further, everyone knows laws aren’t changed overnight. We would like to meet and confer with Ms. Swanson on terms of our working conditions in the interim period before the law is changed, and we expect it will be.
#9 (and what about the AFSCME letter?) We are glad you brought this up! You are correct that a letter was mysteriously circulated to the offices of many of the attorneys in the AGO in April of this year. However, you fail to mention that only the first page of the letter was distributed. Had the complete letter been circulated, you would have seen the conclusion that stated that nothing in the law prevents us from organizing and asking to meet and confer with the AG.
#10 (are you Matt Entenza?) This question is sad and embarrassing... and way off base.
As noted below, this anonymous memo found its way into the AG's Office yesterday morning. The anonymous, typewritten note lambastes the anonymous nature of the organizing effort while directing questions and accusations toward the groups' leadership.
Click to enlarge to a readable size. And yes, number 10 really does say: "Mr. Anonymous: Is your name sometime (sic) known as Entenza?"
A response to this note will be posted later this evening.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
We will do our best to post the actual note later today. And we thank (whoever) you (are) for the opportunity to answer these pertinent questions.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
As you know, we have obtained signatures from a majority of the attorneys in the office. Notice was given to AFSCME, who in turn notified the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS), and the Attorney General. The BMS is the state agency that can certify a bargaining group. This method of organization is referred to as voluntary recognition. We felt this was the strongest way to go because it required a majority of the attorneys to consent to proceed and we wanted to make sure we had that majority behind us.
With a majority of the attorneys in favor of moving forward, there was reason to believe Lori would voluntarily agree to recognize the staff's desire to bargain. After all, she ran as an endorsed DFL candidate, proclaimed her support for labor unions and the right to bargain, and one of her first acts as an elected official was to march and speak at the Pioneer Press labor rally. Unfortunately, the BMS was not able to secure any cooperation from our office, despite several conversations at the deputy attorney level. Basically, Lori is refusing to acknowledge the majority voice, and refuses to meet and confer with us, even on terms of our working conditions.
BMS has informed AFCSME that they cannot proceed at this point due to Lori's refusal to recognize the majority voice.
Fortunately, her refusal does not end the organizing effort. We can continue to move this process forward by submitting a "petition" to the BMS, asking for representation by AFSCME and for a meet and confer with the AG. The petition must be supported by signatures from 30% of the attorneys. Once the petition is submitted, the employer can submit a challenge to the petition, which, given Lori's previous actions, would likely happen. If that challenge is made, the BMS brings in a mediator who would try and work out the issues between the employer and AFSCME. If the challenges are resolved in our favor, an election must then be held, and a majority of people voting in the election must vote in favor of organization.
Therefore, we are asking for you to resubmit your signature and contact information on a new card so that we can draft the petition and move this forward. The cards must be signed within a certain time of the petition. Please keep in mind that up to this point, all cards have been kept under lock and key, and would continue that way! The more signatures we have, the stronger our bargaining position, and the louder voice we have. We would like to see everyone who has previously signed, to re-sign. We are also asking for assistance to make this happen. With the staggering number of departures, it should come as no surprise that several of the employees involved in the effort have also left the office. If you are interested/willing to help in any way, please let your contact know!!
AFSCME has also been working in the background toward pushing forward legislation to change the Public Employee Labor Relation Act (PELRA) so that we can obtain a written contract. Lori's actions thus far support an argument that PELRA should be changed. Any opposition on her part to our petition will only further support for a law change.
Although the conditions at work may seem to have quieted down with Mike's departure, there are so many issues of importance to our important work that needs to be addressed. That can only happen when we can speak out without fear of losing our jobs, or losing our assignments, and only when the administration will acknowledge its employees. Our opinions and voices are so much stronger collectively than independently.
New cards can be obtained directly through AFSCME, through your AG organizer or through your support staff who can direct you to the union steward or union contact on your floor.