Sunday, November 4, 2007

Background and Current Situation

This posting is made on behalf of the staff at the AG's Office who have been working on the union organizing effort. We'd like to give you a summary of the latest developments, and hopefully start a dialogue. The nutshell version of this posting is that we have a majority of signatures, Lori has refused meet and confer and, therefore, we have "next steps" that need to take place. Read on!

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My deepest thanks to the organizers for continuing this effort. It's dumbfounding that Lori said on Kerri Miller's show that it was "up to [her] employees" whether to organize, yet she refuses to recognize the will of the majority of those employees.