Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Look for the Union Label?

Some may know (but most don't care) that I have signed on with the State Office of the Public Defender. The program went fully active on last July 1st. However, prior to becoming active, public defenders in both Missoula and Billings (who were county employees) held a vote to determine who would be the union that represents us at the state level. So, I never had a chance to vote for a union that was brought in before the enactment of my job, and now I will have to pay dues to said union. WTF?
I find it ridiculous that lawyers have unions. I am a professional, in that I exercise a skill for the best interests of my client, without regard for outside pressures. I am a member of a group that requires specialized training, and required me to pass a test and to be examined and found worthy first, in order to exercise my skills. Skills that the majority of the public are prohibited from doing.
What I want to know, though, is what in the heck is this union going to do for me? Are they going to say that I have too heavy of a caseload, and that if management doesn't reduce it we will go on strike? Let me tell you, the courts can and will impose punitive sanctions for failing to do my job, even if the union does call a strike. What about if some other union is picketing the courthouse, am I going to be allowed to cross the picket line? And if I don't who goes to jail for failure to represent my client?
As i understand it, we are supposed to be having a decertification vote next June. I can hardly wait.


Anonymous said...

Just look at what is happening to the Cook County Illinois PD's if you want an answer to why PD's would be in a union.

The Continental Op said...

Your post suggests that (like many people) you really haven't got the slightest idea of what it is that unions actually do, and what union representation really entails. It is a serious misconception that highly-educated, highly-skilled workers (and yes, even lawyers are "workers") have no need for union representation. PDs may want to bargain over different things than the workers who clean your offices. But it is still in your interest to bargain over the terms and conditions of your job, on an equal footing with the boss, rather than having the boss dictate those terms and conditions to you on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. I'd have thought that the notion of workers and employers negotiating a contractual agreement to govern their relationship would appeal to a "neo-libertarian".

All snarkiness aside, I really encourage you to learn more about unions -- and to avail yourself of your legal right to be involved in the decision-making process within your union -- before leaping to such a negative conclusion. As "anonymous" suggests, if you look around, not just at Chicago but at many other PD units around the country, I think you'll come to understand why union representation is in your interest.

Steve said...

Contental op -
I think that the thing you miss, is that my boss is actually my client. I am paid by the State, but I work for the client. This is not unusual, since in private practice, I often had other family members pay my retainer, but I only reported to my client.
As far as the take-it-or-leave-it issue, I am in that place now. I had a successful practice before, and now I make less money, and have more cases, but I believe that for too long, PD clients have been at a disadvantage before, and I want to do the best that I can for them and the program. If the bosses became jerks, which is not a necessary outcome, I can walk and start over with absolutely no problem.
In this case, I hold more cards than the supposed bosses do. But you haven't identified anything that the union will do to help me or my client.
My problem remains as before, but thanks for your input.