It’s cat-and-mouse in the AG’s office as staffers try to unionize


There’s an interesting (and ironic, to say the least) battle happening more or less in the open at the Minnesota attorney general’s office, where it appears that union-endorsed DFL AG Lori Swanson is fighting hard to keep staffers from forming a union. The tussle has barely rated any media play, aside from a one-day exchange last April when Swanson accused AFSCME officials of trying to bully her employees into unionizing, and AFSCME officials accused Swanson of firing one organizer and bullying other employees not to help the union.

But the pro-unionists are still at it. In November they launched an anonymously authored blog, AG Organizing Update, and I’m told that at present they are once again collecting union signature cards from AG staff attorneys. They collected the 50 percent-plus required to seek certification once before, but Swanson refused to voluntarily recognize the union at that point, and a steady drum-beat of staff departures from the office meant that many of those who had signed up to join the union were no longer there. (I’ve excerpted a passage from the blog explaining where the organizing effort stands, and it appears below.)

Swanson and her allies are reportedly not taking this lying down. Click here to see an anonymous letter to the organizers that circulated around the office in early November. (There’s a response post at the organizing blog.) A source close to the organizing effort also claims that one Swanson associate regularly takes new lawyers in the office to coffee or lunch to rail against unions and inquire after the new person’s sympathies.

We’ll be keeping track of this one…

From the AG Organizing Update blog, 11/4/07:

“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….”