New Britain, CT, Nov. 4, 2016 – Nearly 200 supervisory and rank-and-file attorneys who work for the state's Division of Public Defender Services voted overwhelmingly to join Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in separate union representation elections.
Rank-and-file public defenders voted 100-18 in favor of unionization, while the supervisors’ group voted 15-3. Secret-ballot, mail-in voting took place Oct. 14-28 under the direction of the State Board of Labor Relations.
“We joined Council 4 to strengthen our voice on the job and to protect the vital services we provide to citizens in need of legal representation,” said Assistant Public Defender Jeffrey LaPierre, who works out of the New Haven Judicial District. “Unionizing is our path to a more secure and stable future, for ourselves and our clients.”
“All workers deserve basic fairness and respect,” added Supervisory Assistant Public Defender Elisa Villa, who is assigned to Bristol Geographical Area #17. “We believe it’s important to have a say in the decisions that impact our profession and our livelihoods.”
Council 4 Executive Director Sal Luciano welcomed both bargaining units to Council 4, which represents 35,000 workers in state and local government, as well as the private sector. “We are proud that Connecticut’s public defender community reached out to us in a show of strength and solidarity. These are dedicated public servants who care deeply about protecting the rights of Connecticut’s citizens,” he said.
The Division of Public Defender Services provides counsel in accordance with both the United States and Connecticut Constitutions to any indigent person charged with the commission of a crime that carries a risk of incarceration. In addition, representation and guardian ad-litem services are afforded to indigent children and parents in child welfare, family, child protection and child support matters, in accordance with the Connecticut General Statutes and by order of the Superior Court.
The five-day appeal period for employee objections expired today. Kevin Murphy, Council 4’s Director of Collective Bargaining and Organizing, said the union plans to begin the process of negotiating first contracts for the two public defender groups.
“We look forward to negotiations with the Judicial Branch. Our goal is always to establish a respectful relationship that will lead to a just and fair agreement,” Murphy added.