Today's testimony regarding merit status for OPD attorneys

Today, Paul DeWolfe is testifying before the Maryland General Assembly in a last-minute effort to discourage lawmakers from providing merit status to assistant public defenders. He is trying to mislead lawmakers into believing that merit status is bad for us and our clients. But you know the facts: merit status would give OPD attorneys the protections we need to advocate for our clients without fear of retribution or retaliation.

What’s worse is that management specifically deployed false, anti-union rhetoric in their written testimony, and took this position after initially stating that they would NOT oppose the bill. Management also declined to meet with MDU when we approached them to discuss our merit campaign months ago. In August 2020, when MDU was formed, Mr. DeWolfe publicly praised us, telling the Baltimore Sun:

“Our employees are dedicated advocates who fight for our clients every day. In these exceptionally challenging times, where there are widespread budget cuts and life-threatening risks from COVID, they are now fighting for themselves.”

But now that we are fighting for ourselves, management is explicitly and publicly trying to stop us.

It is also odd that Mr. DeWolfe imagines that merit conversion would be a source of unmanageable caseloads and cost to the agency, while he himself failed to ask for more funding for full-time positions at this week’s OPD budget hearing! Guess who DID ask for more funding, for more positions, and better compensation? That's right: the Maryland Defenders Union! (You can watch the whole hearing here; management’s lackluster testimony begins at 14:09, and MDU’s testimony begins at 37:30, if you want to skip to the fun parts.)

This hypocrisy and misrepresentation is not unexpected. Management almost always opposes worker efforts to gain power, and will likely continue to do so in the future. But when we stand together, we can win lasting changes. We can stop the midnight firings; we can protect clients from the rotating carousel of talent caused by high turnover rates; we can improve retention by making OPD a better place to work and bring caseloads to a manageable level; we can be the best indigent defense office in the country.

But we can't do it if we aren't united. We need you. This is a critical moment. It's time to stand up for your clientsstand up for your colleagues, and sign a card to join the MDU.