Why We Unionize

The way we’ve been doing things is not working. We face salary issues, problems with supervisors, concerns for our health and safety in the time of COVID-19, lack of resources for ourselves and our clients, and concerns over discrimination and racial inequities. 

These issues share one common theme: management’s lack of consistent and transparent answers to workers’ concerns. 

For example, Employee “A” has an issue and addresses it to a supervisor.  The response to Employee “A” is that the supervisor needs to take it up the chain.  Eventually, the supervisor returns and says nothing can be done because “it’s just the way things are.”  On the other side of the district, Employee “B” has the same issue and goes to a supervisor  who takes it up the chain, and immediately comes back with a satisfactory resolution.  Employee “B” is thrilled.  Eventually “A” and “B” talk. Yikes!  Imagine this inconsistency multiplying over and over through numerous positions, districts, and counties, leading to different policies, different answers, and different outcomes. This causes confusion, unhappiness, and low morale. 

With a union, workers would have a common voice. Core staff, social workers, and attorneys of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender (OPD) would come together around the state to discuss the issues we want addressed.  Those issues would then be prioritized by us, the workers. 

This group of workers is the union.  We are the union! 

The Maryland Defenders Union (MDU) represents the specific interests of OPD employees. MDU is organized with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents our shared interests with thousands of other state employees by fighting budget cuts and demanding safe workplace practices such as providing proper personal protective equipment. The workers of OPD, united as MDU, will work together to create our priorities and demands, plan our agenda and action steps, and take those actions together.  Instead of one worker alone trying to find their way through the red tape of administration, we levy our collective skills, knowledge, and power to make the changes we deserve.  By doing this, we create a united voice.

So, how do we get there?

Right now, our union is young, but full of energy.  We are still in the organizing stage. In the very early days of our organizing efforts, we chose to work with AFSCME, a union that is composed of approximately 25,000 State of Maryland workers.  For the past month,, we grew that number from just a few workers to a body of almost 50 -- representing core staff, social workers and attorneys around the state -- to form our Organizing Committee. We announced our intention to form the union publicly on August 4, 2020.  We are organizing to get additional signatures to form our own local sponsored by AFSCME.  We are also talking to YOU -- our colleagues -- through surveys and information sessions. As the Organizing Committee, we will learn the priorities for all OPD workers.  Already, we have a plan to get a seat at the table with management to address our most urgent needs -- COVID-19 and the reopening of offices and courts. 

Under the umbrella of AFSCME Council 3, which has 44 other Maryland locals, the dues we pay ($17.58 per pay period) currently go into the general Council fund to be split among all AFSCME-related activities.  But, once we have the numbers needed, we would have our own local consisting only of OPD employees.  Dues would then be split between Council 3 and our local and will go toward supporting our local goals, as well as collective national and regional goals.  We will dissolve the Organizing Committee and hold elections to choose officers from the members of MDU.  Those officers will represent all of us, and work to make sure our demands of management are met.  

The law currently prohibits certain state workers, such as OPD workers from having the right to collective bargaining, meaning we cannot form an employment contract with our employer.  Additionally, while Core Staff and Social Workers as merit employees already have the benefit of representation from AFSCME in any labor dispute, attorneys as “at-will employees” and “special appointees” have an additional fight that must be taken to the legislature in Annapolis: changing our status.  We are prepared to take these fights to the legislature.  AFSCME has already been successful in the fight for collective bargaining in a similar situation for Charles County workers.  We have already started to build relationships with legislators to facilitate these changes, and we will take that battle on together.  As a union, we no longer fight alone.  We are now united behind our goals for a voice for the workers and a seat at the table.  

Lone employee “A” or “B”will no longer receive inconsistent answers from the administration, the judiciary, or the State of Maryland.  Instead, we will have the force of the entire MDU with us at every step.  Together, we will fight for ourselves and for our clients.  If the fight is with the legislature and not the administration, we will have the power of AFSCME and their 25,000 state employees behind us as we take that fight to Annapolis.  If Maryland tells us the fight is with the Judiciary, AFSCME will empower us to coordinate with the media to raise awareness among the public who vote in elected officials.  No matter the target, we are stronger together.

As the Maryland Defenders Union, with the backing and support of AFSCME, and most importantly, with each other, WE HAVE POWER.  This is why we unionize.