WESTERN CHESTER – Chester County prosecutors and public defenders will be able to decide whether to set up a negotiating unit in the county to negotiate their salaries and terms of employment, according to a statement from the union that will represent them – drivers.

Elections, in which assistant district attorneys and some assistant attorneys, as well as other court-related staff, will choose between Teamsters Union Local 115 from Philadelphia or no representation at all, will be held next month, according to a union release. last week.

Initially, the union sought to represent in the district prosecutor’s office only those lawyers who met the requirements. But she eventually took part in the Office of Public Protection and others, after first stating that the county’s insistence on their inclusion was a tactic to reduce a possible unit for negotiations.

The number of posts included in the upcoming election is 66, according to Robert Freiling Jr., Local 115’s business agent. 50 percent plus one if all 53 vote.

Although this is a rarity among West Chester County staff, collective bargaining is not heard here. Chester County Detective Detectives – part of the county attorney’s office – has a negotiating unit, as do officers from the probation department of the county’s preliminary court. The county’s Department of Social Services staff is represented by 384 local drivers from Norristown, a different group than the one that ran in next month’s election.

County leaders in the past, almost unanimously Republicans, have consistently opposed staff efforts to organize with unions, fearing it would lead to higher wages, higher taxes, and violations of district office and court rules.

Trade union efforts have been uneven in the past, when social workers voted to reject the union, only to cancel it after a while. An attempt to form a negotiating unit in the Chester County Sheriff’s Office failed last year.

In this case, among those who will be part of the unit in the offices of DA and PD, will be only those “line” prosecutors and lawyers who represent their offices in general courts and district courts. Until now, it will not include all office staff, and will exclude those prosecutors and public defenders who perform oversight functions, such as deputy district attorneys and senior public defenders.

In his election announcement, Freiling focused on what he described as a tactic of delaying the constituency to schedule elections after April 1 – when he accused the constituency of publishing a raise for office workers and undermining union efforts.

“Teamsters Local 115 believes the county and its dear legal counsel have achieved their primary goal of postponing the election after April 1 – traditionally when county leaders impose salary adjustments on judicial staff – to hide perennial concerns about competitive compensation, work-life balance , recruitment and maintenance that affect these dedicated employees on a daily basis, ”Freiling said in his release.

“However, Local 115 intends to maintain its great support and succeed in this election to begin vital work to address these issues, representing the interests of staff in the negotiating unit fairly and comprehensively to improve and ensure compliance with the highest level of compensation and working conditions, ”he said.

A county spokeswoman, however, dismissed the suggestion that the county had artificially postponed the election date.

“The timing of the election by the court staff is random,” public information officer Rebecca Brain said in an email. “In this matter the county will always take the time to ensure that all legal and technical aspects are strictly enforced.”

As for the previously announced by district administrators review of staff salaries, Brain said the process is ongoing. “The process of analyzing compensation for Chester County staff is ongoing, and all options are being considered regarding adjusting salaries if necessary,” she said Friday.

Last year, Freiling, who rated prosecutors ‘support at “almost 100 percent,” said prosecutors’ motivation to try to set up a unit was due to several factors, including higher salaries, but above all a feeling that they were not being properly protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a general concern for justice, exacerbated by the pandemic,” he said.

The level of remuneration of prosecutors in the county lags behind the level of remuneration in other counties and states and jurisdictions, according to unknown data. Figures of attorneys in 2018 show that the minimum salary of an assistant district attorney is $ 47,796 and the maximum is $ 73,308. This is compared to salaries in the prosecutor’s office, where the range is from 47,796 to 104,169 dollars.

Then Brain noted that the scale of remuneration of line lawyers in the two offices is exactly the same, but higher salaries were paid by “senior lawyers” in the Office of Public Defense.

Freiling said that although union contracts could cover hours, wages and working conditions, the latter would not be the focus of prosecutors if the unit was recognized. “The aim of the union would not be to upset apple feed,” he said. “Work rules are rarely an issue” in such professional staffing settings.

Those eligible to vote and to be covered by the Negotiating Unit in addition to assistant district attorneys and assistant state attorneys include some court-related accountants, ARD investigators, and DA sabotage programs, as well as juvenile court paralegals. .

The election is scheduled for April 14 at the Public Defender’s Library. Voting will be by secret ballot. This process is overseen by the Pennsylvania Board of Labor.

To contact full-time writer Michael P. Relahan, call 610-696-1544.

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