WESTERN CHESTER – Lawyers and other staff members of the Chester County Attorney’s Office and the County Public Protection Office have voted to establish a collective bargaining unit representing the coachmen’s union for the first time for such professionals working in the county.
Both sides in the election confirmed on Friday that those employees who voted to be represented in the negotiations on the specifics of contracts, including salaries and working conditions, prevailed in the process that took place on Thursday.
The Pennsylvania Labor Council, which oversaw the election, is expected to approve the election within the next two weeks.
“We appreciate the trust and confidence these hard-working civil servants have given our organization to represent them in the county,” said Rob Freiling Jr., a Philadelphia-based Teamsters Local 115 business agent who will represent prosecutors and public defenders at the talks. .
A statement from the three commissioners said: “We thank our staff for participating in the voting process and will respectfully fulfill our obligations as a result. We will move forward to negotiate in good faith with the union on the terms of hiring these employees.
“All of our staff members provide valuable services to the citizens of Chester County, and we are grateful for their public service to our community,” said Chair Marianne Muscovis, Vice Chair Josh Maxwell and Commissioner Michelle Kichline.
The vote came just a week after the county officially announced a new wage rate and ranking plan that would raise the salaries of all non-union employees by at least 3 percent. Although the county insisted that the process of revising the county’s compensation plan was underway even before the attempt to merge in the DA office began in August 2021, Freiling sarcastically referred to this in his post-election statement.
“We are particularly grateful for the result, given the district’s excellent completion and conduct of the Compensation Study a few days before the election, which involved increasing and increasing compensation through reclassification – some of which were very significant – for the same staff members who voted today.” he said.
The new compensation package, which will amount to 7.4 million dollars, of which about 5.6 million dollars will be included in this year’s budget, will not affect any of the about 350 employees of the district involved in collective bargaining. Among them are Chester County detectives, members of the Adult Probation Office and employees of the county’s Department of Social Services.
In an email last week, the county informed these workers that the level of their compensation would be reviewed separately under their union contracts.
Freiling said the next step in the union process would be to meet with county officials to sign a contract for 66 employees working in the unit.
“We will begin the process of developing an initial contract proposal with the staff we are now privileged to represent, and we look forward to meeting with the county for their serious and fair participation in the inaugural collective bargaining process,” he said. in his statement.
It was unclear what the final outcome of the election was. One source reported that the vote count was 25 in favor, 21 against and three contested ballots.
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 demarcate the negotiating unit.
Although this is a rarity among West Chester County staff, collective bargaining is not heard here. 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.
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.
To contact full-time writer Michael P. Relahan, call 610-696-1544.