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Maryland Office of the Public Defender officially unionizes

Posted at 12:04 PM, Dec 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-14 12:04:04-05

BALTIMORE — The Maryland Office of the Public Defender is officially unionized.

A final vote was held Tuesday broken down in two bargaining units, after ballots were cast by mail between November 15 and December 1.

The first includes core administrative and support staff, while the second consists of attorneys, intake staff, investigators, and social workers.

Both overwhelmingly approved unionization that will now span 12 districts throughout the state, impacting over 600 workers.

The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has been selected as the exclusive bargaining representative for the Public Defender's Office.

They also represent about 30,000 other Maryland State Government employees.

The Public Defender's Office obtained the legal right to unionize after a new law (HB90/SB255) passed during the 2022 Maryland General Assembly.

Efforts to form a union began during the summer of 2020 when workers expressed concern about what they perceived to be a lack of communication at the office during the pandemic.

They also wanted to improve their workload, compensation, and retention.

Maryland Public Defender Natasha Dartigue issued this statement in response.

Increased salaries, adequate staffing, and enhanced working environments have been and continue to be a high priority for my administration. OPD's continued success in providing excellent representation to the numerous disenfranchised and marginalized individuals we serve requires increased OPD funding and unfettered support of the dedicated attorneys, social workers, and core staff. I will work collaboratively with union leadership to further this collective mission. I look forward to exchanging ideas and engaging in meaningful dialogue that identifies solutions, enhances employee morale, and facilitates team work.