Movement to unionize lawyers gaining ground in Attorney General Kathleen Kane's office

Lawyers working for Attorney General Kathleen Kane have launched a meet-and-discuss effort that could lead to the formation of a new collective bargaining unit for the office's professional heart.The office's 189 attorneys - minus executive-level staff - have been invited to a May 27 meeting with representatives of the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania union in Harrisburg to discuss general "workplace rights" issues.A flyer announcing the meeting and obtained by PennLive promises "a frank discussion" about the following topics: voice at work; job security; and protection against arbitrary treatment at work."Join us to find out how you can ensure that voices of the lawyers in the Pennsylvania AG's Office are heard and respected," the invitation continues. It adds, in bold-face type: "Your employer may NOT retaliate against you for attending this meeting."The language smacks of attorneys coming together in response to recent personnel moves that have raised eyebrows within and outside the office, including:* Kane's controversial dismissal of James Barker, a top deputy, shortly after reports emerged that Barker had testified against Kane's interests in a investigation into reported grand jury leaks.Kane has said her removal of Barker had nothing to do with the grand jury probe, but rather a http://www.safehomealabama.gov/UserProfile/tabid/43/userId/33177/Default.aspx - lawyers Texas - reorganization of criminal law section of the office.Still, the decision is currently being reviewed by Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman since Barker - as a witness - was given specific protections against retaliation for his testimony.Ferman is looking into the Barker matter as part of a larger review ofwhether Kane herself should face charges in the leaks probe.* Kane's promotion of then-Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation Jonathan Duecker to chief of staff, despite revelations of sexual harassment charges made against him by a female line prosecutor.Adding to the inter-office agita, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week that Duecker has told associates in the office that he now has final say over all hirings and firings in the office.Personnel moves involving lawyers would have previously been routed through Kane's First Deputy, Bruce Beemer."The Attorney General has approved the latest version of the chain of command," Duecker wrote in a May 6 e-mail, according to the newspaper's account. "ALL personnel issues come through me to the General. The First Deputy is not in my or your chain of command."Duecker has denied doing anything "intentionally inappropriate" in the harassment case, and Kane, through her spokesman Chuck Ardo, has expressed her complete confidence in him.Sources familiar with the fledgling unionization effort confirmed Wednesday that the Barker and Duecker situations are representative - but not the sum total - of the kinds of concerns attorneys are feeling as at-will employees.Midstate labor lawyer Irwin Aronson said he has been retained to the attorneys through an organization process which, if successful, could see a large majority of the office's professional legal staff knit into a collective bargaining unit by years' end.Aronson steered clear of Kane's actions in discussing his role earlier this week, insisting his primary interest is in seeing that any group of workers "who want a voice at work" get that voice.The attorneys in question are a vastly different group than most other sets of unionized state workers.Their salary range, for example, goes from $53,379 for a first-year deputy to $143,784 for the four executive deputies in charge of the office's major legal departments, according to office statistics.But backers of the effort contend they have the same concerns all other workers when it comes to the consequences of arbitrary management decisions and job security.Other components of the Attorney General's 826-person staff have been represented by unions for years.The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees represents 333 agents and clerical staff at present, according to agency figures, and the Fraternal Order of Police represents 89 narcotics agents.Ardo said Tuesday he was not aware of the new unionization effort, and he could not immediately say if Kane has taken any actions regarding the effort. href='http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/05/movement_to_organize_gaining_g.html' - http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/05/movement_to_organize_gaining_g.html -