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Assistant attorneys general file petition to unionize

The American Federation of Teachers filed a petition with the state labor board on Monday in an attempt to unionize 196 assistant attorneys general. The petition will launch an investigation beginning with a preliminary conference on September 13 that will be closed to the public.

There are currently 197 full-time and seven part-time AAGs, according to the attorney general’s office.

In order to present a petition to the State Labor Relations Board, at least 30 percent of the employees must have signed union cards. The board checks the signatures on the cards for validation and to confirm they were not signed under pressure.

Barring any objections from the state, the SLRB will then set a date, time and location for a vote. The vote is conducted by “secret ballot,” which gives employees anonymity and protection from possible union or employer reprisals. The AFT needs a majority of the attorneys to vote for joining the union in order to win.

The petition includes department heads, which raises the question of whether or not those attorneys constitute management. According to state statute, the labor relations board determines whether or not a position is “supervisory” based on criteria such as “scheduling, assigning, overseeing and reviewing the work of subordinate employees.”

In recent years, government attorneys have been unionizing in states with heavy union influence. In 2010, the New Jersey legislature voted to allow deputy attorney generals to form a union. The deputies cited low pay as their reason for unionizing. They joined with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 2011.

Similarly, there is a push in Pennsylvania by the 189 attorneys in its attorney general’s office. The AFT of Pennsylvania is backing the effort. The attorney’s also cited low wages and lack of protection from “arbitrary management decisions and job security.”

Assistant attorneys general in Connecticut are divided into four classes based on experience and expected duties. Class 1 attorneys receive a salary between $72,741 and $93,304 per year, according to the Office of the Attorney General application package but class 3 and 4 attorneys salaries can be more than $150,000 per year.

The national average for an assistant attorney general is $73,922, according to payscale.com, a salary database, putting Connecticut well ahead of the nation.

Union dues would amount to roughly $495 per year between the national AFT and the Connecticut AFT. However, the AFT has a history of raising dues. The AFT increased dues for judicial employees by 28 percent in four years. It also raised dues by 39.9 percent for some members of its Administrative and Residual Employees union.

AFT organizer Jasmine Vendredi, who organized the Connecticut attorneys, did not respond to requests for comment. The AFT represents public employees in the executive, judicial and higher education as well as employees in the healthcare field.

Jaclyn Falkowski, spokeswoman for Attorney General George Jepsen, said Jepson had not expressed a view on the attempt to form a labor union and that “he is neither supporting nor opposing the organization effort.”

Updated: Sept. 2, 2:57 p.m. 

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Marc E. Fitch

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