Maryland Public Defenders Vote to Join State Workers Union

Maryland public defenders voted Tuesday to unionize after a two-year effort.

Workers at the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, which employs more than 600 people, voted to certify AFSCME Maryland Council 3 as their exclusive representative in negotiations.

The union says one bargaining unit will consist of administrative and support staff, and another bargaining unit will consist of intake staff, investigators, social workers and attorneys.

The Maryland Defenders Union (AFSCME Local 423/MDU) first announced its intention to unionize in August 2020. Workers cited inadequate staffing levels, record turnover rates, and impossible workloads and cases as some of the reasons for which they sought to unionize.

In a legislative session earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation to expand collective bargaining rights to employees of the public defender’s office.

The union says they will join nearly 30,000 state and higher education employees who have collective bargaining rights at their agencies and workplaces.

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