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May
2015
20

Wary of Their New Boss, 189 Lawyers Working for PA AG Press for Unionization

Kathleen Kane

PA AG Kathleen Kane


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A unionization effort by the 189 attorneys that work for Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is taking shape.  The American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania has invited the lawyers to a May 27th meeting at which they can discuss “workplace issues.”  If successful, the effort would create a collective bargaining unit for the lawyers and allow them the same benefits that most of the office’s 826-person staff enjoys from their unions.  

A flyer for the meeting, obtained by Penn Live, promises “frank discussion” about job security, protection against arbitrary treatment, and having a voice 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 boldface type: “Your employer may NOT retaliate against you for attending this meeting.”

The move to unionize could have been partially sparked by Kane’s actions since being elected.  She may soon face charges for her role in a controversial leak, writes Penn Live:

* Kane’s controversial dismissal of James Barker, a top deputy, shortly after reports emerged that Barker had testified against Kane’s interests in an 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 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 of whether 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.”

Since becoming the first female Attorney General in Pennsylvania’s history, Kane has been accused of the very corruption she was elected to combat.  Her decision to promote Duecker despite existing claims of sexual harassment against him led many to question her judgement. Duecker could theoretically be given direct command over those who have made the allegations.  This combination of missteps has added fuel to what was once viewed as a fledgling unionization fire.

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