Philadelphia's public defenders vote to form a union

Cherri Gregg
December 02, 2019 - 6:34 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia's public defenders got together and voted to form a union. The group made the announcement on Twitter on Monday.

According to the release posted to the Defender Association of Philadelphia's union Twitter account, a majority of Philadelphia's public defenders voted to unionize under the umbrella of the United Automobile Workers, a union that represents manufacturing workers and some workers in the legal field. 

On Monday, organizers delivered their signed petition to Defender Association of Philadelphia's management, writing in part that "the collective bargaining agreement will create more transparency and consistent expectations for workers so we can build our careers at the Defender Association." 

The Defender Association is the city's largest criminal defense law firm and represents about 70% of the city's criminal cases. The agency is publicly funded, with most of its $46 million budget coming directly from City Hall. 

Chief Keir Bradford-Grey issued a statement saying in part "The Defender Association fully supports the right of workers to unionize. We have just received the petition requesting union recognition, we look forward to reviewing it and having additional discussions with our attorneys about how to work toward our shared goals."

The proposed collective bargaining unit would represent about 200 of the organization's 240 attorneys. 

City of Philadelphia spokesman Mike Dunn issued the following statement: 

"Mayor Kenney is a strong supporter of workers’ rights to unionize if that is what they determine is needed in their workplace. This sentiment extends to the Defender Association of Philadelphia. The administration is willing to be at the table for any discussions during the process—as we have with other employers like the Community College of Philadelphia to ensure a resolution that is agreeable for all parties."