Minnesota Public Defenders Reach Interim Agreement, Avoiding Walkouts
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota Public Defenders have reached a tentative agreement, union officials said Saturday, avoiding a walkout that threatened to paralyze the state court system.
Negotiators for the United Attorney General and the Minnesota Board of Public Defense met with a state mediator on Friday. Gus Froemke, a spokesman for Teamsters Local 320, which represents 470 public defenders and 200 support staff members, said the agreement was reached shortly before midnight.
Public defenders were ready to go on strike early Tuesday across Minnesota. Attorneys say they have been routinely pushed to the brink of high caseloads that have become uncontrollable in the coronavirus epidemic. Legal observers say similar pressures are being felt across the United States
The union says the temporary agreement includes the cost of adjusting for living by 2023. The agreement includes a 3.5% previous salary increase from July 1, 2021 and an additional 3% increase after July 1 of this year. Both parties have agreed to allocate a supplementary budget from the legislature this year
“After more than nine months of tough bargaining for fair work conditions and better pay, both essential to retaining good quality attorneys and support staff, we are pleased to reach an agreement with the board that will help us more accurately represent the Minnesota helpless.” Defendants, “said public defender Ginny Barron in a statement.
Defense attorneys will vote on the deal within two weeks, the union said.
The large-scale public defender strike is almost unprecedented. Attorneys held a one-day walkout in Ventura County, California in 1995, but in many states public defenders are not united. In many jurisdictions, there are mostly private practice attorneys who protect part-time vulnerable clients.
Coincidentally, Friday marked the 59th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark “Gideon” decision, which states states must provide attorneys for criminal defendants who cannot afford them.