[act-ma] 7/26: Rally for Public Defenders Union Rights
ben.c.evans at gmail.com
Sun Jun 10 19:28:59 PDT 2018
Dear Massachusetts Progressive Activists,
You are cordially invited to join us at the State House in a show of
support for the right of public defenders to have the right to collectively
bargain - a right currently enjoyed by the employees of every other
statewide agency in our Commonwealth.
Massachusetts State House
24 Beacon St, Boston
Tell our elected representatives to pass House and Senate bills 1426
In Massachusetts, legal representation for poor people in criminal and
civil cases, and administrative proceedings in which there is a right to
counsel, is provided by the women and men employed by the Committee for
Public Counsel Services (CPCS). These attorneys, social service advocates,
investigators, secretaries and other professionals, also known as Mass
Defenders, work on behalf of poor people in criminal, juvenile, child and
family, mental health and other civil commitment cases.
Everyday, Mass Defenders work hard for the most disadvantaged people in the
Commonwealth. Everyday we fight against racism and mass incarceration.
Everyday we fight for the rights of children, parents, and people
struggling with substance use disorder and mental health issues.
But we have been working for years without a voice in the terms and
conditions of our employment. Unlike other state employees, we do not
currently have the right to collective bargaining. With the help of SEIU
Local 888, and the Labor Movement, we have been fighting to win union
Why support Mass Defenders?
Mass Defenders ensure that poor people’s constitutional rights are
protected. They are on the front lines of the fight to reduce the number of
people warehoused in our state prisons and county jails, including those
awaiting trial, legally innocent, but too poor to post bail.
Mass Defenders ensure that our Constitution is not just an empty promise,
by standing up for the rights of poor people the government seeks to
incarcerate. Our clients are disproportionately people of color, and too
often people struggling with mental illness, addiction, or both.
We are asking for fairness - the same right to collectively bargain as all
other state workers have. We have been building a movement which includes
not only attorneys, but ALL employees of CPCS.
In seeking fairness, we are not just advocating for ourselves, we are also
advocating for our clients, and the communities we serve. The
predictability of a contract and the stability of a collective voice at
work will help to reduce turnover, so CPCS clients can benefit from having
experienced advocates. Like other employees of state wide agencies in
Massachusetts, employees at CPCS seek to have a seat at the table when
policy decisions are made that affect our clients. Our hope is that input
from frontline lawyers will make for policies that better serve our
As we look to how we can reform the criminal justice system, and how we
address the opiate addiction epidemic, we feel strengthening the public
defense system, and Mass Defenders, is one key.
Earlier bills allowing collective bargaining for CPCS employees have been
released favorably from the Joint Committee on Public Service twice since
2013. We hope that this time we can win!
We have been organizing across the state. Here are some recent articles:
Here's a link to more information about our recent efforts:
Our struggle is for fairness, not just better compensation. But the issue
of compensation is related. Public Defenders in Massachusetts are some of
the lowest paid in the United States. Here's a story on that issue from a
few years ago:
We have telephoned our elected representatives. We have sent them personal
letters. We have had lobby days in the State House. We have met with them
in their offices. We have demonstrated outside courthouses.
Now it's time to have a public event on Beacon Hill.
We hope you can join us. With the support of the progressive activist
community we can win this fight.
yours in solidarity,
Fall River, MA
More information about the Act-MA