Labor & Employment

Hard-Fought Attorney Union Campaign in Minn. AG's Office

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Ground zero in a union-organizing effort that has attracted international attention might strike some as an unlikely venue.

But the 135-lawyer Minnesota attorney general’s office is a worker-rights hot spot. Nearly one-third of the staff lawyers allegedly have left, either of their own volition or because they were forced out, during a hard-fought yearlong union organizing effort that is still ongoing, according to the Workday Minnesota website.

Now the Star Tribune (reg. req.) reports that an assistant attorney general has been placed on administrative leave this week, over what she claims was a trumped-up legal ethics charge resulting from her union-organizing activities.

After assistant attorney general Amy Lawler publicly voiced concerns that the office was filing some lawsuits with, she now says, sufficient but lackluster merit, Attorney General Lori Swanson disciplined her for not reporting her concerns to the Minnesota Board of Professional Responsibility, the Minneapolis-St. Paul newspaper reports.

But an official of a union that is seeking to organize the attorneys, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, says the move seems to have been intended to punish Lawyer for speaking out about legitimate concerns. “Who will uphold our Constitution if Minnesota’s top lawyer expects her own employees to surrender their right to free speech and assembly?” says Eliot Seide, the director of AFSCME Council 5.

Swanson contends that attorneys in her office are prohibited by state law from forming a union.

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