This page is for all CPCS staff and supporters. Below you will find links to past issues of the MassDefender, the proposed legislation to allow CPCS staff to form a union and other materials relevant to the campaign.
An Act relative to collective bargaining rights
for employees of the Committee on Public Counsel Services
The Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) provides legal representation to indigent persons in criminal and civil cases and administrative proceedings in which there is a right to counsel. The CPCS attorneys, social service advocates, investigators, secretaries and other professionals, know as the MassDefenders, work on behalf of poor people in criminal cases, juvenile cases, child and family cases, mental health and other civil commitment cases. Everyday we work hard for the most disadvantaged people in our Commonwealth. CPCS staff have been working for many years without a voice in our terms and conditions of employment. Although they receive most of the benefits provided other state employees (pensions and healthcare), they do not currently have the right to collectively bargain. Exclusion from collective bargaining denies CPCS employees a basic right. The bill would remedy this injustice by providing CPCS employees the same rights as other state employees. High turnover at CPCS is now costing the state millions of dollars a year in retraining and court costs. The turn over is extraordinary. Passage of the bill would give MassDefenders a pathway to employment stability, enable them to plan for thier future and provide them with a greater stake in the common goals of the Defender Service. We are asking our elected officials to stand with the employees of CPCS and the entire labor community to support their right to have a voice at work through collective bargaining.
Cost: Initially NONE. Eventually MassDefenders would receive the same collectively bargained economic adjustments as all other state employees. As employees of the Commonwealth, they already have state GIC health care and pension benefits as well as all other statutorily mandated employee rights. This bill only seeks to grant CPCS employees the right to collectively bargain for wages and working conditions and fairness in the workplace. The only way to address issues of funding and pay in a predictable, gradual and consistent way is through a collectively bargained agreement.
Why: When CPCS was originally created in Chapter 211D of the Massachusetts General Laws, its employees were not assigned to any of the established state bargaining units. The Department of Labor Relations (DLR) has previously ruled that we have no defined “employer.” To fix this, the legislature needs to amend Chapter 150E to clarify that in the case of employees of CPCS, the “employer” is the Committee for Public Counsel Services, or its designee.
Scope: The language in the proposed bill does not specify the bargaining unit, however it does apply to all CPCS employees, numbering nearly 750. The details will be worked out using existing protocols with the DLR. This bill does not apply to attorneys who are appointed to represent indigent people through the CPCS Private Counsel Division and the county bar advocate programs.
MassDefender Legislative Documents:
Organizing Campaign Documents:
Organizing Campaign Song by Erin McKeown:
The Deliberator: The MassDefender’s News Letter:
Issue #3: The Deliberator V1-FEB 2015-Final
Press on MassDefenders: