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N.J. lawmakers approve unionization of state prosecutors

 

By Chris Megerian/Statehouse Bureau

 

January 11, 2010, 11:56PM

 

TRENTON -- A bill allowing deputy attorneys general to unionize squeaked through the Legislature tonight.

Mid-level lawyers at the attorney general's office said they need a union to lobby for better pay and working conditions.

fred-madden-statehousejpg-84aaf5964fdf73AP Photo/Brian Branch-PriceNew Jersey Sen. Fred Madden (D-Gloucester) in the Statehouse in this 2002 file photo."It will help put some sense of stability and safety in the work arrangements," said Sen Fred Madden (D-Gloucester), whose committee cleared the bill.

The bill (S3071) now goes to the governor for his signature.

Outgoing Attorney General Anne Milgram said deputies need better pay because they make less than their counterparts at other government agencies.

"I cannot say it starkly enough," she told the Senate Labor Committee last month. "I do not believe the department will continue to succeed unless we solve this problem."

But Milgram expressed concern that a union would prevent an attorney general to shift resources around the department.

Deputy Attorney General Andrew Reese, one of the lawyers pushing for unionization, has said collective bargaining would not restrict the attorney general's authority.

Tonight, the bill's supporters put it up for a vote in the Senate, but it stalled at 20 votes, one less than required. A gang of senators stood in the center of the chamber conferring with each other, then decided to hold off until they secured one more vote.

It finally passed 21-15 when Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) returned to the chamber and nodded to an aide, who pushed the button for the final yes vote.

The bill then moved to the Assembly, where it passed 45-28 without debate.

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