Monday, February 27, 2012

Is there a privilege for union member/union rep discussions?

That is the issue that will be argued tomorrow before the Alaska Supreme Court in Petersen v. State of Alaska. In a civil suit filed by Petersen, the State of Alaska sought production of communications between Petersen and his union representative. Petersen resisted production, arguing that communications with his union representative, his sole representative in the grievance process, should be treated as protected from disclosure by either the attorney client privilege or “by a new privilege, hitherto unrecognized under Alaska law, for communications between a union member and a union representative during the grievance process” .The trial court (in an opinion linked at Alaska Employment Law here) rejected this argument and concluded that it was without the authority to create such a new privilege, leaving that to the Legislature or the Alaska  Supreme Court. 
The question of whether communications between a union representative and a bargaining unit employee is discussed by  Professor Mitchell Rubenstein at Adjunct Law Prof  Blog  Adjunct Law Prof Blog: New York Lower Court Effectively Rejects Labor Union Privilege,  and is the subject of an article by him, and the availability of such a privilege in the federal sector is discussed by Peter Jeffrey at “Are Communications Between A Union Representative And A Bargaining Unit Employee Privileged?” | The Jeffrey Law Group, PLLC | The Federal Employee's Law Firm

Update: The Alaska Supreme Court has recognized a labor relations privilege. The court's decision is available here.

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