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State Bar leaders have canceled their long-planned mid-year meeting set for this weekend in Long Beach out of fear that union employees, engaged in hard-fought labor negotiations, would picket the event. “The decision to postpone the meeting was made after it was learned that the union representing State Bar employees had targeted March 21 as a possible date for a strike action,” the Bar said in a statement late Friday. “Bar officials made the decision in order to enable speakers, panelists, volunteers, Bar leaders and others to avoid the picket line activity.” The mid-year meeting, which would have featured various seminars and speakers such as California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin, would have been held Friday and Saturday at the Westin Long Beach. Meetings of the State Bar’s Board of Governors will go on as planned. On March 6, members of Local 535 of the Service Employees International Union voted to authorize a general walkout if union leaders felt it was appropriate. The union, which represents as many as 500 State Bar employees, has been negotiating with management since July over several issues. The parties are locked over the union’s demand that the Bar provide retiree health benefits, and a management proposal that could freeze step increases and cost-of-living raises this year and possibly beyond. The union hadn’t set an official date for a walkout, but State Bar management was fairly certain it might happen Friday. “It made perfect sense,” Robert Hawley, the Bar’s deputy executive director and lead negotiator said. “That’s a pressure point and that even would be the likely target.” Hawley was right. “We thought it was a good target, to gain the purity of their attention, and apparently it did,” union representative Barbara Field, a Los Angeles-based State Bar investigator, said Friday. Whether the picketing will proceed now that only the Bar governors and a few staff members are coming isn’t clear. State Bar President James Herman criticized union leaders. “We’re very disappointed that the union has decided to step outside the process,” he said Friday. “This job action is only hurting innocent members of the State Bar.”

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