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Union says Wade's labor friends few

April 02, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

Washington County Commissioner James R. Wade last week thanked his labor friends in print, but union leaders insist he has none left.

Wade took out a small advertisement in the March 28 edition of the Labor Herald that read: "Thanks to my Labor Friends in Washington County, James Wade, Commissioner Washington County."

When told of the advertisement Wednesday afternoon, state employee union leader Brian McDonnell burst into laughter.

"I'm shocked and amazed. That strikes me to be the height of hypocrisy," said McDonnell, staff representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 92. "Jim Wade has declared war on organized labor He is attacking his neighbors."

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Wade and other commissioners have drawn fire for their decision to revoke collective bargaining rights for 87 county employees who belong to AFSCME.

Wade reiterated his reasons for supporting the move, which was approved by a 4-1 vote on March 18.

"I'm trying to, as best I can, take care of the interests of county taxpayers," he said. "If, in doing that, it upsets one group or another, then that's part of the job."

Wade said the $25 ad runs periodically in the Labor Herald, a Baltimore-based publication that claims a 39,000 biweekly mail circulation throughout the state. He said he places the ad during holidays when the publication asks.

Labor leaders reacted with disbelief.

"Do you think he has any friends in labor after what he's done to us?" asked an incredulous Bobby Fouche, who volunteers for the ALF-CIO Central Maryland Labor Council.

Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers was the only commissioner who voted to keep collective bargaining for 87 County Commuter, roads and landfill workers.

Wade expressed frustration that his colleagues have not been as vocal as he in defending the policy.

"Unfortunately, I seem to be the only commissioner who's willing to speak up in public about it," he said.

Wade said Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades favored the move to eliminate union rights in an effort to ward off unionization in his department. Wade said he has "taken all the bullets" for Mades.

The Teamsters have been trying to unionize the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Mades would not comment on Wednesday.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the four commissioners who voted to revoke collective bargaining rights might have different ways of expressing their opinions, but are all on the same page.

He said the four who voted to decertify the union are as committed as he is and hope legislation introduced in the General Assembly to reverse it fails.

"I have been making just as many phone calls," he said. "We're still all hoping the legislation will be defeated."

But McDonnell said he believes Wade has led the charge.

"He has been the ringleader as far as we're concerned," he said.

The ironic part of Wade's stance is that it conflicts with a generally moderate tone he traditionally has struck, McDonnell said. He said that Wade attended a labor dinner last year. He said that until recently, no one would have been surprised at Wade taking out an ad in a labor publication.

"I don't think a lot of people thought of him as an ally, but no one certainly thought of him as the enemy he has become," McDonnell said. "It was a shock."

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