County begs for labor bill's defeat

April 02, 1997


Staff Writer

The Washington County Commissioners have asked State Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller to block an attempt by the county's delegation to the General Assembly to force the reinstatement of collective bargaining to some county employees.

"I implore you to intercede in this attempt to impose legislation on us that we do not want," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook wrote in a letter to Miller dated Tuesday. "Isn't collective bargaining by county employees a county issue, not a state issue?"

The bill that would force the commissioners to reinstate collective bargaining for 87 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees could go before the full Senate this morning.


The legislation would put into law the collective bargaining resolution that the commissioners repealed in a March 18 vote.

The commissioners also issued a press release Tuesday detailing the reasons for their decision to rescind collective bargaining for county Roads Department, landfill and County Commuter employees.

"County Commissioners and other county officials had spent hundreds of hours negotiating for 87 employees, and those employees were ending up with no more than the other county employees already enjoyed in wages and benefits," the press release said. "It seemed a tremendous, costly waste of time."

The commissioners also said they wanted to head off attempts to unionize additional county employees. The Teamsters have been trying to organize the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

"It's obvious our delegation isn't going to listen to us," said Commissioner James R. Wade.

Wade said the commissioners, except for Ronald L. Bowers, who cast the only vote against rescinding collective bargaining, are lobbying delegates and senators from other areas to fight the delegation bill.

"We're out here looking to protect the taxpayer in the best way we can and they're out there looking for votes," Wade said of delegation members.

Wade said the commissioners are at a disadvantage in the matter because there will be no hearings on the bill.

Wade said he was approached last week by a union representative who asked him what it would take to change his mind.

"I'm just not for sale," Wade said. "It's a fundamental issue of what's good for the county."

Wade said the issue was an example of state legislators mandating county actions without following through with the money to pay for the mandates.

But Bowers said he felt the delegation was acting properly in its role of providing a check and balance to the commissioners and said he was philosophically opposed to withdrawing collective bargaining.

Miller could not be reached for comment.

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