Labor bill passes 110-17

April 03, 1997


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland General Assembly gave final approval Thursday to a bill that would force the Washington County Commissioners to restore collective bargaining for county employees.

By a 110-17 vote in the House of Delegates, the bill completed its glide through the legislature. All that remains for it to become law is the signature of Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"I'm very pleased. " said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington. "I think this is one for the working people of Washington County."


Despite criticism from the commissioners that the delegation was getting involved in local issues - and a prediction from Commissioner James R. Wade that the delegation did not have enough clout to get the bill passed -  lawmakers had predicted easy passage.

"We won. Period," said Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington.

All members of the county's legislative delegation voted for the bill except for Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, and Del. J. Anita Stup, R-Frederick/Washington, neither of whom voted.

"I think the County Commissioners were wrong in what they did, but I have a real strong belief that was a decision made on the local level and they were going to have to live with it," McKee said.

The legislation has been at the center of a public dispute between the county delegation and the County Commissioners that started last month when the commissioners voted to abolish collective bargaining rights for county employees.

The March 18 decision ended union representation for 87 Roads Department, landfill and County Commuter workers who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2677.

The commissioners said they were acting in the best interest of the county, but their action drew criticism from union officials and others. The outcry, which included a protest rally in downtown Hagerstown, prompted the delegation to push for the legislation.

Some commissioners and pro-business leaders had tried to draw opposition to the bill from other lawmakers in the state. But Del. Gerald J. Curran, D-Baltimore City, said he supported the legislation because of the legislature's unofficial rules of local courtesy, under which bills that affect a specific county or area usually are passed if they have the support of the lawmakers from that area.

"I don't think we want to put ourselves in the middle of a purely local issue," said Curran, chairman of the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee.

Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for Glendening, said the governor had not decided whether he will sign the legislation. The first bill-signing date is next Tuesday.

"I guess if they change the law, they change the law. We'll have to work within the law," said County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook.

Shirley Kirkwood, chief negotiator for AFSCME Local 2677, said she would like to restore the positive relationship that once existed between the union and the commissioners.

"I just think we need to get back to the business of the day and save face on both sides," Kirkwood said.

Staff writer Steven T. Dennis contributed to this story.

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