Union woos city police supervisors

April 11, 1997


Staff Writer

Several Hagerstown City Police supervisors are attempting to unionize so they will be in a better bargaining position for raises and benefits, a city police officer said Friday.

"They don't feel they can control their own destinies when it comes to raises," said Capt. Robert Hart, who said he is remaining neutral on the matter.

"When it comes down to raises, we're at the mercy of whatever they give us," Hart said, referring to City Council members.


Teamsters Local 103 of Glen Burnie, Md., has requested an election be held to unionize the department's two police captains, four lieutenants and 17 sergeants, according to a March 10 letter from Teamsters International Trustee Billy D. Mendenall to the Maryland commissioner of labor and industry.

In that same letter, Teamsters officials requested an election also be held for the Washington County sheriff's deputies.

Concern over the Teamsters' effort to organize the Sheriff's Department contributed to the Washington County Commissioners' decision to revoke collective bargaining rights for county employees on March 18.

"We, the city, have a long-standing policy that is supportive of unions at the rank-and-file level, but not beyond," said Mayor Steven T. Sager. The city's other supervisors do not belong to a union.

Sager and council members met in closed session about two months ago to confirm that policy before Sager sent a letter to Mendenall to that effect.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the city's attorney advised them that under state law the city's policy is appropriate.

While sergeants spend time patrolling the streets, they still have supervisory duties, Zimmerman said.

"It's hard to have union members supervising other union members," Zimmerman said.

But Hart said the supervisory police officers would belong to a different union than the patrol officers and investigative officers.

The patrol officers and investigative officers are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3373, which has 70 members.

Officials with Local 3373 are negotiating a new contract with the city. The current contract expires on June 30.

Besides concern about raises, Hart said there is a fear among supervisory police officers that Local 3373 could give a benefit away in negotiations that would affect the nonunionized, supervisory officers.

Now, when Local 3373 members get an extra holiday or sick day, so do the supervisory officers, Hart said.

If Local 3373 gave away a benefit, such as a holiday, in negotiations for another benefit, it might affect the supervisory officers as well, he said.

The supervisory officers might not have a say, Hart said.

Labor Commissioner John P. O'Connor said certain steps must be taken before a union election can be held.

Thirty percent of the 23 affected police officers must sign cards stating that they want an election to be held to join the Teamsters.

Hart said at least 30 percent of those officers have signed the cards. To remain neutral, Hart has not signed a card.

O'Connor said his office would do what it could to help resolve the matter as soon as possible so the union issue wouldn't distract police officers from their jobs.

"We don't need a controversial election to disrupt public safety," O'Connor said.

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