Attorney wants county to rule on AFSCME

December 19, 1997


Staff Writer

The Washington County Commissioners' labor attorney on Wednesday urged the commissioners to rule on their own charge that the union representing about 85 county roads, landfill and bus workers had engaged in an unfair labor practice.

Baltimore attorney Frank Kollman also asked the commissioners to order the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to pay some of the county's legal fees.

Kollman said the union had repeatedly violated the state law that the union fought to have enacted this year after the commissioners voted to decertify the union.


"What is rotten in the county of Washington is the union of AFSCME," Kollman said.

Kollman said that the county and the union had reached an agreement on all eight issues that must be negotiated under the state law mandating collective bargaining. The union refused to sign an agreement because the county refused to negotiate other issues, including vacations, a dues check-off procedure, holidays, health insurance and retirement benefits.

Kollman said the law doesn't force the county to negotiate those issues and said holding an agreement hostage to those nonmandatory issues was an unfair labor practice.

Kollman also accused the union of intentionally delaying a hearing before a neutral mediator on the unfair labor practice charge in order to convince state legislators to change the state collective bargaining law to make it more favorable to the union.

Kollman said preparing for a hearing before a neutral mediator agreed upon by both parties could cost the county as much as $50,000 in additional legal fees.

Kollman charges the county about $175 an hour. His law firm had been paid $87,400 by October.

Joel Smith, a Baltimore attorney hired by AFSCME, called the Wednesday hearing an outrage. Smith said the commissioners shouldn't be judge and jury for a dispute in which they are a party and should wait for a neutral mediator to make a determination on unfair labor practice charges.

Smith denied that the union wanted to delay matters and said the union wants a new contract.

Smith said the county had engaged in an unfair labor practice by announcing an agreement to the press when no agreement had been signed or voted on by the union.

Union negotiator George Gisin said the union was prepared to take legal action against the county and to work for a change in the law in the upcoming General Assembly session.

The union hasn't had a contract with the county since July 1, 1996.

Commissioner Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners would decide what to do when they meet again in January.

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