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Judge rejects challenge to collective bargaining

March 04, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Judge rejects challenge to collective bargaining

A Washington County Circuit judge has dismissed a challenge to Maryland's collective bargaining process.

Judge Frederick C. Wright III on Friday threw out a suit filed last June by the Maryland Classified Employees Association.

In the suit, the union had asked for an injunction against implementation of four election results in which another union won the right to represent state employees.

The MCEA argued that the state did not provide a level playing field when it set up the collective bargaining process.

The suit maintained that the union was denied information and specific guidelines on the elections. MCEA lost all seven of the elections in which it participated.

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The dismissal represents a victory for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which won seven of the elections, including one involving state correctional officers.

Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, praised the decision. He said the governor remains committed to the collective bargaining process, which gives state workers "a seat at the table."

Glendening issued an executive order in 1996 giving state employees the right to engage in collective bargaining for the first time. The order divided the state's work force into nine units, each of which was allowed to select a union to negotiate wages, benefits and work rules.

"It has been a very smooth process. There have been no glitches in the process," Feldmann said.

Janet Anderson, an MCEA spokeswoman, said the union's suit was meant to ensure a "fair, nonmanagement-controlled" collective bargaining process.

"What the judge has said is the state can continue to make up rules in an ad hoc fashion, make up rules as they go along," she said.

Anderson said an average of 40 percent of MCEA's members voted in the elections, an indication that there were flaws with the process. She said some members called weeks after the election to say they had not received ballots.

"There was just so much confusion," she said. "We didn't think (the rules) favored the employees."

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