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Arbitrator called to set date for union vote

July 26, 1998|By MATTHEW BIENIEK

An arbitrator is expected to set a date Tuesday for Washington County Water and Sewer Department employees to vote on whether they want to join a union.

He also is expected to rule on whether certain employees should be allowed to participate.

Bill Mowery, organizing director for Teamsters Local 103, said he expects the vote to be held no more than 30 days after the hearing.

The Teamsters and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 67 have both petitioned the county to hold an election to decide whether about 50 of the department's 64 employees want a union to represent them.

A petition is the first step toward unionization under state law, he said.

An arbitrator was called in after the county and the union failed to agree on an election date or on which employees are eligible for representation.

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Both sides chose arbitrator Ira Jaffe from a list provided by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, a federal agency, said Frank Kollman, a Baltimore lawyer who represents the county in labor matters.

Jaffe works independently out of Potomac, Md., and charges $1,200 a day, a cost which will be split between the union and the county.

In dispute before Jaffe are the date of the election and whether 11 employees of the department should vote and ultimately be represented by a union.

If Jaffe decides the employees are supervisors, they cannot vote and will not be represented by the union, said Kollman.

The hearing will take place at the County Administration Building, 100 W. Washington St.

The only county employees in a union now are about 85 Roads Department, landfill, and County Commuter workers, represented by AFSCME Local 2677.

The best outcome for the county would be for the water and sewer employees to reject the Teamsters and reject AFSCME, Kollman said.

But Mowery said he is confident his organizing efforts will pay off.

"We expect to win the election by an overwhelming majority," he said.

Mowery said 41 or 42 water and sewer employees have signed representation cards asking for union representation.

The law requires 70 percent of employees in a potential bargaining unit to sign the cards before an election can be held, Mowery said.

The election is decided by a simple majority.

Representatives from AFSCME had no comment on the hearing.

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