Potomac Center employees protest

February 27, 2001

Potomac Center employees protest


photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Potomac Center protestNearly 80 Potomac Center employees and regional union members rallied Tuesday, protesting shift changes and what they said they viewed as the center's disregard for worker seniority.


The center's 70 to 80 union employees have been working under a two-year contract that went into effect in June 2000, said Freda Forrest, president of the Central Maryland American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 354.

Union members don't like the manner in which shift changes are being implemented, she said. Management uses shift changes to retaliate against workers who complain, which hurts the center's clients, she said.


The state-funded Potomac Center is a residential facility on Marshall Street that provides daily care for about 80 mentally disabled clients, Forrest said.

Karen Post, Western Regional Director for the Developmentally Disabled Administration, said she and a Potomac Center administrator have met with union representatives and were willing to continue talks.

She said the plan was to discuss establishing a criteria for implementing future shift changes at a meeting with union members scheduled for March 9.

Post said employees could express their concerns at that meeting.

"Our first concern is meeting the needs of the clients and we recognize that the employees are a key part in meeting those needs," said Post.

Forrest said clients grow accustomed to their caregivers and can become distraught at the prospect of change.

"We become their family," said Forrest, a 22-year employee at the Center.

The union members also are tired of relatively new hires being picked for jobs over long-term employees in good standing, she said.

Tammy Shatzer, who has worked at the Potomac Center for 12 years, she said was frustrated at being passed over for a promotion in favor of a two-year employee.

Shatzer of Chambersburg, Pa., wore a placard that stated: "We are not here just for a paycheck. We're here because we care. Why don't you?"

Long-term employee Linda Capouellez of State Line, Pa., said she has an excellent work record but was passed over when she applied for a position for which she said she was qualified. A two-year employee got the position and Capouellez was never given an explanation, she said.

Potomac Center employees were joined by members of the United Steelworkers, United Autoworkers, and AFSME who shouted "No voice, no choice" as they marched around the grounds of the center.

Most wore placards expressing concerns about patients and seniority. "Stop putting people at risk with the stroke of a pen," one sign read.

One union worker brought a dog that wore a sign that proclaimed: "Even senior dogs have rights."

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