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HCC unionization drive advances through county delegation

January 30, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County lawmakers agreed Wednesday to seek legislation that would allow Hagerstown Community College professors to unionize.

But the bill is already in trouble because of opposition from all three county senators.

If it passes the Maryland General Assembly, the bill would give HCC's faculty the same collective bargaining rights as public school teachers.

The Washington County Higher Education Association asked local lawmakers for the bill to make sure professors have a say in how the college is run, said association Co-President Tom Clemens.

The Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly rejected the association's request last year on a 4-2 vote.

The delegation, which has three new members this year, approved the bill 5-3 on Wednesday.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, voted against the request last year but changed his mind this year.

"I don't feel the trustees are as responsive as they should in terms of accepting input from the professors," McKee said.

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As an HCC graduate, McKee said his experience was shaped more by his professors than by the Board of Trustees, who oppose the legislation.

College President Guy Altieri said he doesn't feel the legislation is needed, but he told faculty members he would work with them either way.

"We're doing all we can to make sure they have a significant say," Altieri said.

Clemens said the union request was not directed at Altieri.

"Most of us like the new president a great deal and like the direction the college is moving. The main thing we want to do is ensure what we have now on an informal basis gets written into a formal document," Clemens said.

While the legislation is likely to pass the House of Delegates, it will face a major roadblock in the Senate unless at least one senator decides to give his support.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he is adamantly opposed to collective bargaining. He said it could lead to an increase in salaries that will hit taxpayers.

"I'm not going to change my view on this," he said.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, and Sen. John Hafer, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, both voted against the bill.

In a related move, lawmakers voted to seek legislation requiring future college trustees to live in Washington County.

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