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Professors, administrators offer union testimony

March 07, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

They carpooled to Annapolis, ate lunch together and even offered to share an umbrella on a rainy afternoon.

But when Hagerstown Community College professors and administration officials testified before a Maryland General Assembly panel Thursday, they faced off on opposite sides.

Two professors on Thursday asked the House Appropriations Committee for the right to organize a union.

Members of the administration testified that collective bargaining is unnecessary.

Board of Trustees Chairman Merle Elliott said the union movement grew out of a past misunderstanding that led to a communication breakdown between the administration and its faculty.

Those problems have been resolved and professors have a good working relationship with President Guy Altieri, who took the post seven months ago, he said.

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Altieri also testified against the bill, saying a recent survey showed that most faculty members are satisfied with the climate and input they get from the administration.

Tom Clemens, a professor and co-president of the Washington County Higher Education Association, said the legislation is preventative.

There is no guarantee that the next administration will be as understanding of the need to include faculty in decision-making, he said.

"It's not personal. It's never been personal," Clemens said after the hearing.

Co-president Mike Harsh, who also testified for the bill, offered to share his umbrella with Altieri.

Elliott said he would pay for lunch at the Loew's Annapolis Hotel.

"It just shows how well people get along in Washington County," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, a proponent of the bill.

Perhaps part of the reason for the good will is the fact that the bill's fate is sealed. It almost certainly will die in the state Senate because all three senators are opposed.

Washington County's five delegates support the collective bargaining bill.

Elliott said he supports the idea of unions when they are needed.

But since relationships are good, he doesn't want the college to bear the added administrative costs.

In addition, the Department of Legislative Services estimates personnel expenses would increase by 1 percent to 1.5 percent a year or more as a result.

The Washington County Commissioners took no position on the legislation.

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