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Labor first - Woman leads union group

November 28, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Teresa Martin doesn't see herself as an out-front leader. She prefers quiet work, to be an organizer in the wings.

But as the new president of a Western Maryland labor council, Martin's role is changing.

Martin, who works at Volvo Powertrain North America near Hagerstown, is thought to be the first female president of the Central Maryland AFL-CIO Council and its 9,500 members.

Although some observers say a woman might have been an unlikely labor leader in Washington County 20 years ago, Martin, 47, of Falling Waters, W.Va., sees gender as irrelevant now.

"I think it depends on the person, really ...," she said. "It's how you behave in a group of people you're supposed to be leading. It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman. It's how you do your job."

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Martin worked at Tri-State Electrical & Electronics Supply Co. in Hagerstown, then Psillas Planning & Pension Corp., from which she was laid off, she said.

She took a union job in 1999 at Mack Trucks, which later became Volvo Powertrain North America. As an office services coordinator, she helps the director of driveline engineering, as well as designers and engineers.

Martin became active in United Auto Workers Local 1247, which represents about 115 Volvo Powertrain North America office and engineering employees. After waiting a year, as required, she ran for recording secretary and won.

"The more I got into it, the more passionate I was, the more I learned," she said.

Martin holds local, state and regional union positions.

The Central Maryland AFL-CIO Council is made up of about 35 locals in Washington and Frederick counties, representing police officers, firefighters, electricians, letter carriers and many other trades. It includes UAW locals.

In 2003, she ran unopposed for recording secretary of the council, putting her on the executive committee.

She said she ran for president this year so someone from the committee could keep the council going in the right direction.

On Nov. 13, Martin defeated Wayne Hose, president of the Hagerstown police officers' local. She said the vote was 16-10. A handful of delegates attended the election meeting but did not vote.

Martin, whose term is three years, is the only returning member of the executive committee. Bobby Fouche, the council's education director and a past president, said the committee had mostly retirees before, but is now mostly current employees.

The council was chartered in 1958. Fouche said the milestone of the first female president is significant, although women have held other offices.

"She's very conscious of the needs of the working class in this country," said David A. Perkins, the president of UAW Local 171, which represents about 1,300 employees, mostly at Volvo Powertrain North America.

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