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Bill would force some nonunion employees to pay union dues

April 11, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Nonunion state employees would be forced to join a union and pay dues under a bill being considered in the Maryland General Assembly.

The bill would be unfair to state employees in Washington County, said Del. Christopher B. Shank, including the 1,652 employees working in the prison complex south of Hagerstown.

Mark A. Vernarelli, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, said the department does not track how many of those employees belong to a union.

What is being called the Fair Share bill is supported by Gov. Martin O'Malley. Under the bill, nonunion state employees would have to pay dues to and be represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Employees who belong to another union, such as the Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA), also would be forced to join AFSCME.

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Attempts to reach someone from AFSCME were unsuccessful.

David Boschert, executive director of MCEA, said the union is opposed to the Fair Share bill, which has passed in the Senate, and will not pass unless it comes to the House Monday for a vote.

Shank, R-Washington, said if all state employees joined AFSCME, the union would receive an additional $7.5 million annually. Each employee would give up about $400 annually in dues deducted from their paychecks.

"It is abhorrent when state employees are struggling with furlough days, there has been talk of layoffs ... to even consider this tax on state employees is repulsive to me," Shank said.

Shank plans to offer several amendments to the bill if it is heard Monday on the House floor.

Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr., who is unaffiliated and represents parts of Washington and Frederick counties, said he "hates" the Fair Share bill. He said it forces nonunion members and members of MCEA and other groups to join a union they do not want to belong to.

"That's something you hear about in a communist country," Weldon said. "Not ours."

MCEA represents 6,000 active employees and 5,000 retired employees statewide, Boschert said. The union does not participate in collective bargaining, which is the function of AFSCME. MCEA does offer legal representation in employee grievances and other services.

Boschert said MCEA dues are about $10.25 per paycheck, and he said AFSCME dues are slightly more.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Allegany/Garrett/Washington, and Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, voted against the Fair Share bill in the Senate.

"I think people should have the choice whether to join a union and pay dues to that union," Munson said.

He said the bill effectively would put MCEA out of business because employees might not want to pay dues to two unions.

Fair Share has been debated in the past and has failed. Munson said he expects the bill to fail again this year.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said he had not made up his mind on the bill and wanted to hear the debate on the issue before making a decision.

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