The president of Montgomery County’s general employee union has asked county leaders to extend protections being considered for service workers to the county’s own employees. But the bill’s author said it already is part of her legislation.
Known as the Displaced Service Workers bill, the controversial legislation would force companies that end contracts with service contractors to retain and pay the contractor’s employees for 90 days after the contract ends.
“I applaud you for your recent support of the legislation in Montgomery County that would give private sector building service workers much-needed job protections,” Gino Renne, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, wrote in a Aug. 29 letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett and Council President Roger Berliner.
“However, your support begs the question: ‘Why don’t your own Montgomery County workers deserve the same protections?’” he wrote.
Protecting private sector employees while not the county’s own temporary workers is hypocritical, Renne said.
Despite offering the union’s support of the bill, Renne criticized the bill’s sponsor, Councilwoman Valerie Ervin. He accused her of introducing the legislation to curry favor with private sector unions, alleging she lost support from public sector unions. During her tenure as council president, the council passed a measure that eliminated Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 contract negotiations for some management decisions.
Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring would not address Renne’s allegations of her political motives, but only called his comments on her bill a “war path.”
She said the bill explictly protects county employees, alleging that Renne must not have read it.
An amendment, supported by the council’s Health and Human Services Committee in July, included added county employee protections.
On Sept. 4, Renne sent an email about the issue, stating the union’s support of the bill and offering what Ervin characterized as an apology.
“We fully support this bill, but we would like to see the County take action protecting the wages and benefits of its own workforce as well,” Renne wrote according to an email forwarded by Ervin’s office.
In what he later characterized as his “first shot across the bow,” Renne also criticized Leggett’s support of the bill, accusing him of denying county employees similar protections during recent rounds of negotiations.
When reached by phone Thursday, Renne reiterated the sentiments of his letter and said that the union had not asked that its members receive any guarantees, only priority for vacancies for laid-off temporary workers.
“Nothing absolute, no absolute guarantees of continued employment, just enhanced opportunities and access to training to make a laid-off member of ours qualified for vacancies,” he said of the union’s request.
The county, however, fought “tooth and nail” against the idea, he said.
Leggett (D) did not return calls for comment. Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda said he does not support the displaced worker bill and was surprised that Renne’s letter was addressed to him.