Despite county claims to the contrary, union officials said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 is not the only Montgomery County employee union that can bargain “effects” under its contracts.
Union leaders rallying around Montgomery County police in the fight to defeat ballot Question B said they too have the right to bargain the effects of management decisions, just under a different set of rules.
Montgomery County’s employees union, United Food and Commercial Workers/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization Local 1994, has that right, President Gino Renne said at a press conference Oct. 10 where union leaders and state lawmakers urged residents to vote against ballot Question B this November.
“We have effects bargaining. It’s a different process,” Renne said detailing how it had to argue before a labor administrator to put management decisions on the bargaining table.
“The FOP’s process is superior to ours because it has rules and boundaries and timetables in which the effect bargaining is conducted. Ours does not,” he said. “That does not mean we don’t have effects bargaining, we just have a much more cumbersome process and a much more costly process.”
In 2011, the County Council passed a bill to repeal the police union’s 30-year-old process for bargaining the effects of management decisions, for example employee transfers or plans on how to field equipment.
Even if Question B were to pass and that bill become law, County Attorney Marc P. Hansen said police would not lose the right to bargain the effects of most management decisions.
Instead, police would have to bargain management decisions under the same process used by the county’s other employee unions, putting FOP on an equal ground with MCGEO and the International Association of Firefighters Local 1664, he said.
Lt. Dave Anderson, Montgomery County police chief of staff, described police’s current effects bargaining process as a “second bite at the apple.” When union efforts fail to have issues bargained as a mandatory subject — which include wages, benefits and working conditions — FOP still can bargain its effects.
If voters cast ballots “for” Question B, Anderson said effects bargaining still would be in play, but not guaranteed on every management decision, as it is today.
Torrie Cooke, president of Lodge 35, said the change would take a “perfect” process and replace it with something long and costly.
“What you are also losing is a peaceful and orderly process,” Cooke said. “Why would you want to get rid of a process that works?”
Question B is about more than the FOP and its relations with Montgomery County, it is about organized labor as a whole, said Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO.
Allowing the bill to become law in Democratic and progressive Montgomery County — what Williams called “one of the bluest of the blue locations” — would set a dangerous precedent and example for conservatives eyeing limits on collective bargaining, he said.
Del. Charles E. Barkley (D-Dist. 39) of Germantown said he feared it was the top of a slippery slope eliminating bargaining rights in Montgomery County.
Last month, the county’s Democratic Central Committee voted to support the council and urge voters to vote “yes” on Question B. The Republican committee shortly thereafter agreed.