Unions to boycott Montgomery County Democratic Party fundraiser -- Gazette.Net







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A ballot question that passed last November has union leaders poised to protest a Montgomery County Democratic Party fundraiser this May.

Union leaders are urging members to boycott the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s May 11 Spring Ball over the party’s position on a November 2012 referendum that passed, rolling back some bargaining rights for county police.

Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, said the union council is encouraging members to boycott the fundraiser because of where the party stood last fall on ballot Question B.

Question B asked voters if they affirmed a County Council law that took away the police union’s right to bargain the effects of management decisions. The county’s police union, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, together with other public and private unions, asked voters to vote “against” Question B.

But the county’s Democratic Central Committee supported a vote “for” Question B.

Williams said Monday that for decades, the AFL-CIO has helped the Democratic Party raise money.

But this year, the only thing the unions possibly will raise are picket signs.

“What we are contemplating doing is, of course, putting up a picket line at the event,” Williams said, adding that picketing is not set in stone.

Williams called the Spring Ball the party’s “signature event” and said the unions want to send the party a message: “Do not take us for granted.”

FOP Lodge 35 President Torrie Cooke said in an email Tuesday the party took a position against collective bargaining rights for Montgomery County police officers — rights those officers enjoyed for more than 30 years — and therefore took a position against collective bargaining last fall.

“We will stand in solidarity with the AFL-CIO, IAFF, MCGEO and all our union brothers and sisters, not donating to, or participating in, the DCC Spring Ball,” Cooke wrote.

Gino Renne, president of United Food and Commercial Workers/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization Local 1994 MCGEO, said the party will not receive any support from Local 1994.

“Not now or in the future,” he said. “Until they right that wrong.”

How they right their decision on Question B, Renne did not know.

Gabriel Albornoz, chairman of the county Democratic Central Committee, said the unions’ position is disappointing. He said the party’s precinct leadership recommended supporting Question B and the central committee agreed.

He also said the party will try to mend fences with the unions.

“We believe strongly and are great supporters of organized labor,” Albornoz said. “We are going to work on reaching out to labor leaders to work on strengthening the bond that exists between the party and labor.”

Albornoz said he hopes to find a way the party and unions can move forward.

But union leaders want some distance.

“We have got to take care of ourselves. We cannot rely on so-called friends, at least political friends, to be there when we need them,” Williams said. “We are so disappointed and hurt by the party. They didn’t have to do what they did.”

Union leaders who opposed Question B expected the party to remain neutral on the ballot issue, he said, but instead the party voted to support the County Council and roll back bargaining rights for police.

“An injury to one is an injury to all,” Williams said, noting that the FOP is not affiliated with the council.

Mark A. Davies, vice president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1664, Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters Association Inc., said local 1664 will not attend the ball or donate to the party.

“We are not participating in the dinner in any way whatsoever,” Davies said.

Historically, the county firefighters’ union, MCGEO and FOP have supported the party.

Albornoz said the party is still assessing the potential financial impact of the boycott on the central committee.