Council President Nancy Floreen’s bill to silence employees’ voice in labor disputes was dealt a set-back on Tuesday night, July 12, at a scheduled public hearing.
It is a scene we have seen all too often in recent years: the Montgomery County Council meeting room packed with angry public employees wearing an array of colored t-shirts as the nine elected sit on their dais looking down on the crowd. This has been an annual event for years whenever the Council voted on employee contracts during the budget process. Because the County Council as legislature has the ultimate authority over the County’s purse strings, the decision as to what receives funding in any given year rests on them. It is what they get paid for. For years, their choices have drawn the anger of voters and public employees alike. A term-limit referendum now looms as the current Council continues to conduct the taxpayers’ business.
This past Tuesday night, however, was not about the budget. It was a public hearing on Bill 24-16. For an as yet unexplained reason, Council President Nancy Floreen, who has vocalized aspirations to be County Executive, introduced a bill that would turn a nearly 40-year process of collective bargaining on its end. The only justification she has provided for her proposed changes is to increase transparency. The bill is little more than an amalgamation of anti-union recommendations from right wing groups like ALEC, a Koch brother’s funded organizations.
Last Tuesday night, Floreen may have suffered a set-back. The voices raised at the Council public hearing were overwhelmingly against the bill. Included among them were the representatives of employee organizations affected by the bill. But the bill drew the ire of many other labor organizations who have been cautiously watching the Council, and Floreen, since the Council voted to limit police officers’ “effects bargaining” rights in 2011, which are rights common in organized workplaces.
Most notably, Tefere Gebre, the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO, spoke before the Council on Tuesday, scolding them for even considering these changes while identifying themselves with progressive political ideals. Gebre spoke for the AFL-CIO which represents 1.4 million American union workers.
Details of the event can be found at the following blog: http://robertdyer.blogspot.com/2016/07/moco-employees-labor-officials-denounce.html
Since the hearing there have been some changes. District 2 Councilmember Craig Rice, who had originally signed on to the bill as a co-sponsor, has asked to have his name removed from the bill. Although the bill has been scheduled to go before the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, action on the bill has been put off until September, after the Council returns from recess.
Members of the FOP attended the public hearing and joined with the other county employees to pressure the Council with vocal dissatisfaction. So far this has been successful in giving the Council pause for second thought. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THE THREAT OF CHANGE IS GONE! The bill remains out there and as long as it is out there it is a threat.