Hearing Sets-Back Floreen’s Bill

Public Hearing on Floreen Bill 24-16 IMG_7220

Public Hearing on Floreen Bill 24-16 draw Labor’s ire.

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.

COUNTY COUNCIL AND POLICE PAY

Montgomery County police officers collectively bargain over pay, hours and working conditions under the Montgomery County Code. Matters subject to bargaining, the timeline for bargaining, and the means of resolving an impasse are all laid out in the law. An agreement reached under our law is binding on the FOP and the County Executive. It can be enforced by either party on the other. But the County Council still has a say.

The County Council must vote on legislation required to implement a provision of the contract.  An agreement to change our retirement benefits would require a change in the retirement law. The change would be submitted as a bill, debated, and voted on by all councilmembers.

The Council also has the sole power to appropriate money. So it decides whether to fund or not to fund any provision of the contract requiring an allocation of money. Our compensation comes in the form of wages and benefits which must be budgeted and funded in any fiscal year.

The Council must indicate on or before May 1 whether they intend to fund the compensation for the upcoming budget year. This allows a period to renegotiate the agreement so it can be passed by the Council.

This year we negotiated a 1% pay increase and the restoration of a 3.5% increment for officers missing increments.

On April 26, 2016, the Council unanimously voted to reject funding our restored 3.5% increment. We met with the County Executive and agreed to amend the contract to address the Council’s concerns. It was sent back to the Council. The Council will take it up again on Monday, May 16, 2016.

The Council should honor our agreement. It was reached through give and take by both parties. Years ago, the Council took unprecedented action in withholding funding for service increments. Since that time some of us have been working for up to 7% less than we were promised when hired. Meanwhile, the Council has continued to spend, including spending on their own raises. It’s time to restore the pay promise to police officers.

You can help by actively supporting your Contract. Watch for information for the date of the Council vote. Come to the Council meeting for the vote and let them see us – the families affected by the vote. Bring your family. Call and email the councilmembers and ask your family, friends and neighbors to do the same. The County Council must hear that the community supports us.  The County Council must hear from US that our pay is important to us.  They must know we need it and that we are willing to fight for it. It is YOUR money. YOU have to stand up for it.