City workers receive dreaded termination notices

SUDDENLY WITHOUT A JOB 138

November 23, 1991|By Martin C. Evans

The Letter came at 10:30 yesterday morning. Allen D. Cassell knew what it would say before he opened it, but the tears came anyway.

The city job he loved was gone.

"What am I going to do?" said Mr. Cassell, 41, a single parent who is supporting a teen-age daughter.

Job termination notices were sent out to 138 city employees yesterday, part of a plan by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to cut $27.5 million from the municipal budget.

The terminations -- which have been expected since the state announced cuts in aid to the city last month, and take effect Dec. 6 -- hit city workers hard.

For many city employees, the notices represented the latest assault on an idea once accepted as an article of faith: A city job meant job security.

"Years ago, when you worked for the city you knew you didn't make big money but you had a lifetime job," said Mr. Cassell, a grounds maintenance supervisor at Memorial Stadium.

Although the mayor has repeatedly said the Fire Department is overstaffed and that firings in other agencies would hurt city services, not a single firefighter's job was lost. The mayor reached a tentative agreement Wednesday with two unions representing Fire Department employees that will spare the jobs of 252 firefighters.

"The mayor had an alternative, and he chose to spare the people he could spare," said Clinton R. Coleman Jr., Mr. Schmoke's spokesman.

The president of the City Union of Baltimore, Cheryl Boykins Glenn, said that the mayor was not even-handed in making the cuts and that lower-level city employees have been hurt disproportionately by the terminations.

"The city needs to streamline the management operation, which would save the jobs of bottom-rung employees," said Mrs. Glenn. "These people are the ones who actually provide the services people use."

The library system was hardest hit by the terminations, losing 41 people.

Deborah L. Rhodes, 31, a Pittsburgh native who moved to Ednor Gardens from Montgomery County two years ago "to be a part of what this city is all about," also got bad news yesterday.

Ms. Rhodes, the Northwood branch manager, was among two employees there to lose their jobs. She said she had rejected job offers from other library systems to come to Baltimore.

"I wanted to be part of the struggle to move this library system forward," said Ms. Rhodes. "Not being able to be a part of that is painful."

The terminations have the victims worried. Unemployment is high. Money is scarce. And economic experts say that instead of recovering, the economy still may be sliding.

Packets sent out by the city with the termination notices included information on job placement services and counseling offered by the city. But they hardly raised spirits.

Mr. Cassell, who lives in Bel Air, began working for Baltimore part time when he was a student at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School and has never worked for another employer. He supplements his $23,000 annual salary with a $5-an-hour job at the city-run Patterson Park ice rink.

"I can't remember the last time I looked for a job," he said.

Ms. Rhodes is raising a 3-year-old son in the Ednor Gardens home she bought recently with her husband, Albert S. Calloway III. Mr. Calloway works for Montgomery County and is concerned about the possibility that he, too, could lose his job. "This was the first time in my life when I felt comfortable to put down roots," Ms. Rhodes said.

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