Control over city union at stake today

September 20, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

The fight for control of the third-largest Baltimore city employee labor union -- a grudge match for some -- will be decided today as a ticket that bills itself as a reform team takes on the controversial incumbent president of AFSCME Local 44.

Glenard S. Middleton Sr., 43, two-time president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 44, is being challenged by two city workers, both of whom complain he has not adequately represented the 4,300 mostly blue-collar employees who belong to the union.

Anthony P. Marciszewski, 34, the motor equipment lead mechanic at the Fire Department's Key Highway shop, heads the seven-person New Direction ticket and promises to lead Local 44 in just that way.

"We want to go in a new direction, where the people are treated like union members," Mr. Marciszewski said.

"The union members are going to run this union, they're going to decide what's good for the union and what's bad -- not Glen Middleton, not the executive board. That's what unions are all about."

Mr. Marciszewski almost did not make it to the ballot, however, because Local 44, controlled by Mr. Middleton, maintained that he was ineligible to run for office. That matter was resolved Thursday, when the local agreed to include Mr. Marciszewski's name on the ballot after his lawyers sued for an injunction in federal court.

"They just tried to do it, hoping that I would bow out and go away. And with me being the candidate for president, they hoped my ticket would fall apart," Mr. Marciszewski said.

Mr. Middleton did not return a reporter's phone calls, but he has answered his critics in campaign literature circulated among city workers.

The literature cautions workers to watch out for "snakes" among his competition and points to his record of negotiations with the city on behalf of workers as "the real truth."

Yet it is Mr. Middleton's record that prompted the second contender for the presidency, Benny Wilkes Sr., to enter the fray.

Mr. Wilkes, 60, an automotive truck mechanic at the Department of Public Works' Central Garage on Dickman Street, complains that employees represented by Local 44 under Mr. Middleton have lost ground.

He points to Local 44's acceptance of the city's proposal for wage concessions and a plan that cut members' pay by five days in order to avoid layoffs.

"The city took money away from us, and that wasn't fair," said Mr. Wilkes, who ran against Mr. Middleton in 1989 and lost.

Some members of the union's rank and file also have raised questions about the city continuing to pay Mr. Middleton through March of this year as one of the local's five chief shop stewards, even though he acknowledged he didn't have time to represent members at grievance proceedings.

Between December 1989 and March, the city paid Mr. Middleton nearly $60,000 -- plus benefits. During that time, he held two positions with the city: a sergeant at the former Baltimore City Jail and then as a "laborer crew leader I" for the Department of Transportation.

The local's contract provides for the city to pay the salary of the stewards -- who are city employees -- to handle employee grievances full time. But some union members complain that Mr. Middleton never handled any grievances.

In fact, in an agreement with the city for a leave of absence from his transportation department job, Mr. Middleton acknowledged that since his "promotion" to executive director of Council 67 in December 1989, he "is no longer able to devote his working hours as required by [the local's contract with the city] to the processing of grievances."

Yet, Jesse E. Hoskins, the city's acting labor commissioner who negotiated the final agreement with Mr. Middleton, said last week the city has no intention of trying to recoup the wages.

"During that time [in question], I spoke with him constantly, and I couldn't say he wasn't working for Local 44, because we talked all the time about issues," said Mr. Hoskins, who is also director of the Civil Service Commission.

"But no, Jesse Hoskins can't tell you for eight hours a day what his time was spent on," he said.

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