An AFL-CIO affiliated union has won the right to represent 1,600 Baltimore County white-collar workers, roundly defeating the local chapter of the Maryland Classified Employees Association in a hard-fought election.
The new union, called the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, defeated the incumbent Baltimore County Classified Employees Association (BCCEA) by a vote of 694-222.
The new union's parent, the Federation of Public Employees, has 175,000 members nationally and is a subsidiary of the 850,000-member American Federation of Teachers.
The two-week, mail-in election conducted by the American Arbitration Association came after more than a year of legal wrangling and court suits between the two labor groups. Arbitrators counted the votes yesterday.
Workers and union officials said they viewed the outcome as an expression of workers' frustration, fear and anger over three years without pay increases and County Executive Roger B. Hayden's unprecedented layoff of 392 employees in February.
Two lawsuits have been filed to reverse the layoffs, one a class-action suit filed in March by the Maryland Classified Employees Association, and one filed this month by 44 laid-off workers.
Morris Barrett, president of BCCEA, attributed his group's defeat to the layoffs, lack of raises and the poor economy.
"It's apparent the employees wanted to try something new," he said.
Michael McCusker, a spokesman for the BCCEA's parent, the Maryland Classified Employees Association, was more direct. "The sins of the Hayden administration were visited on BCCEA," he said.
Mel Driban, a national representative for the American Federation of Teachers, said that the new union will be more aggressive in seeking better pay, working conditions and benefits for county workers.
"We now have a mandate to provide county employees with the type of representation they were seeking while at the same dealing professionally with the county administration," he declared.
County labor commissioner Arthur K. Davis said that once the results are certified, the new labor group must sign up members who are willing to pay dues and submit their names to the county. Once that is done, the $5-per-paycheck dues deduction now flowing to BCCEA will go to the new group.
The current labor contract will remain in effect until the new union negotiates a new agreement that will take effect July 1, 1994.
Mr. Driban said that a new constitution will be drawn up, and election of officers and a governing board will be held in the next three months.
Mr. Driban, who headed AFT's organizing drive, called the election a significant because of the size of the new membership.
In Maryland, the Federation of Public Employees also represents white- and blue-collar workers in Baltimore City and state correctional officers, Mr. Driban said.
If the federation can sign up 50 percent of the eligible workers, then all new county workers will have to join the union or pay a service fee in lieu of dues. If 80 percent of the eligible workers join, then all workers will have to pay either dues or a service fee.
The BCCEA had just over 700 dues-paying members, less than half of those eligible.