Police retain FOP as bargaining union in narrow vote Teamsters win in landslide to represent deputies

February 12, 1997|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Rank and file county police voted narrowly yesterday to keep the Fraternal Order of Police as their bargaining union, ending a nine-month struggle between that union and the Teamsters.

But the Teamsters did win a landslide 26-4 victory to represent sheriff's deputies.

More than 75 percent of eligible officers turned out to vote at police headquarters, giving the once-beleaguered FOP a 178-175 victory.

With its win, the union that has represented county law enforcement officers for 27 years flexed muscle that it hopes will win the officers pay raises and better benefits this year at the bargaining table.

"The administration should be looking forward to that continual voice and that continual support," said FOP President Dennis Howell.

County Executive John G. Gary has said he is inclined to grant raises to the officers, but Howell said he also wants better benefits. He hopes to negotiate the contract by the county's April 1 deadline.

The FOP ran into disfavor last spring when it failed to win higher pay or favorable pension plan breaks from a Republican-majority council. The Teamsters' $100 million annual budget and influential national political action committee won it followers, but not enough to oust the deeply rooted FOP.

"Half the people are satisfied and half are dissatisfied," said Teamster representative Billy Mendenall, who has been out to represent law enforcement agencies across the state. "I'm sure the FOP will get their act together and give the people representation they deserve."

Yesterday's victory came after an aggressive flier and a letter-writing campaign by the FOP and Teamsters supporters that swamped undecided officers for several weeks.

Last weekend, officers received four letters from area FOP presidents and the national president, along with a 30-minute videotape discussing the sometimes unsavory history of the Teamsters. FOP supporters passed out handbills to officers on their way into voting booths yesterday.

Teamsters distributed two fliers of their own during the weekend.

Howell said it was the officers' dedication to their decades-old organization, not his campaign, that won over the voters,

"Ultimately, the issue was unity among ourselves," Howell said.

But the slim margin of victory pointed to dissatisfaction among the ranks, and Howell vowed to change some of the union's tactics.

"I think the first change has been made, and that is that people came out," Howell said. "We will have to change our methods of representing the people and interacting with the people."

Pub Date: 2/12/97

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