Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and the union that failed almost two years ago to organize its workers have agreed to hold a second election in mid-October.
In exchange, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will drop complaints with federal authorities contending that the utility violated national labor laws just before a representation vote in December 1996.
The decision to drop the complaints comes just two months before the National Labor Relations Board was to hold hearings to determine if BGE coerced and intimidated employees and pledged raises if its workers rejected the IBEW. The NLRB charged BGE with 17 violations of federal labor law.
"We felt strongly that the momentum was in our favor last time, until the company came out with promises of raises and threats that were implied, which we believe were unfair labor practices," said James Hunter, president of IBEW Local 1900, which is working to organize nearly 3,500 BGE employees.
"If we have a fair election, we believe the majority of employees at BGE will want the protection of a contract, and to get a contract, you need a union. I believe that in a fair election the results will be just the opposite of the last campaign."
The IBEW lost the 1996 election by a vote of 71 percent to 29 percent, which it attributed to BGE's alleged violation of the law.
BGE, which has always been union-free and is one of only four major power companies whose workers are not represented by organized labor, contends that the outcome of any second election will be similar to the first.
"Our employees can represent themselves, and a re-run of the election is the quickest and most cost-effective way of proving that BGE employees want to remain union-free," said Christian H. Poindexter, BGE's chairman and chief executive.
"We hope that this time around the IBEW will not look for excuses to thwart the will of BGE employees. We hope that this time the union will honor and respect the decision of BGE employees to remain union-free."
Under the NLRB settlement that will result in the Oct. 14 and 15 election, BGE agreed to retrain managers and supervisors on the tenets of the National Labor Relations Act; allow employees to distribute union material on company property during nonworking time; not threaten employees supporting the union with job loss; and not harass workers or place them under surveillance.
The IBEW withdrew its complaints and agreed to language that stipulated BGE "denies all allegations of improper conduct and violations of the [National Labor Relations] Act set forth in the objections and unfair labor practice charges."
Both sides said they agreed to the settlement because they hoped to resolve the matter quickly. The NLRB's investigation could have taken four years.