Teamsters call halt to talks in Arundel

Police chief's remark on behavior offended the union, leader says

April 06, 1999|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

The Teamsters union said that it is pulling out of scheduled contract negotiations with Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens because of a slight against the union in a reported remark by acting Police Chief Thomas P. Shanahan last week.

Shanahan told county police officers at a meeting Thursday not to "behave like Teamsters or you will be treated like Teamsters."

The union, which represents the county's 50 deputy sheriffs, said in a letter to Owens that the remark suggested its members were "less than professional and even child like."

Andrew C. Carpenter, Owens' spokesman, said yesterday that the county executive had talked with Shanahan and understood that his comment "was made in an off-the-cuff manner and was not intended to offend."

J. William Mowery, director of organizing for Teamsters Local 103, said, "Our members are extremely upset. It is totally inappropriate, and what his motivations were, it is hard to know."

John T. Laing Sr., a member of Teamsters Local 103, said: "Does he feel that Teamsters are lesser persons or that their intelligence level is low? Or does he feel that we are involved with some criminal element?"

Contract talks between the county and the deputies stalled yesterday when the Teamsters canceled a negotiation session and demanded to meet with Owens about the acting chief's comment.

The Teamsters requested the meeting to "determine if this [remark] is a reflection of the County attitude towards our Union," Mowery wrote in a letter to Owens.

Mowery and Owens are to meet today.

Teamster membership in the county is about 24,000, Mowery said, and his organization has supported Owens and dealt "professionally" with her administration.

"The Teamsters, the AFL-CIO and labor in general supported Janet Owens in her bid for county executive," said Laing. "Acting Chief Shanahan is apparently not aware of the political ramifications of his statement."

Shanahan did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The reported comment about the Teamsters was made during negotiations between the county and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70, which represents county officers. The police contract was ratified Friday.

Shanahan spent more than $2,000 sending the department helicopter to watch officers' activities during negotiations.

Eight air patrols were made in the 12 days before ratification. They concentrated on police presence and traffic flow on Routes 100 and 32 and U.S. 50.

Shanahan commissioned the patrols after 10 to 15 patrol cars parked on the Route 100 median March 26, slowing morning rush-hour traffic.

The incident caused a minor traffic accident and infuriated drivers.

The officers parked to "show solidarity" during negotiations.

For a while before the contract was signed, Shanahan also ordered officers to get permission from a supervisor before using Route 100 -- a major highway connecting Interstate 95 to eastern Anne Arundel County.

Officers say response time to emergency calls was slowed because of delays in getting permission.

Pub Date: 4/06/99

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