Police get choice of negotiators

Petition for Teamsters forces vote on union to handle contract talks

More than 220 sign

National police union offers itself as another alternative to FOP

October 05, 1999|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

The Teamsters union has amassed more than 220 signatures from Anne Arundel County police officers, guaranteeing an election within 30 days to determine whether the Teamsters will represent police during contract negotiations with the county next month.

The petition, filed late Friday afternoon, is the culmination of two years of campaigning by police officers, who are dissatisfied with representation from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70. The group accuses FOP leadership of being too cozy with department brass.

The Teamsters needed 165 signatures, 30 percent of the county's 550 police officers, to begin the attempt to win representation. The county personnel office has 30 days to schedule the election.

"The key is representation that is out of the chief of police's office," said J. William Mowery, director of Teamsters Local 103 in Glen Burnie. "We can provide full-time service with full-time staff."

The International Union of Police Associations (IUPA), based in Alexandria, Va., began collecting signatures yesterday in an attempt to get its name on the ballot. Saying it is a national union that represents only police organizations, it is selling itself as a middle ground between the Teamsters and the FOP.

"I think the membership has become wary of the FOP because it has been inactive, and there is a faction that believes the FOP has not fought for everyone," said David B. Zinn, a county police officer and former FOP vice president who is spearheading the IUPA petition drive.

"In nowadays terms, there is a belief that bigger is better, and our membership is looking for that bigness," Zinn said.

Officer William T. Wild, president of FOP Lodge 70, said, "It is not a done deal yet. We are the best group to represent police officers."

Contract negotiations are to begin next month. All of the union organizers agree that the officers deserve more than this year's 3 percent raise.

Anne Arundel's first-year officers earn $27,876, close to what surrounding jurisdictions pay. But there are major disparities in pay for experienced officers. After six years, Arundel officers earn almost $8,000 less than Prince George's County officers do.

"The biggest problem facing me in my administration is that I need to get the officers a pay raise this time around," Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan said. "I have told whoever will listen that we need to remain competitive with other jurisdictions."

Shanahan said he has discussed pay raises and problems with recruiting with County Executive Janet S. Owens. He has not taken a position on who should represent his officers.

Two years ago, the Teamsters fell three votes short in their attempt to replace the FOP, and this year's effort was dubbed "Operation Second Chance."

The Teamsters represent 1,400 to 1,500 Arundel workers, including 55 sheriff's deputies. On Friday, the union filed to represent all eight sergeants in the sheriff's office.

In April, the Teamsters pulled out of scheduled talks with Owens about the deputies' contract because of a remark about the union Shanahan made at an in-service training session. Shanahan told officers not to "behave like Teamsters or you will be treated like Teamsters."

The union said in a letter to Owens that the remark suggested Teamsters were "less than professional and even childlike."

"It was derogatory because there was the suggestion that Teamsters were not professionals," Mowery said in an interview in April. "We hold no malice. We look forward to some relationship with the chief."

The Teamsters and the IUPA would charge the 550 county police officers about $25 monthly in dues, as does the FOP.

The main benefit of representation by the Teamsters is the union's promise of full-time representation, Mowery said. Two staffers handle member problems out of the organization's Crain Highway headquarters.

The IUPA points to its strength nationally in negotiating for police salaries. Both unions promise a better legal plan that would allow the officers to choose their own lawyers. The FOP requires officers to use the Baltimore law firm Shalachman, Belsky and Weiner.

Pub Date: 10/05/99

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