FOP, Teamsters vie in union vote today

Runoff to determine bargaining unit for 550 police officers

January 19, 2000|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

In the second contest in a little more than a month, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Teamsters Union will square off today in a runoff election that will decide on a bargaining unit for about 550 Anne Arundel County police officers.

The winner will get a two-year contract to negotiate with county officials for officers' pay and benefits, and to represent the police in grievances. Officers will vote between 7 a.m. and 5: 30 p.m. at the county's fire training academy in Millersville.

FOP and Teamsters organizers were optimistic yesterday about their chances of winning. Turnout will be the key, they said.

"If a large number of people turn out, I think the FOP will win," said Detective Ricardo Hawkins, first vice president of FOP Lodge 70.

Teamsters representative J. William Mowery predicted a turnout of about 360 voters and a Teamster victory by a margin of 20 to 30 votes. He said he was worried that the picture could change if snow was in the forecast.

Today's election will mark the third time officers have chosen between the FOP and the Teamsters since the Teamsters came to Anne Arundel County in 1996 hoping to win contracts with state troopers and local police.

The local FOP, which has represented officers for 30 years, won by three votes in 1997, the last time it vied with the Teamsters.

The Teamsters challenged the FOP again Dec. 15 in a three-way race that included the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA). The vote last month eliminated the IUPA from today's runoff but did not produce a majority for the Teamsters or the FOP, setting the stage for today's contest.

Both groups say the election will turn on their ability to offer strong representation during contract negotiations.

Many officers contend that the reason their pay has risen so little over the years is that FOP bargainers, who are fellow officers, have gotten too cozy with -- or have been intimidated by -- top officials in the department, who are also involved in the contract negotiations.

The Teamsters union has promised business agents to handle negotiations. The FOP made a deal with the IUPA this month that could lure the votes of past IUPA supporters by promising to hire negotiating services from IUPA during contract talks with the county.

The alliance with the IUPA, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, was criticized by some officers but was necessary for the survival of the lodge, Hawkins said. The six-month, $7,379 contract, which is to go into effect if the FOP wins today, would keep the Teamsters from challenging the FOP again, because police would be represented by an AFL-CIO affiliate.

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