Police choose FOP again

Union wins runoff against Teamsters by narrow margin

Leaders promise change

January 20, 2000|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) retained its role as bargaining agent for Anne Arundel County police officers in an election yesterday, turning back an aggressive challenge by the Teamsters Union.

Lodge 70 of the FOP, which has represented county officers for 30 years, won by a vote of 226-192 in its second head-to-head battle with the Teamsters. It was a wider margin than its three-vote victory in fall 1997.

Detective Ricardo Hawkins, first vice president of Lodge 70, attributed yesterday's victory to promises of change in the FOP unit and its recent collaboration with another labor organization, the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA).

Lodge 70 made a deal with IUPA earlier this month to buy the union's services during contract talks, in response to several officers' concerns that FOP bargainers were getting too cozy with or being intimidated by department leaders taking part in negotiations.

The six-month, $7,379 deal with IUPA was contingent upon an FOP victory.

"We could not have done it without IUPA," Hawkins said after the votes were tallied. "I think the promise of bringing on IUPA and the promise of changes to the lodge is what did it."

The IUPA also had sought to represent the county police, but finished third in balloting last month.

None of the groups received a majority of the votes, which set the stage for yesterday's runoff.

Teamsters organizers consoled officers sporting bright blue Teamsters jackets and hats who had clustered in a room in the Fire Training Academy, where the election was held and votes counted. Teamsters business agent J. William Mowery promised that his union would be back in two years to again challenge the FOP.

"We're supported obviously; it was real close," he said. "I think the officers still want the Teamsters. We'll be back. There are 192 reasons why."

Now that the election is over, Hawkins said, FOP officers will work to heal the rift between members that was highlighted during the election campaigns. Members complained that FOP leaders have been unresponsive, reluctant to file grievances for fellow officers and not aggressive enough at the bargaining table.

Hawkins said last night that he plans to call a meeting to discuss bargaining issues and that the board will send out letters today to the membership asking for their participation in contract talks.

"The biggest issue is pay," he said. "Rumor has it there won't be another challenge if we get a decent contract. Nobody will be able to come in."

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