Labor ruling is appealed by governor

November 18, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is asking an appeals court to rule that labor contracts negotiated this year by departing Gov. Parris N. Glendening are invalid.

The Ehrlich administration filed an appeal Friday in a lawsuit brought by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union wanted Ehrlich to abide by 2 percent pay raises and other terms agreed to by Glendening during his final weeks in office.

Last month, Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Michael E. Loney determined that Ehrlich was permitted to not include $100 million in pay raises, as called for by the contracts, in this year's budget. A departing governor cannot financially bind his or her successor, Loney said.

But the union was pleased with another part of the ruling: that labor pacts agreed to by Glendening were enforceable contracts, and that noneconomic provisions still apply.

Ehrlich is contesting that portion of the decision with the state Court of Special Appeals.

"The administration believes that there was not proper ratification of the contracts," said Assistant Attorney General Teresa Elquezabal. She said that state law requires that the governor ratify labor pacts, and that the signatures of a top Glendening aide are insufficient.

Union officials reacted angrily to Ehrlich's appeal.

"It seems Governor Ehrlich will stop at nothing to avoid honoring promises made to state employees," said AFSCME Council 92 President Sally Davies in a statement.

State budget Secretary James C. "Chip" DiPaula Jr. said the governor appreciates the work of state employees and hopes to provide a pay raise in fiscal 2005 budget. But the Glendening agreements, DiPaula said, should not be binding.

"We knew that when the previous governor signed the agreements in the dark of night, within 24 hours of leaving office, that would not stand," he said.

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