Labor unrest forces Md. Democrats to rethink Boston convention plans

Duncan urges delegates not to cross picket lines

July 23, 2004|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

The threat of police picket lines is altering plans for Maryland Democrats heading to Boston for next week's presidential nominating convention and could force tough choices for Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and other delegates.

Maryland delegates joined those from several other states yesterday in canceling a welcoming reception to be hosted by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. The Democrat has been embroiled in a labor dispute with city police, who received a permit to picket the event at the Boston Children's Museum.

"The Maryland delegation is going to respect any possible picket line," said Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party. "We thought it was best to cancel the party and find an alternate welcoming reception."

Also yesterday, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan sent a letter to the state's 120-plus delegates and alternates, urging them not to cross picket lines -- even if that means missing key events.

"It is not enough to simply pay lip service in a speech to our first responders and talk about how much we appreciate their efforts," Duncan said. "We must stand with them in their fight to be treated as equal partners in the war on terror."

An arbitrator ruled yesterday in the 2-year-old Boston police contract dispute, giving the union a 14.5 percent pay increase over four years. Police had sought 17 percent, while the city offered 11.9 percent.

It was unclear whether the decision would end the pickets. Union leaders quoted by the Associated Press yesterday said the protest would be held despite the arbitrator's ruling as a gesture of solidarity with city firefighters and other smaller city police bargaining units that remain without contracts.

"We fully expect our lines will be up Sunday night," when the welcoming parties are held, union President Thomas Nee said. "We will have the support of our brothers and sisters from around the country."

O'Malley has been selected as a convention speaker, and faces the prospect of crossing a picket line to deliver his remarks if public safety workers demonstrate at the Fleet Center.

A spokesman for the mayor played down the controversy.

"There's not going to be a picket line," said mayoral spokesman Steven Kearney, expressing confidence that the arbitration ruling would end the dispute. "It's a hypothetical question. I'm not going to answer it."

The rescheduled Maryland welcoming party will be held Sunday night at the Boston World Trade Center next to the delegation's hotel. It will be sponsored by Dominion Energy, White said.

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