Oriole Park cleaners vote to unionize

July 25, 2008|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,Sun reporter

The workers who clean Oriole Park at Camden Yards - and who fought a successful campaign last year for higher wages - have voted to unionize, AFSCME Maryland said yesterday.

The union, the state affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the cleaners voted 64 to 13 to join. About 130 were eligible to vote. AFSCME hailed the results, tallied early yesterday morning, as a victory for "contingent workers" with no set schedule.

They are employed by Chimes DC, which is an arm of Baltimore nonprofit Chimes International and has a contract with the Maryland Stadium Authority. Last summer, when the contract was handled by another company, workers pushed to be paid the "living wage" required for certain state contractors - $11.30 an hour in the Baltimore area, rather than the $7 an hour they were getting. The law doesn't apply to them because they work only during home games, rather than consecutive weeks.

The stadium authority agreed to the higher wage, which went into effect in the spring when Chimes took over the Oriole Park contract. But Joe Lawrence, a spokesman for AFSCME Maryland, said the janitors have been unhappy about their treatment since.

"Many long-time workers get called irregularly," Lawrence said. "The wage has much less meaning when there's not hours being given in a regular or sufficient way."

He said supervisors have also been "abusive" and the company pressured workers not to unionize.

Howard K. Kurman, Chimes' attorney, denied that it treated employees badly or instructed anyone how to vote. He said the nonprofit told workers they had a right to vote for or against unionization.

"I think a lot of the union's accusations are typical union propaganda," Kurman said. "We were disappointed ... that there was an organization attempt because we felt and do feel we treat the employees extremely fairly. We were also disappointed that only about half the people voted who were eligible to vote."

The stadium authority declined to comment on the vote. "It really doesn't affect us," said Jan Hardesty, a spokeswoman.

jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

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