Friday, Jan 8–Commissioners Oppose Collective Bargaining Legislation

SNOW HILL – Collective bargaining by public safety employees would be problematic, the Worcester County Commissioners concluded this week in response to proposed federal legislation, agreeing with another Maryland county. 

U.S. Senate Bill 1611 and House of Representatives Bill 413, The Public Safety Employer–Employee Cooperation Act of 2009, would give emergency service workers the right to form collective bargaining units.

The Worcester County Commissioners discussed the bill Tuesday after the Carroll County Commissioners recently solicited the support of fellow Maryland counties in opposing some provisions and seeking changes.

The legislation would give public safety employees the right to use collective bargaining even if those workers were part of independent agencies and not actually employed by the counties.

“These employees are not necessarily under our direction or control,” said Worcester County administrator Gerry Mason.

County governments cannot guarantee collective bargaining or any other right if the personnel in question are not direct county employees, the Carroll County Commissioners wrote in a letter sent to all Maryland county governments. The Carroll County Sheriff is an independent constitutional officer, and volunteer fire and emergency services in that county also employ people independent of the Carroll County government.

Counties would be liable for something they have no power to do under the federal legislation, if passed in current form, the Carroll County Commissioners wrote.

Carroll County is asking that the legislation be amended to add the actual employer of public safety workers to who is held responsible for that right to collective bargaining.

Another amendment Carroll County would like to see would ensure that counties that provide primary funding for emergency services be included in pay negotiations despite not actually employing those workers directly.

The Worcester County Commissioners wasted little time in voting unanimously to support Carroll County’s concerns.

“It would be horrendous,” said president of the Worcester County Commissioners Bud Church.

County Commissioner Judy Boggs said, “We wouldn’t have control of our budget.”

Commissioner Louise Gulyas added, “It would not be a good thing at all.”