NEW FOR WEDNESDAY: Feeling ‘Naked’, City Employees Seek Union

OCEAN CITY – City Council chambers at City Hall was packed last night as a group, General Employees for Organization, surfaced to express their grievances with the City Council and their intent to be granted collective bargaining.

Ocean City Public Works employee James Moxley, who works in the maintenance division, spoke on behalf of the General Employees for Organization on Tuesday evening.

Moxley said the general employees are requesting City Council amend the town charter to recognize municipal employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain. Moxley did not mention whether the employees are seeking binding interest arbitration as well.

Currently, Ocean City police officers have collective bargaining rights with binding interest arbitration as recourse, while town paramedics and fire personnel have collective bargaining. The cops had to get their rights through a referendum process, while the paramedics scored their rights through a simple council vote later.

Last month, The Dispatch caught wind that a large contingent of municipal employees was weighing their options to unionize. At that time it was reported that a document expressing the intent of general city employees to potentially create a union was circulating throughout the town, and approximately 80 percent of employees reportedly signed it.

Council President Jim Hall and Councilwoman Margaret Pillas responded that they had met with individual general employees to briefly discuss the matter but were not provided any grievances until the group organized and elected a representative.

This week, Moxley expressed a few of the group’s grievance, the first being “equality.’

“There are other city employees who enjoy the right to collectively bargain and it is only proper to extend these rights to all,” he said. “That is if everyone in this room can agree that there are no second-class employees. Furthermore, any reasoning for granting other groups collective bargaining rights can also directly be applied to general employees. Such as, attracting the best applicants for open positions …”

The next grievance was titled “rules and regulations.”

“There is a lack of continuity regarding rules and regulations, regulations not only between different departments but also individual employees,” Moxley said. “Managements styles, although vary, must not rise to be so diverse as to violate specific rules and guidelines spelled out clearly in the Ocean City employee hand book. We can’t have different rules for different divisions, different rules for different people.”

The last grievance Moxley listed was “proper advocating.”

“At this time, the general employees feel there is a lack of people advocating,” he said. “General employees must have an advocate to address issues and problems that arise on the job. This person must be an employee who can be trusted to share and keep their best interest at hand. Obviously, a superior city employee and even worse one close with upper management at City Hall is less than a desirable person to suit this job. As an advocate, this situation would only lead to mistrust and even fear for the employee and employees seeking help.”

Moxley added the movement for general employees was taking place long before the erupt dismissal of former City Manager Dennis Dare, which shocked the municipal employees.

“Never before did Ocean City employees felt so naked … naked to the whims of a small majority,” he said.

Moxley furthered that the general employees of Ocean City feel unappreciated by the people they work for, not the visitors or taxpayers, but by the council.

“The majority of employees feel dislike and to some degree despise members of the City Council,” he said explaining that the increasing split vote of 4-3 among the council has created a lack of confidence.

Moxley concluded that the general employees no longer want to be held captive by the current or future “employee unfriendly councils”.

“The general employees, although already doing the best for this city, granted collective bargaining rights probably would do even more for the city,” he said. “Both the city and its employees will be better off when they are granted. Do the right thing, if not for the employees, but for the town of Ocean City, America’s finest resort town.”

The Mayor and City Council did not respond with any questions or comments. Moxley then asked, if the council was unwilling to amend the charter, what would it take to have the matter placed on the ballot in a future election.

“There is a procedure under state law to get on the ballot for a charter amendment by gathering sufficient signatures from the qualified voters of the town,” City Solicitor Guy Ayres said.

Moxley asserted that there is also a procedure for the council to amend the charter.

“I just want to make it clear to the public … that everybody [council] is unanimously against amending the charter,” he said.

Council President Jim Hall said the council has heard the complaints made and will take them into consideration.