OCEAN CITY – If enough of the Ocean City Employee Coalition’s number of submitted signatures turns out to be true registered Ocean City voters, the group will be in the clear to have a referendum on forming a union placed on this year’s ballot.
The Ocean City Employee Coalition has submitted a petition requesting a referendum be placed on this ballot in this November’s election asking the question to whether general city employees have the right to collective bargaining or not.
Last month city employee Barbara Dahan said the petition would be wrapped up by the end of June and as of Sunday, July 1, she announced the petition’s submission. Dahan issued a statement this week.
"We would like to say thanks for the support from the people of the Town of Ocean City. The Ocean City Employee Coalition has submitted signatures to place on the ballot this fall an amendment to the Town Charter that would provide fair and equal representation rights for all town employees. We feel that the question of our representation should be decided democratically by the voters of Ocean City and because of the support we have received in the signature gathering process, the voters will now have the opportunity to decide,” Dahan wrote. “Having representation rights would grant us the ability to work together to make Ocean City a better place to live and work. We care greatly about the Town of Ocean City and providing the best possible services to the citizens."
According to City Clerk Kelly Allmond, the Ocean City Employee Coalition’s petition contained 2,356 signatures. Throughout the next week, Allmond will be going through a lengthy review process, 10 pages of requirements, to verify if each signature is a registered voter of Ocean City.
Maryland State Law requires 20 percent of Ocean City’s registered voters would have to sign the petition in order for the referendum to be placed on the ballot. Although the number of registered voters fluctuates daily, as of June 25 there was 6,034 registered voters reported, and 20 percent of that number is 1,206.
Allmond’s goal is to have the review process completed by Monday, July 9, at which time a meeting is scheduled with the Board of Election Supervisors to review the results. Following that meeting, the results will be announced in the Mayor and City Council’s scheduled legislative session on Monday, July 16.
In the beginning of the year, rumors began to spread that general employees intended to pursue collective bargaining. In February, city employees packed council chambers to reveal their concerns and their intentions and returned in April to remind the council that they have not backed down in their efforts.
Coalition members have been seen around town collecting signatures on every occasion, including special events and even in front of City Hall as the Mayor and City Council meetings are being conducted inside.
The town’s charter only allows for the police and fire department and paramedics to exercise collective bargaining currently. In order for general employees to unionize, they would have to receive approval by the City Council or collect the sufficient number of voter signatures by petition to have a referendum placed on the ballot in October to let the voters decide their fate.
Last month Dahan recalled it was a couple of years ago when city employees began to look toward collective bargaining when the council initiated talks about making personnel salary and benefits cuts to cut city expenses.
The council made some more serious moves last year by changing pay scales and benefits for new employees and that is when city employees reached out to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA) for assistance.