Less than a month after some union officials accused the county of bully tactics in negotiating contracts, county officials are accusing those same unions of strong-arming legislation in Annapolis.
Glen Middleton, executive director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 67, is being accused of blocking a bill that would allow the county to save money by consolidating some school system administrative operations.
Yolanda Winkler, the county's lead lobbyist, in an April 3 letter to Middleton claims that the union leader threatened to block the bill in General Assembly committee. The union would stop blocking the bill if the county drops its insistence that changes be made to a contract that allows some county employees to count overtime toward their final pension calculations.
"County Executive (Kevin) Kamenetz will not respond to such threats, and will continue to pursue passage of this Bill, which enjoys near unanimous delegation support. This Bill would allow the County and the school system to cooperatively reach monetary savings through voluntary consolidations, allowing the County to redirect those savings back into additional classroom resources," wrote Winkler in a letter sent to Middleton and county legislators. "Moreover, as you are aware, the County has already reached a three year labor agreement with the AFSCME bargaining group associated with the school system, ensuring no layoffs or furloughs, making your threat all the more reprehensible."
"You do a tremendous disservice to your membership when you hold the school children of Baltimore County hostage to this kind of political behavior," Winkler wrote.
Middleton was not immediately available for comment.
Ryan Genovese, a representative with the union, said Middleton did speak to Winkler Tuesday about the cooperative agreement bill but made no threats.
"The two issues are not linked for us," said Genovese, adding that even if the county and union resolved the overtime issue "we would still be opposed to the bill in Annapolis."
Last month Middleton's union successfully defeated an attempt by the county to pass a law ending the practice of allowing some employees to count their overtime toward their pension benefits.
The union is in negotiations with the county. Middleton and other union leaders said the attempt to legislate the change amounted to bullying.
Ultimately, the County Council voted to table the bill.