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Keeping Her Balance on Collective Bargaining

Council President Valerie Ervin, a former union organizer, seeks to repeal law that gives unions great power over management decisions.

This year, the Montgomery County Council has taken several steps to rein in some of the more questionable concessions public employee unions had extracted from the county in previous years. In a county known for granting the unions virtually everything on their wish lists, today’s tough economic climate is forcing the council to restore a little more balance to the relationship.

It has not been easy for anyone, Council President Valerie Ervin and the unions in particular.

First came the inevitable trimming of county employees' health and retirement benefits, to help bring spending back in line with declining revenues.

Then the county moved to rein in some of the more outrageous abuses that had been going on for years in the disability retirement system, replacing it with a new two-tiered system. 

Now it appears another blow is about to be struck for common sense. This week, five council members voted to eliminate "effects bargaining" in a joint session of the county's Public Safety and Government Operations and Fiscal Policy committees

While I consider collective bargaining to be a good thing, in this case it's a good thing taken way too far.

The term "effects bargaining" means the union can refer any management decision, including setting work schedules, modernizing computer systems, even mandating the use of email and electronic incident reporting, to a cumbersome collective bargaining process if the decision has any "effect on employees." What management decision doesn't? Police Chief Tom Manger cites some outrageous cases, with delays ranging from two weeks to two years on even the most mundane issues. In practice, it gives way too much power to the unions and prevents any semblance of effective management.  

As far as I can determine, effects bargaining is unique to Montgomery County. It's part of the Police Collective Bargaining law, the only county agency that has it. It also appears in state laws covering the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission. Interestingly, all of these agencies have had major issues with management, efficiency and effectiveness. Coincidence? Perhaps our state delegation should look at this, too.

Ervin has introduced legislation (Bill 18-11) to repeal this bizarre provision for county police. The full council will soon take this up, but with five of its nine members voting for it in committee, she's likely to prevail. Only Council Member Marc Elrich objected, for reasons difficult to fathom, beyond pure political pandering and self-interest. 

For Ervin to be leading the charge on this issue is impressive, as she got her start in politics as a union organizer and has always been a strong ally of the union movement. In seeking the right balance here, and daring to challenge a status quo that is clearly not working, she deserves our thanks and the full council's support, including Elrich.

John Smith July 17, 2011 at 12:57 PM
Fire underperforming teachers, workers and employees.
Brigitta Mullican July 17, 2011 at 03:46 PM
When are people going to realize that work ethics and efficiency is what is needed? The days of wasting money needs to stop.
GingerR July 17, 2011 at 05:18 PM
it's crazy! Like those same employees don't tweet, update Facebook status, check their ebay listings on County time whenever they get the chance. There are plenty of un-employed people who'd type their own reports and check their work email for a steady job like these.
Richard Parsons July 17, 2011 at 05:41 PM
I probably should have added that Ms. Ervin introduced her bill at the request of County Executive Leggett, and at the recommendation of the County's "Organizational Reform Commission." So there is even more support out there for making this change. Should be a no-brainer.
NoPoMoCo July 17, 2011 at 05:48 PM
Valerie Ervin should pay her taxes instead of being a tax cheat. Maybe if everyone paid their taxes government budgets wouldn't be so strapped. What a joke that she is making budgetary decisions on behalf of us "taxpayers" when she can't even handle her own personal finances! Totally laughable!
Nicole, 911 wife. July 18, 2011 at 02:23 AM
Valerie Ervin is an evil joke of a councilmember. She owes back taxes, lies and is making these changes to hurt our working class police and their families. Police officers don't make much money and reducing their benefits, pay and no raises is a great way to thank them for their service to the community. The union is their only means for keeping their rights protected. I feel lucky that my job isn't one where I have to pray that I make it home to my family every night. The last time I checked my job was only a threat to my life - commuting to and from work. Historically, police officers have not ever been paid very much, hence why they should be compensated with benefits. I really hope Ervin doesn't find herself in need of police...if I were a cop, I would stop for a doughnut on my way to her "911 call".
Nicole, 911 wife. July 18, 2011 at 02:41 AM
To Richard Parsons: You need to do your homework before writing such garbage. I am a police officer wife and after reading this one sided opinion piece, CLEARLY you did not do your research on what the council has taken away, what the officers have sacrificed already and what that means for police families. Shame on you. Call Lodge 35 and get your facts straight. - Mrs. 911
Theresa Defino July 18, 2011 at 12:28 PM
A few facts on the bill might be good. You won't find them here, This is a site perhaps put up by some cops. They are the only ones affected by this bill. https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=254417054572900 According to the county summary of the bill: One public hearing will be on proposed Bill 18-11 that is based on a recommendation of the Council’s specially appointed Organizational Reform Commission. Bill 18-11 would make the scope of bargaining with the County’s police union consistent with the scope of bargaining with unions representing other County employees. The current agreement with the police union requires the County Executive to bargain with the union over the “effect on employees of the employer’s rights.” It is known as “effects bargaining.” This doesn't have anything to do with pay and benefits, which are the usual things unions bargain about. You also won't find any facts here--this is not about removing collective bargaining. http://wicked2ndwife.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/oppose-montgomery-county-council-bills-18-11-19-11-and-20-11-eroding-mcpds-right-to-collective-bargaining/ What I can't find is a link to the actual bill. I am going to keep looking. Also as far as "homework," perhaps you could inquire as to Elrich's view before making such an accusation.
Theresa Defino July 18, 2011 at 12:32 PM
Here's another biased--and PARTISAN--look at the bill. So who is really behind the opposition? Looks like Republicans who are on the attack against Ervin. Pretty shameful. http://signon.org/sign/enough-is-enough?source=s.fwd&r_by=402206 “Stop attacking working police officers! Oppose bill 18-11, 19-11, and 20-11, and any changes to collective bargaining.” The Montgomery county council is attacking working police officers, who for 3 years, have made continual sacrifices for the betterment of the community but that is not enough. Now the council is attacking their collective bargaining rights as well. Tell the democrats of Montgomery county enough is enough and we stand with working police officers.
Trang July 18, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Theresa- This is the link: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/pdf/bill/2011/Packets/20110712_9.pdf Like Nicole, I too am a police wife. Do your homework and stop spreading the hate. The Council needs to give the public a chance to review and be informed on all sides. Why vote before hearing how the masses truly feel? Oh wait...I know why. They need to get their votes in, call it a done deal, and prepare for the trip to El Salvador to further their political agendas for their pet projects.
Jeff Hawkins July 18, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Your comment: "This is a site perhaps put up by some cops". This appears to be a very telling comment....kind of disrepectful and somewhat hateful. Attacking others about being biased and partisan? :)
Jeff Hawkins July 18, 2011 at 03:48 PM
Well said Trang,
Theresa Defino July 18, 2011 at 05:32 PM
What "hate?" Is the site not supported by cops? I asked for the debate to center on facts, and I still see none. Thanks for the link.
Theresa Defino July 18, 2011 at 05:33 PM
Oh, and let me add, the real hate directed at Valerie Ervin is inappropriate, not to mention disrespectful.
Jeff Hawkins July 18, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Thanks.....just proved my point. Partisanship clearly cuts both way
Theresa Defino July 18, 2011 at 07:18 PM
Jeff, how did I prove your point? Asking for facts, stating facts, is partisan? Hardly.
Trang July 18, 2011 at 07:49 PM
So cause Leggett tells her to do it-- it means the action is right? And who is the Organizational Reform Commission? They do not speak for everyone in this County
Trang July 18, 2011 at 08:02 PM
In a recent Gazette article, Ervin and Berliner implied that the citizens should be afraid of the police officers in this County because the FOP and its officers did not roll over and thank them for introducing the disability bill and made their displeasure known to her and her cronies. Their statement WAS inappropriate and unprofessional. So I am not surprised there is no love for her-- as a citizen whose tax dollars go to pay for her PT 6 figure salary, I am pretty damn p*ssed off that a public official would give potential whack jobs a reason to take pot shots at my husband and his fellow officers. It's hard enough for the police officers working the streets-- why are these politicians who are paid with our tax dollars giving criminals cause to make the job even hard? She gets no respect because she gave no respect. People are forgetting that the officers that are being labled with all these negative terms are the backbone of our safety. Take them away and what are you going to do at 2 AM when there is someone in your house and you need help? It's NOT about Republicans and Democrats-- it's the well being of our public safety infrastructure.
NoPoMoCo July 19, 2011 at 09:20 PM
She shouldn't be allowed to sit on the County Council while she owes back taxes. Period.
ilkunta July 19, 2011 at 09:39 PM
What happened on 911 was and is sad but more people die every day. this september is 10yrs. I hope people will finally STOP miling 911.
ilkunta July 19, 2011 at 09:45 PM
noPoMoCo: how come she hasnt paid her taxes?

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