By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
March 19, 2012
Union members from around Baltimore are planning a rally Monday to protest legislation by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz that would reduce some county employees' pension benefits.
County Council members are scheduled to vote Monday on the proposal, which would end the practice of letting members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees use overtime in their pension calculations. AFSCME represents workers in the county's Department of Recreation and Parks, the Department of Public Works, and other agencies.
The union is the only one in the county whose pension benefits are based on compensation that includes overtime. Public-employee groups have opposed the measure because AFSCME says the issue is the subject of ongoing contract negotiations. Union leaders contend that the legislation is a sign that the county administration is not bargaining in good faith.
"[Other unions] realize that this is not a pension issue; this is a labor-rights issue," said Ryan Genovese, staff representative for AFSCME Council 67.
Kamenetz's administration says the issue is not covered by AFSCME's contract, and that ending the practice would save taxpayer dollars. County officials have said they have been trying to eliminate the practice through negotiations for years.
The rally is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the county's historic courthouse, before the County Council's scheduled vote.
"We want to show the county executive and the council that if you take on one union, you gotta take us all on," said Ernie Grecco, president of the Metropolitan Baltimore Council AFL-CIO. "It reminds us of things that happened in Wisconsin and other states, and we're really shocked. … We're not used to anti-union legislation [in Baltimore County]."
Representatives of Kamenetz's administration did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment on the planned rally.
The county executive has been criticized for his pension deal. In addition to earning a salary and retirement benefits from his current position, he also is banking a pension from his previous job as a county councilman.
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