Harford Community College officials are voicing concerns about Maryland senate and house bills to establish a collective bargaining process for community colleges in Maryland that would permit their employees to be represented by unions.
SB 749, introduced by State Sen. Catherine Pugh, who represents Baltimore, and HB 490, introduced by State Del. Sheila E. Hixson, representing Montgomery County, establish collective bargaining processes for employees at all of the state's 16 community colleges, including Harford.
The house bill will allow specified employees to bargain collectively over wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment and the procedures for dues and fees to be charged by the representative.
According to the house bill, each community college can establish up to four bargaining units: one for full-time faculty, one for part-time faculty, one for the remaining eligible exempt employees and one for eligible nonexempt employees. Strikes would be illegal.
Four of the largest community colleges in the state have collective bargaining: Baltimore City Community College, the Community College of Baltimore County, Montgomery College and Prince George's Community College.
As many as 19,000 employees around the state could be affected if the legislation passes, according to the National Education Association, parent organization of the Maryland State Education Association which supports the legislation.
During a HCC Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 11, HCC President Dennis Golladay said the bill is "not very well thought out."
"Unions cause conflicts and it's a different situation, for which you deal, when you have a union bargaining and advocating," he said.
Golladay sent a letter to Harford County legislators on Feb. 12, stating the HCC leadership's reservations about the legislation. The letter suggests the legislation be sent to summer study.
"[The legislation] presents too many complicated issues which require greater examination," states the letter, which was signed by Golladay and HCC Trustees Chairman James Valdes. "For example, a very thorny issue lies in defining membership for some of the units, especially that dealing with part-time faculty."
Del. Rick Impallaria, Harford's legislative delegation chair, said Monday afternoon he couldn't confirm having received a letter from the college. He said, however, that Golladay had personally voiced his concerns about the collective bargaining bills to the local legislators.
Impallaria said the delegation supports the college's position on the bills, noting HCC's major concern about collective bargaining is the additional cost involved.
"Finances are tough and they don't want to get hit with any more expenses until the economy comes back," he said.
Establishing collective bargaining units in Maryland will increase the State Higher Education Labor Relations Board general fund expenditures by $55,000 in FY 2015 to administer collective bargaining, according to estimates in HB 490's fiscal note. In subsequent years, collective bargaining will increase expenditures $7,500 per year.
Locally, the proposed collective bargaining house bill may increase administrative expenditures during implementation. Personnel expenditures may also increase by 1 to 1.5 percent to establish collective bargaining, according to the fiscal impact note.
Community colleges may need to hire a labor relations administrator to manage the collective bargaining process at an estimated cost of $60,000 per year, the fiscal note states. These cost may increased based on the number of disputes per year and the circumstances surrounding the disputes.
But the real costs could be significantly higher, HCC officials said, both in terms of dealing with unionization efforts, contract negotiations and, ultimately, potential contract disputes and employee grievances. The college officials' letter mentions "unintended consequences, which could impair the mission and operation of community colleges."
If passed, the collective bargaining legislation will go into effect for agreements or contracts the college presents on or after Oct. 1, 2014.
State Sen. Barry Glassman, who represents northern Harford, said he couldn't thoroughly assess the impact of the collective bargaining bill until the Senate bill has its committee hearing, scheduled for March 3.
Based on his initial read of the bill, however, Glassman said he does not see the legislation moving out of the Senate Finance Committee.
"This has been an ongoing issue at the university system, so we've seen various types of these bills in the Senate Finance Committee over the years," he said.
Glassman said he understand the concerns college administrators have over establishing a collective bargaining system, but he also said he has not yet heard from university employees about their support or opposition to the legislation.
HB 490 was heard before the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee in late January. The Golladay/Valdes letter notes that the presidents from Anne Arundel, Chesapeake and the College of Southern Maryland testified against the bill.
The committee had not acted upon the bill as of Tuesday afternoon. A staff member said no date has been set for the panel to vote on it.