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Newest Annapolis City councilman’s first bill aims to update city union laws

The newest Annapolis City Councilman says his first bill will make it easier for city employees to form a union after discovering city law limits union petitions to October.

Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier, D-Ward 5, is sponsoring his first bill Monday, Ordinance O-44-20. It would require the city to consider a petition by city employees seeking recognition as an exclusive bargaining unit at any time of the year. Currently, City Code states the city must consider such a petition during the month of October but can refuse to do so during any other month.

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“I have been working in organized labor for a long time time. I believe there is a big assault on public employees, especially after the Janus decision," Schandelmeier said. “I want to do what I can to protect the employees from negative repercussions.”

Schandelmeier is citing a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, in which the court ruled that public employees no longer have to pay dues to their union, upending more than four decades of precedent.

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“We mostly work with pretty good faith in the city with our public employees. I don’t expect that to take a sharp turn,” he said. “But as we’ve seen, those sharp turn can sometimes happen. So I wanted to just get it down in the code. Make sure it’s sensible law. So that way, let’s say we get a hostile next administration to public employees they can turn around and fight them.”

The October rule is based on similar Anne Arundel County law and allows the city to receive and complete collective bargaining negotiations before the city budget process begins, said City Attorney Michael Lyles.

“[The rule] makes sense that because the negotiations for collective bargaining agreements have an effect on the budget, I believe it is prudent for the city to have all unions collectively bargain at the same time so that the City Council can pass a budget with the negotiated considerations in mind,” Lyles wrote in an email. “The Budget is only voted on once a year in June. Entertaining and concluding negotiations prior to that budget process is a way to ensure that adjustments are part of the mayor’s budget proposals.”

City Code requires that collective bargaining negotiations begin “no later than October prior to the beginning of the effective fiscal year." It also requires the results of an agreement to be submitted to the mayor by mid-March to allow for them to be considered in the following budget season.

Still, the bill may have some wrinkles to iron out as it moves through the legislative process. Schandelmeier said he has heard from the union that represents Annapolis firefighters, IADD Local 1926, that the change could prove to be a problem given that the union has agreed to multi-year contracts with the city.

“We’ll figure it out. But the big thing for me is, we take we’re taking away this one barrier for people’s right to organize and we’re going to find a way to address those other problems," he said. "It’s just the first reader, we can iron it out.”

Schandelmeier’s bill is just one of several being introduced to the City Council on Monday. Other legislation includes establishing noise level standards for boats in city waters, requiring visible residential parking permits inside vehicles and clarifying procedure and punishment for false alarms.

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