State benefits from collective bargainingBarry Rascovar was...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

State benefits from collective bargaining

Barry Rascovar was correct about one thing in his op-ed piece, "Boom times for bureaucrats" (June 16), on collective bargaining for state employees.

Collective bargaining in most cases will lead to better labor-management relationships and more productivity.

Certainly, many businesses and governments across the country have had tremendous success with collective bargaining. There is no indication that the state of Maryland won't have the same result.

In issuing the executive order for collective bargaining, Gov. Parris N. Glendening sought to create a mechanism in Maryland that ensures employee participation by building a relationship of trust between employees and managers.

Today's competitive marketplace requires Maryland to develop a high-performance work force capable of competing with other jurisdictions. In fact, as the state moves through the difficult budget times, it is more important than ever that we establish partnership relationships with our workers to help find the most efficient and effective ways to deliver government services.

The assertion that unions are, "by their nature, resistant to change that affects workers" is just plain wrong. Unions today must recognize that protecting the company's bottom line is as much in labor's best interest as it is in management's.

Take for example the recently negotiated settlement between the Teamsters union and Safeway in Landover.

The Teamsters made significant changes to their work rules to find the cost savings management needed to pay for an $85 million distribution facility.

Because there was a mechanism in place -- a collective bargaining agreement -- labor and management were able to work in partnership.

A U.S. Department of Labor Task Force on Excellence in State and Local Government found that labor-management cooperation that engaged employees in decision making typically resulted in better service, more cost effectiveness, better quality of work-life and improved labor-management relations.

In Ohio, labor and management formed a Quality Services through Partnership initiative that produced tangible results. From streamlining their purchasing process to adding life to their fleet vehicles, Ohio has found that the key to quality improvement is cooperation with the state's work force.

It is very interesting to note that Mr. Rascovar finds it a "mystery" how collective bargaining and personnel reform can work together.

Union groups may have worked against passage of the personnel reform legislation and the pay-for-performance provisions, but what is not mentioned is that Governor Glendening actively worked for its passage.

As I understand it, The Sun itself was just in the midst of labor negotiations in which it attempted to impose pay-for-performance provisions. Why is it a "mystery" when the state proposes it, but makes sense when The Sun proposes it?

Governor Glendening was well within his executive power to issue an executive order that establishes a limited form of collective bargaining for state employees. Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. provided a written opinion concluding that not only was it consistent with the governor's power to set policy, but that it did not impose the kind of collective bargaining for which a statute is required.

Clearly, the governor believes in collective bargaining and its benefits for the state of Maryland. As any responsible governor would do, he has moved forward within the scope of his authority to establish a policy that will provide the state with the best mechanism for dealing with personnel matters.

Maybe Mr. Rascovar was right about one other thing: Perhaps by allowing state employees a role in the decisions that affect their work, maybe they will begin to experience "boom times." Perhaps they will begin to feel ownership and pride in the work they do every day. And as that begins to happen, perhaps those so-called "boom times" will extend not only to our employees, but to all the citizens of Maryland as they begin to see more efficient uses of their tax dollars. I, for one, look forward to that time.

Eugene A. Conti Jr. Baltimore

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Special needs kids need more from adults

The policeman who handcuffed an out-of-control 6-year-old perhaps did him a favor. Those handcuffs could be a key to opening handcuffs already placed on this child by the adults in his life. Because of this incident and the accompanying publicity, Jerrell might finally receive the help for which he has been begging.

Jerrell Murray has done his job since pre-school. By continuous acting-out behavior, he has been explaining his special needs in the only way young children know.

Since Jerrell's needs have not been met, he continues to make his escalating "explanations." Along this painful route, Jerrell is not learning what he needs to learn. Teachers are drained by his exceptional needs, and all students in Jerrell's class are being cheated.

As an elementary school librarian, I have seen this scenario in a wide variety of school settings. The troubled child loses critical years; classmates lose their fair share of teacher attention; and society loses all around. There are many Jerrells, and they have a bottom-line message for us: "Pay now, or make a much larger payment later."

Lois M. Zajic

Randallstown

Rogue students should be punished

I am writing in concern about growing school violence and destruction of property. I am a student at C. Milton Wright and I figured that violence and destruction of school property were things that were very hard to get away with once you had reached a certain age or rank, but it appears that I was wrong.

Recently, a group of rogue freshmen decided to go around unscrewing and stealing screws or pieces from desks, chairs, cabinets and anything else that was screwed down. They then cut power lines to the three portable classrooms outside and were caught by fellow students who understand what is or isn't acceptable. I don't understand why our own teachers didn't realize that parts of their rooms were missing, or how they could think that power lines being cut was a fluke accident.

When the culprits finally were caught, only one of them was kicked out of the school, and only for the rest of the year. The others got five days of detention and were told not to do it again. What bloody good does that do to the plethora of damaged and missing school parts? How does intentional damage get treated the same as telling a teacher off or falling asleep in class? These many questions plague me and make me wonder if we should re-evaluate our school justice systems or educate the parents to teach children wrong from right.

Chris Englert

Bel Air

Irving's histories should be published

Your recent article on British World War II revisionist historian David Irving by Bill Glauber was an informative overview of the man and his work. I make the following points:

First, anyone involved in any area of public or semi-public life or writing today is subject to criticism, no matter what one does.

Second, having been involved in the book publishing industry nationally and internationally for the last decade, I find the assertion of St. Martin's Press in New York that it didn't know of Mr. Irving's reputation and prior works laughable and totally unbelievable.

Third, I have read Mr. Irving's books "Hitler's War," "Hess: The Missing Years" and "Goring: A Biography," and found all of them interesting, detailed, revealing and in many cases factual. His controversial book on Goebbels is one of the most important works in recent decades, based as it is on long-hidden diaries seized in 1945 by the Red Army and released by the KGB in 1990. I believe they should be published here.

Fourth, I have never accepted Mr. Irving's claims about the Holocaust that "Hitler didn't know." If we were to liken our own country to Nazi Germany, how would it be possible to transport trainloads of people in cattle cars from the East Coast of the United States to, say, Arizona death camps without everyone in the railroad industry from trackman to porter knowing? Those people would have friends and relatives, and people talk, just as they did then. I believe everyone in the Third Reich knew, and many approved, either overtly or covertly.

One can read Mr. Irving's book and reject the propaganda, just as we have done in this country with "The Communist Manifesto" by Karl Marx, Hitler's own "Mein Kampf," Mao's "Little Red Book" and Eldridge Cleaver's "Soul on Ice." The book should be published and reviewed critically and fairly.

Blaine Taylor

Towson

Being foster parent isn't all good

My husband and I have been working with the Worcester County Department of Social Services as foster parents for the past 2 1/2 years. In this time we have had two children in our home. This has been for us the best of times and the worse of times.

The children whom we took into our home were scared, starved and mistreated. No one else wanted them. We loved them and cared for them and watched as they slowly turned into healthy, loving, beautiful children. This for us was the best of times. . .

During the past 2 1/2 years it has been a constant battle with the social worker and DSS to get anything that was needed for the children. We eventually found what the children needed by spending long hours on the phone and finding the right people ourselves.

We would go for weeks without hearing from DSS; phone messages and requests went unanswered. The future plans for the children were sketchy and on the spur of the moment we were told that within days one of the children would be moved to an adoptive placement. We were not allowed to have any closure with this child or even to say goodbye to the child who called us Mommy and Daddy for 19 months.

This was very painful for our family and the brother who was left behind. In June, we faced a repeat of what had happened four months earlier. There were no plans for the remaining child in our care.

We were told to make vacation plans and go on with our lives. We did -- only to find that on May 14 that the child's future with our family would be ending soon.

We are happy that the children are being adopted and will have stable homes. This has never been a problem for us; the problem is the way our family has been treated. You cannot have children in your home for any length of time and not love them.

For them to be ripped away from the only loving family they have ever known without a chance to say goodbye and with no further contact is wrong.

Harry and Joyce Chipman

Girdletree

Gunts article called excellent

As a past headmaster of the Boys' Latin School (1992-1994), I write to commend Edward Gunts for his excellent June 23 article, "The walls fall, the importance stands."

The Alexander Cochran house was a major landmark as a modern architectural wonder on Lake Avenue. However, Boys' Latin's lower school, which has occupied the house from the early 1970s, has grown so large the school needed a much larger structure on the same grounds.

A pity -- but that's called progress -- and the memory will linger on of that modern edifice.

A. H. Bishop III

Baltimore

'Rockin' Robin' helped integrate America

You ran a June 24 obituary on Fred Robinson, known affectionately to many of his radio listeners as "Rockin' Robin." Mr. Robinson made history, as did many other black disc jockeys during the early to mid-1960s. Known mostly for his air time on WEBB, he entertained thousands of mostly black Baltimoreans, but a number of white ones as well.

I remember so well hitchhiking up York Road in Govans with a friend one night in August, 1965. Jack and I had gotten off work and were not amenable to the wait for a bus ride home. Eventually we were picked-up by a seemingly prosperous, young, white man driving a Mercedes Benz.

He didn't allow us to engage him in any sort of conversation, as he was continually punching the buttons on his car radio. Eventually he landed on WEBB, a station that played soul music to a mostly black audience, and he stayed there. The first song I remember hearing was "First I Look at the Purse" by the Contours. "Rockin' Robin" could very well have been the DJ on the air at that time.

What happened that night was happening all across America: Many white radio listeners were crossing over to black radio stations to hear the newest hits by the Supremes, Temptations, Orlons, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas and a host of other black music groups who were enormously popular among both black and white listeners.

Eventually the white stations were forced to play the same type music lest they lose any more listeners. The soul music explosion must have taken on international dimensions, as well.

A few years ago, I chatted with a fellow at a pub in Edinburgh, Scotland, and he remembered in the 1960s when he and fellow Scottish lads and lassies would arrive by the bus-load to dance to soul music in the nightclubs of Edinburgh.

"Rockin' Robin," "Fat Daddy" (Paul Johnson), "Wild Child" (Lester Foster), "Hot Rod" (Maurice Hulbert) and many other black DJs probably did more, coincidentally, to promote racial understanding and compassion during that era than any other local group of people not officially aligned with the civil rights movement. They were pioneers of sorts who worked in an era when DJs, most especially black ones, had not become as institutionalized as they are today.

Fred Robinson, "Rockin' Robin," helped shape history in a very positive way. Few people are fortunate enough or lucky enough to make such contributions.

Jamie Blount

Baltimore

Charles Robinson changed and cheapened Baltimore County libraries

Now that librarian James Fish has been selected to replace Charles Robinson as director of the Baltimore County Public Library system, isn't it time to review the past decades of what might be called the "Charles Robinson era"?

Do area citizens really want a continuation of practices originated by Mr. Robinson? His practices have been severely criticized both locally and nationally over the years.

Many persons, both within and outside of the world of library professionals, have leveled devastating criticism at both him and the library system he has led.

Headlines from past years tell part of the story.

"The case for quality book selection" from the Nov. 15, 1981 issue of Library Journal (an important national magazine devoted to libraries) written by Murray C. Bon stated that BCPL was guilty of a cheap trick long known to librarians.

The trick is to devote much money from the library budget to buying books known to be highly publicized (primarily best-selling fiction), obtain high circulation figures from (usually well-to-do) people seeking to avoid paying bookstore prices and then publicize the high circulation figures as proof of "library success." Meanwhile, important groups of library patrons not devoted to best-selling fiction become seriously neglected. The label "cheap trick" is justified.

BCPL has done this for nearly two decades.

"Public libraries under pressure to eliminate fees" proclaimed a Sept. 24, 1987 Sun headline. The "public libraries" in question were primarily Baltimore County public libraries, which earned more than $700,000 in 1987, according to The Sun, by charging fees for library services. The state attorney general, backed by 22 local public library administrators, moved to stop BCPL from charging county residents for services.

But BCPL continued to charge, anyway. According to the 1994-95 edition of the American Library Directory, BCPL's "general" income (mostly from fees) had risen to a $5 million level.

The same source reported that the incoming BCPL director, Mr. Fish, charged more fees while heading the San Jose library system than did either of the other two candidates for the BCPL director job (one from Atlanta, the other from Miami). This figured importantly in his selection.

Other questions should be asked and answered about the dubious "Charles Robinson era" at the Baltimore County Public Library system.

The fastest growing area of the county is the northern part. Yet no library branches exist there or are planned. The entire area is inadequately served by a small makeshift location in Hereford. The BCPL system is made up of branches almost all of which hug the Baltimore City border. Significant branch additions have not been planned or added in almost 20 years.

The mysterious "Baltimore County Public Library Foundation" (about which no printed information is available), which obtains large amounts of money from library users, has recently purchased a magazine titled Library Administrators Digest for Mr. Robinson to publish after his retirement using library building desk space, probably in Towson.

This is a questionable use of money obtained from library patrons. Mr. Robinson's continuing and inevitably dramatic presence will make it difficult for Mr. Fish to make any clean breaks from past Robinson practices, no matter how much these breaks may be needed.

The Baltimore County Public Library trustee system has made the "Charles Robinson era" possible and "rubber stamped" many Robinson decisions deemed highly objectionable by both citizens and library professionals. The trustees select themselves and are not really accountable to the electorate.

The "library trustee system" is seriously antiquated and should be replaced and updated.

The hiring of James Fish as library director of BCPL has been publicized as sort of a "business as usual" thing. No big deal. Just a friendly, competent new face leading an important local institution which deserves wide respect and plans no changes.

But a serious examination of BCPL's "Charles Robinson era," now drawing to a close, reveals the need for raising questions about the past.

The future of BCPL and its management system should not be considered a "done deal."

David R. Allen

Freeland

The writer is a librarian interning at the Library of Congress.

Pub Date: 7/06/96

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