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Teamsters gain in quest to represent police, deputies County delays talks with FOP on contract

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Teamsters union gained a little breathing room yesterday in its effort to displace the Fraternal Order of Police as the bargaining agent for police officers and deputy sheriffs.

In complicated wrangling, county lawyers agreed yesterday to delay negotiations with the FOP that could have effectively shut out the Teamsters. The delay gives the Teamsters a chance to argue in court for an election in which the law enforcement officers would choose between the two unions.

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Martin A. Wolff said he would hold a hearing Tuesday on the Teamsters' contention that the next step should be an election.

Had the county notified the Fraternal Order of Police of its intent to negotiate by a deadline that was set for today, the Teamsters would not have been able to step in without a court order, according to County Attorney Phillip F. Scheibe.

The new agreement was reached after the judge met with Scheibe and lawyers for the FOP, the Teamsters and the attorney general's office in his chambers. The meeting was prompted by the Teamsters' filing for a temporary injunction to stop contract negotiations and force the election.

Wolf wrote in a note added to the court file that the issue could not be resolved in his chambers. Tuesday's hearing was scheduled to allow Assistant Attorney General Jenny Baker, who represents the state labor commissioner, John P. O'Connor, time to research the case.

Scheibe said the sooner the union issue is resolved, the better for the county. To put together a budget in time for the new fiscal year, the county must sign a police labor contract by March 1.

The delay cheered Teamsters organizers, who had been running out of time in their effort to become the bargaining unit for county police and deputy sheriffs.

"I see it as a victory. Finally we're getting some justification," said Billy Mendenall, Teamster organizer.

But FOP lawyer Matthew Immler said there was no victory or defeat. The union has notified the county of its intent to negotiate a contract and is still prepared to do so.

The Teamsters have been trying to get an election since October, when they filed a petition to decertify the FOP.

More than 80 percent of the FOP members have signed cards calling for a vote, according to court records.

Pub Date: 1/15/97

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