Mandatory union fee faces likely defeat; Plan for state workers stripped from bill

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposal to allow a mandatory union fee for state employees appears to be headed for defeat after a House subcommittee stripped the provision from his collective bargaining bill yesterday.

Glendening and his union allies won a partial victory when the panel voted to approve the governor's proposal to write into law his 1996 executive order giving state employees collective bargaining rights.

The so-called agency fee, intended to compensate unions for the costs of representing employees whether or not they are members, was the most controversial provision in the collective bargaining bill -- one of the top items on Glendening's legislative agenda.

After cutting out the fee provisions, the personnel subcommittee rejected a surprise compromise between Glendening and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. that would have allowed the fees after new representation elections. When Appropriations Committee Chairman Howard P. Rawlings presented the compromise language, no member made a motion to adopt it.

Glendening spokesman Ray Feldmann said the governor would continue to seek approval of the fees in the full committee and the Senate. But Rawlings said the frosty reaction to the compromise shows the depth of the committee's opposition to agency fees.

The fee provision had been widely perceived as a reward to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for its generous support in the November election. It was also portrayed as a serious threat to the Maryland Classified Employees Association, which supported Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey.

AFSCME, because it is the elected bargaining agent for more state employees than any other union, would be the largest beneficiary of the fees, which would be paid by state employees who did not pay union dues.

MCEA, which lost all of the representation elections it contested under the governor's 1996 executive order establishing collective bargaining, feared its members would fall away if they had to pay a fee to another union.

Sue Esty, AFSCME's chief lobbyist in Annapolis, conceded that approval of the agency fee was a long shot this year -- "but not in the long run."

MCEA lobbyist Jonathan Carpenter was encouraged by the support from lawmakers on fees and access. "As the bill is now, it's something I think our organization can live with and work with," he said.

AFSCME did score a significant victory as the subcommittee adopted language opening up the University System of Maryland to collective bargaining for non-faculty employees.

MCEA won a significant victory when the panel adopted an amendment guaranteeing it the same access to the workplace as AFSCME and other bargaining agents.

Pub Date: 3/18/99

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