Baltimore County workers begin campaign for increased wages; Rally on courthouse steps draws 35 union members


The union representing about 1,500 Baltimore County government workers kicked off its campaign for higher pay last night, calling for salary increases similar to those given police and firefighters last spring.

During a rally on the steps of the Old Courthouse in Towson, the county's Federation of Public Employees urged the seven-member County Council last night to endorse its "bill of rights," which includes the right to job security, union membership and a safe workplace.

"If we're going to get the respect that we need, and that we deserve, we're going to have to stand together," James L. Clark, the union president, told about 35 members gathered for the rally.

Contract ends June 30

Clark said the union, which represents 1,500 police dispatchers, correctional officers, highway crew chiefs and code enforcement officers, hopes to begin negotiating this fall for a new contract that would take effect June 30, when the current pact expires.

Union members were given a 2 percent cost-of-living increase in contract talks in April.

About 400 members also were given salary upgrades that amounted to pay raises of about $4,500 a year.

But Clark said that most members feel short-changed, considering the 6 percent to 9 percent salary increases given to police and firefighters.

"Even with the gains we've made, we still pale in comparison to other groups," Clark said.

Fire and police negotiated four-year contracts last spring.

Other one-year pacts

Two other county unions also have one-year contracts and must negotiate a new contract by next spring. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 700 blue-collar workers, and the county nurses' union, which represents about 65 public health nurses, also will begin contract talks this fall.

The blue-collar workers were given 2 percent pay increases and job classifications that meant additional pay increases of 4 percent to 4.5 percent for about 90 percent of the members.

The nurses picketed on the plaza between the Old Courthouse and the Baltimore County Courts Building in May, angered by what they considered miserly 2 percent raises.

Ann Lowekamp, vice president of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Health Nurses, said yesterday that the union has no plans for a rally, but that it is collecting data, such as nurses' pay in other areas, to use in bargaining sessions.

"We're looking forward to seeing some progress this year in terms of salaries," she said.

Pub Date: 10/05/99

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