Montgomery County's elected officials are trying to convince county Democrats to support them against the police union over a measure that would shrink the bargaining rights of the county police union.
The Fraternal Order of Police successfully placed on the November ballot a question that would give the police back their rights to "effects bargaining," or the ability to bargain nearly any management decision, including requiring officers to check their email.
The County Council unanimously passed a law stripping the police of that ability in July 2011, a right that none of the county's other public employee unions have.
But several weeks ago, the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee's ballot advisory committee voted 7-6 to support the union's ballot initiative and to oppose the county's 2011 law. That means that if the committee advises registered county Democrats on whether to vote for the measure, they will urge them to support it -- and Democrats account for 72 percent of the 743,142 registered county voters, according to the Board of Elections' most recent data.
That would be a mistake, say County Council President Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, and County Executive Ike Leggett.
The two co-signed a letter addressed to the Montgomery County Democratic precinct officials, who will decide what recommendations are made to voters. The letter emphasizes that all nine of the County Council members who repealed the rights are Democrats, and that Leggett, another Democrat, signed it into law.
Without the disputed rights, the police can bargain over wages, benefits and workplace conditions, the letter explains, but with them, Police Chief Tom Manger is prevented from getting anything done.
"Under effects bargaining, police officers still don't have to sign their time cards. Can you imagine working at an agency where managers can't even require employees to sign time cards?" Leggett and Berliner wrote. "The police chief could not even require that police officers have county email accounts -- or check their email. It took months to negotiate that common-sense measure with union leaders."
The practice also required Manger to fight with the union over the distribution of police equipment, the deployment of officers to respond to a crime surge in Silver Spring last year and the use of yellow "Police" armbands when officers respond to an emergency event in civilian clothes, according to the letter.
Representatives of the union and the Democratic Central Committee did not return requests for comment.