Union members, in yellow shirts, pack Montgomery County Council chambers ahead of a vote on union contracts.
The Montgomery County Council, County Executive Isiah Leggett, and union leaders have about a week to agree to cuts to employee health care and benefit packages. School employees will be part of the cuts, even though they had been left alone in county executive Isiah Leggett's original plan.
The council yesterday rejected Leggett's plan, preferring instead to enact cuts that affect all unionized employees in the county, including those of Montgomery County Schools.
That pleases Gino Renne, who heads the local chapter of the municipal and county employee organization. What doesn't please him is the results of his earlier negotiations with Leggett, which led to lawsuits and an arbitrator's ruling that Leggett ignored.
"I've spent $300,000 on this round of bargaining. I'm not going to continue to throw good money after bad," says Renne.
Several county employee unions brought a lawsuit against Leggett last month after he recommended the health care cuts in his budget, going against the opinion of a third-party arbitrator. A county judge sided with Leggett on May 6.
In the future, Renne says, he may negotiate with the council solely, and leave the executive out of the discussion. Leggett's says Renne is welcome to do so.
"They've always had that authority. The council can look at this issue completely, and decide whatever it wants to do, in any form or fashion," says Leggett. "So, that's not new, and we didn't need to get involved in a lawsuit and arbitrator's decision."
The county council indicated last week that it would be cutting school employee benefit packages as part of cost-saving measures in 2012. The benefit cuts will be part of the new county budget, which must be passed by the end of May.