Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Duchy Trachtenberg’s Labor Record

Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg recently wrote to the Gazette protesting a flyer critical of her that was distributed by the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization (MCGEO) at the Montgomery County Democrats’ Spring Ball. The exchange between Ms. Trachtenberg and MCGEO may have been entertaining, but it is time to put aside the rhetoric and focus on the underlying issue: Ms. Trachtenberg’s labor record.

Consider the following:

1. When Council Members George Leventhal and Marc Elrich introduced a bill to require contracts for domestic workers Ms. Trachtenberg criticized it as providing “false promises” and said that education of workers was the answer. After the bill’s advocates pushed back, Ms. Trachtenberg eventually supported it.

2. In 2008, Ms. Trachtenberg proposed a two-point cost-of-living reduction for public employees at a time when the county could afford to abide by their contracts. She did not have enough votes to push the reduction through the council.

3. Last summer, the county’s Inspector General issued a report describing management oversight problems in the disability program. Ms. Trachtenberg and her colleague, Phil Andrews, responded with a bill that would have dictated collective bargaining outcomes even when that idea was never proposed by the report. In the end, only those items agreed to by the County Executive and the police union were approved by the council.

4. Prior to the 2009 District 4 primary, Ms. Trachtenberg did not support a proposal to allow early voting. That proposal would have aided working people with multiple jobs and long hours to vote on days other than Tuesday, including the weekend.

5. Ms. Trachtenberg twice opposed District 4 candidate Nancy Navarro, who was supported two years in a row by nearly the entire county’s labor movement. The candidates Ms. Trachtenberg backed instead were Don Praisner, who voted against prevailing wage, and Ben Kramer, who had the worst labor record of any Montgomery Delegate. Furthermore, Ms. Trachtenberg has employed Eric Hensal, who managed both campaigns opposing Navarro, as an advisor in seeking concessions from the unions.

6. Ms. Trachtenberg co-sponsored the Montgomery County prevailing wage law, which protected labor standards on county-owned construction projects. She deserves great credit for supporting that bill. (Disclosure: your author lobbied for it.) She also deserves credit for being a firm advocate of light rail on the Purple Line, a project that enjoys the support of a large coalition including labor.

Ms. Trachtenberg was understandably unhappy about MCGEO’s comparison of her to the infamous former Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). Those are not the words of your author. We do not believe that Senator McCarthy is a suitable comparison for any Montgomery office holder, including the Council Member.

But Ms. Trachtenberg’s overall record is a disappointment to most of labor. Time after time, they have asked for her support and found her on the opposite side. Labor expects that from Council Member Phil Andrews, a principled budget hawk who honestly – and civilly – disagrees with most of their priorities. It is a different thing coming from Ms. Trachtenberg, who is the granddaughter of a union organizer and still claims to be pro-union even while repeatedly voting against them.

Look at all the labor organizations that endorsed Duchy Trachtenberg in 2006.

Given her record, how empty will that page be next year?