Tuesday, April 27, 2010

MCGEO Slams Leggett for "Obvious Lack of Vision"

In a letter to the County Council last week, MCGEO President Gino Renne sharply criticized County Executive Ike Leggett for failing to abide by language he negotiated with the union calling for a "formal partnership" and "a cost efficiency study group to conduct a top-to-bottom analysis of the County’s management and operational practices." Renne asks the County Council to "step into the leadership void that the Executive Branch has created" and consider "alternatives to the punitive and lopsided recommendations that have been advanced by the County Executive."

Following is the complete letter dated April 16 and posted on MCGEO's website on April 19.


Dear Montgomery County Councilmembers:

When I testified before you on April 6th I said the members of our union have only one expectation: “your work product must be fair and balanced.” Make no mistake, the final budget that you authorize for the coming year will be your product and the voters will judge you—and the County Executive—by the outcome.

All of you espouse the core principles that are the bulwark of the Democratic Party—principles which I personally share. Among those principles is an abiding faith in effective government that serves constituents and values fairness and equality. There has never been a time when those principles were more important to the future of our County and its citizens.

It’s easy to lead when the goals are clear and resources are at hand. But the true test of leadership is how we respond in the toughest of times. I am asking you to step into the leadership void that the Executive Branch has created.

My Union’s members, my Executive Board and I all understand that we will not get through this crisis without some pain and we are prepared to accept our fair share—but only our fair share.

One of the key principles that drives our Union is the acceptance of our responsibility within the context of our collective bargaining agreement and our employment obligations. Our end of the deal is that each member gives our best effort to the job to maintain the quality of services that residents demand and expect. In return, our members expect competitive wages, safe and decent working conditions and a meaningful voice on the job.

I have criticized the Executive extensively for his obvious lack of vision in proposing a budget plan that—for the third consecutive budget cycle—cuts vital services to the County’s most vulnerable citizens and imposes the heaviest burden of sacrifice on the members of our union. This year, the Executive has gone beyond previous years, putting a disproportionate amount of the load on the shoulders of front-line county government workers and the county’s most vulnerable citizens—while barely touching management layers and failing to ask for similar sacrifices from two-thirds of the County’s workforce.

Our Union’s disappointment with the Executive extends beyond the budget document. The recent history of collective bargaining with the County Executive reflects a serious deterioration of the relationship. For example, there is concrete language within our existing collective bargaining agreement that establishes a formal partnership between the County and the Union. Unfortunately, the Executive has totally repudiated the letter and the spirit of that provision. Because the County Council is also a de facto partner by virtue of that agreement, we call on you to be cognizant of that partnership and approach this budget review with the explicit obligations of that partnership in mind.

Last fall, when the Union and the County Executive concluded an interim agreement to help deal with the growing fiscal crisis, the final document also included a provision to establish, fund and participate in a cost efficiency study group to conduct a top-to-bottom analysis of the County’s management and operational practices. That action has not been taken. I call on the Council to act to fulfill this contractual obligation as an integral element in fixing the failures of this budget and to effectively deal with the challenges that we all know are on the horizon.

For better or worse, now, the responsibility falls to you and your colleagues on the Council to do the right thing. Make no mistake, voters are watching and their expectations are reasonable. They expect nothing less than responsible leadership.

Each Council member sits on a committee to oversee various County administrative agencies. You have the authority and the responsibility to exercise that oversight in the interest of County residents. I am asking you directly to make certain that the agency officials who appear before you in the coming weeks provide candid and comprehensive information about the genuine budget alternatives that exist. You should ask for explanations as to why their reduction-in-force plans leave managerial levels virtually untouched, and they must respond. You must hold the County’s bureaucrats accountable because voters will ultimately hold you accountable, and because it is the right thing to do.

In summary, we are asking the Council to take several significant steps:

1. Exercise your oversight responsibility to prod agency heads and department directors to examine alternatives to the punitive and lopsided recommendations that have been advanced by the County Executive.

2. Direct the Executive to observe the letter and the spirit of the collective bargaining agreement between the County and UFCW Local 1994, especially as it pertains to partnership and the establishment of a cost efficiency study committee.

3. Work with us to re-craft this budget document to make it fair and balanced in the interest of the welfare of our County’s residents, its employees and the county itself.

On behalf of the members of UFCW Local 1994, I thank you for your concern and I urge you to continue to exercise independent leadership and judgment.


Gino Renne
UFCW International Vice President