About 200 union supporters protested outside the Montgomery County Democratic Party Spring Ball on Saturday, according to The Gazette, upset over the county’s decision to remove police effects bargaining rights.
The Spring Ball, held at the Bethesda North Conference Center, serves as a major fundraiser for the party. The protest also included a boycott that drew support from some big political names: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler, State Sen. Brian Frosh, Del. Bill Frick, County Executive candidate Doug Duncan and others.
The AFL-CIO Metro Council organized the protest. Union leaders said the boycott centered on the county’s decision to revoke effects bargaining rights from its police union, but was also a criticism of the party for what they say is a move away from Democratic values.
The county police union wanted to remain the only police union in the state with bargaining rights over administrative issues such as the use of email, equipment turn-in, rules for raids and video systems in police cars. That touched off a spirited campaign both from the county and the union in support and in opposition of Question B before last year’s referendum.
County officials said the repeal of effects bargaining was necessary as the process hindered MCPD Chief Thomas Manger’s ability to make needed and swift administrative moves, thus hurting public safety.
Many of them, including County Councilmember Roger Belriner (D-Bethesda) wrote letters in support of the Central Committee and in opposition to the union protest. From Berliner’s letter, published on Maryland Juice:
Unfortunately, there are some who apparently think there is no room for disagreement within our party and out of blind ideology or fear of retribution, are choosing to boycott tonight’s event and punish our party in the process. I find this to be troubling to say the least. One of the things that makes Montgomery County so special is that we are one of the most well-educated communities in the country. We are a thinking, discerning community and wherever that is true, you will find thoughtful disagreement even amongst the most ideologically aligned individuals. And that is something we should embrace, not shun or punish.
The moment we become the party of blind obedience – to any one constituency or stakeholder group – is the day we lose our integrity as a party. As in most things in life, good, thoughtful people can disagree. But at the end of the day, our precinct officials overwhelmingly supported the legislative actions of a unanimous Council and the electorate weighed in similarly. Let us move on.
The Gazette reported the boycott meant 340 attendees at the Spring Ball instead of an expected 400 and a $10,000 to $15,000 loss in fundraising for the party.
Flickr photo via Stephen D. Melkisethian