April 12, 2010

Teacher labor dispute bill headed to O’Malley

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By Nick DiMarco
Nick@MarylandReporter.com

Public school teachers would be able to appeal labor disputes beyond the local boards of education that employ them, under a controversial measure approved by the General Assembly Monday.

A newly-created labor panel would handle disputed salary and relocation negotiations if Gov. Martin O’Malley signs off on the union-backed measure. The panel would be composed of five members appointed by the governor.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 35 to 12, and had already cleared the House.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Thomas Middleton, D-Charles, had watched as a similar bill died in the closing hours of the legislative session last year.

“When you look at where the bill was last year, it was binding arbitration and we changed that [by] setting up a labor relations board,” said Middleton. “I think it’s a whole lot better. I think the impetus of the bill is that it really forces boards of education and teachers to negotiate in good faith.”

But Republican opponents disagree with the move, and argue that it takes power from elected members who comprise boards of education. (See earlier story.)

“I trust our local elected boards … I don’t think it’s right to have a super board overseeing an elected body,” said Senate Minority Leader Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard and Carroll.

The bill bars union members from sitting on the review panel, and requires counties to pay to put the bill in place, rather than the state.