Prince George's County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan, who said during his election campaign that public employes had a right to invoke binding arbitration to settle contract disputes, today came out against a bill giving certain county school employes that right.
Calling the measure "an abomination," Hogan said in a telephone interview, "that's not what I meant by binding arbitration."
The measure, which affects supporting school employes but not teachers, survived its first legislative test today, receiving the unanimous approval of a subcommittee of the Prince George's County delegation.
While some delegates have announced their opposition to the measure, it is expected to win the approval of the full county delegation, virtually assuring its passage in the House. It is not clear, however, whether a majority of county senators will support it.
The bill requires that an arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association be called in when the school board and the employes reach an impasse in their contract negotiations. The arbitrator's decision would then be binding on both the school board and the county government.
About 4,500 school bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria and clerical workers, all members of Local 2250 of the American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employes -- would be affected by the legislation.
A number of legislators today said Hogan's opposition to the bill represented a complete reversal of his campaign stance.
"From the way I read his campaign statements, he supported binding arbitration," said State Sen. John Garrity (D-Prince George's). Garrity, a strong supporter of the school employes bill, added, "Now he's backtracking -- which is typical Hoganism."
Hogan, however, disagreed with this view. The people accusing him of flipflopping on the question, he said, are wrong.
"Somebody who likes fruit might not like bananas," the Republican county executive added.
In an interview during his campaign last fall, Hogan said, "You have to give unions either the right to strike or binding arbitration if they are to have any power.
"I'm adamantly against giving them the right to strike. If you take away binding arbitration too, then you're robbing them of any real bargaining power."
Despite his opposition to the school employes bill, Hogan angrily insisted in a telephone interview today that he supports "the concept of binding arbitration."
He added that he has asked some staff members to draft legislation that will "clarify what I mean by binding arbitration" for public employes. This legislation is likely to require that citizens be represented on the arbitration panel and that the negotiating session be open to the public, Hogan said.
He said the school employes bill, sponsored by Prince George's Dels. Lorraine S. Sheehen and Gerard F. Devlin, would "take away from the county executive and County Council control of the school board's budget."
The bill is also opposed by the County Council.
The bill's supporters, however, say it would eliminate the risk of an illegal strike by the school employes.