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City and union reach an agreement

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Posted on: April 11, 2024

BY KATIE V. JONES

On April 1, the city of Laurel’s mayor and city council approved a 5% wage increase for Department of Public Work employees in the bargaining unit, with four votes in approval and one abstention. 

The approved increase comes after several failed attempts during bargaining meetings between the city of Laurel and UFCW Local 1994 which resulted in the city’s requesting an impasse hearing. During a closed session on April 1, the city and union reps presented their documentation to the mayor and city council before the vote was then taken in an open session.

Raymun Lee, special assistant to the president of UFCW Local 1994, admitted the approved wage increase was progress and that “first contracts are normally not the best” but said members are frustrated.

“They put themselves out front, risking their livelihood,” Lee said. “The mayor is a dishonest, disgruntled person who doesn’t care about his work force,” he added.

Lee noted that the city hired a law firm, Jackson Lewis P.C., to handle negotiations, a firm Gino Renne, president of UFCW Local 1994, called, in a press release, “one of the most notorious and wealthiest, union-busting law firms.” Lee also said that Mayor Keith Syndor did not attend one bargaining meeting. 

“This mayor has no interest” in negotiating, Lee said. “It was take it or leave it.”

In an interview, Sydnor said that “most mayors don’t go to the negotiations” and that the city administrator participated in the sessions. He also noted that it is the city’s job “to hire the best lawyers we possibly can.”

Sydnor said city staff compared its Department of Public Works wages and benefits to those of similarly sized municipalities, including Greenbelt, Bowie and Hyattsville, when deciding on the increase. He added that the city paid the highest in accordance with labor laws. The 5% increase will put wages even higher when it goes into effect July 1.

Sydnor said that the contract is “sustainable for the city” and will “not cut services or raise taxes for our citizens.”

The 5% increase (a combined 2.5% merit step and 2.5% cost of living increase) is good for three years. Lee noted that the bargaining committee will start meeting in two years to outline another contract. 

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