1994 Mission Statement
UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO is committed to advancing the economic interests of our members their families and the community through the collective bargaining process; adding value to the work experience and building a stronger, more vibrant community. We will pursue policies and objectives to sustain and protect an effective infrastructure of public services--education, recreation, transportation, commerce and public safety--which improve and enrich the quality of life for all.
Local 1994 recognizes the importance of stable, purposeful jobs which pay fair wages and adequate benefits under safe working conditions. We will engage in legislative and political action and cooperate with other labor organizations, environmental and civic organizations, civil rights groups and like-minded organizations to advance the overall welfare of our neighborhoods, region and state.
History of Local 1994
Moviegoers lined up to see Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump. In South Africa, black voters waited hours in line for the opportunity to cast ballots for the first time. They elected Nelson Mandela as their president. George W. Bush became governor of Texas. Parris Glendening was elected Maryland’s governor. Richard Nixon died. Doug Duncan replaced Neal Potter as Montgomery County Executive. Wayne Curry was elected County Executive in Prince Georges. UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO opened its doors with a small staff and a bundle of legal bills.
“In those first days, it was just Bob Stewart and I, part-time employee Dave Blackwell and a temporary receptionist, the phones constantly ringing and battles raging all around us,” recalls Gino Renne who has served as the Local’s leader since its inception.
Over the next decade, Local 1994 would grow into an organization with a reputation as an aggressive fighter for the rights of government workers. Today, Local 1994 is staffed with 10 full-time employees and still accumulating a growing list of firsts.
- The first union in the state of Maryland to successfully sue the employer to block a privatization plan.
- The first to pass a binding arbitration provision as impasse resolution in a public employee collective bargaining law.
- The first deferred compensation plan for covered workers.
- Continually leading the way in negotiated wages.
The Local ran in a deficit for almost nine years until 2003 when the membership approved a dues increase. Today, Local 1994 has accumulated a modest surplus and has purchased its own office space on Frederick Road in Gaithersburg. We continually pursue adding additional resources to better serve the membership.
Secretary-Treasurer Yvette Cuffie describes herself as one of ‘the soldiers’ in the early efforts to build a union for county employees a decade ago. She was a health care worker in the early 90s, working with her colleagues on a range of safety and security issues.
“We were battling for protections against needle sticks, physical security, mirrors in halls, panic buttons,” Cuffie recalls. “All the things we tend to take for granted in health care work places today came about as a result of the union pushing.”
“We had to scramble--holding meetings in secret places, coaxing friends to get handbills printed, working quietly to circulate them.”
Montgomery County’s workers were hungry for real representation. The 1,500-member association that had been representing them through the 1970s had no real power, no collective bargaining rights, not even the right to meet and confer. It was led by middle-management workers who were not interested confronting the County.
According to Bob Stewart, then an organizer assigned by the UFCW, the County’s workforce was in an economic squeeze brought on by the 1978 energy crisis and out-of-control inflation.
“The county reduced the annual increment from 5% to 2% and would only guarantee for the future COLA’s worth 75% of the CPI.”
During the next few years, several groups tried to replace the old association. In 1981, the County set a unit determination process in motion that split up the workforce into a basically white collar unit--office, professional and technical personnel; and a blue collar unit made up of the service labor & trades workers. The white collar unit voted for MCGEO, the blue collar unit rejected representation in the early eighties.
At about the same time, MCGEO, led by Gino Renne, was organizing with the UFCW. With some 25,000 members in the metro Washington area at the time, the UFCW had substantial clout in Annapolis and in County government.
In 1984, the union persuaded the County Charter Review Commission to put a question on the November ballot to allow the County Council to enact collective bargaining for county employees. The issue got a huge approval from county voters--piling up more votes than Ronald Reagan.
If any Montgomery County workers still had doubts about the need for collective bargaining over wages, those doubts disappeared in 1985 when an employee Compensation Task Force commissioned by the County Council called for deep cuts in wages and benefits--a threat that sparked fury among unrepresented labor and trades workers and prompted them to reconsider their earlier rejection of union representation. In this ballot on December 11, 1985, both AFSCME and UFCW were on the ballot and 1,150 workers were eligible to vote. In an astonishing show of solidarity, the blue collar unit voted overwhelmingly for UFCW, joining their colleagues in the the Office, Professional and Technical unit under the UFCW banner and swelling the size of the County’s unionized workforce to nearly 3,500. However, this vote was only for meet and confer rights and not real collective bargaining. Real collective bargaining for Montgomery County employees was adopted in October 1986. Following a card check by a third party neutral verifying that 62% of employees in both units wished UFCW Local 400 as their representative, MCGEO, under UFCW, went to bargaining for the first negotiated agreement which went into effect July 1, 1987.
But, even though Local 400's huge grocery and retail membership was key for getting issues on the agenda in the Maryland General Assembly, many county workers still felt somewhat left out. In the Fall of 1993, they persuaded Local 400 to put the issue of setting up a new separate local to a mail ballot and by an overwhelming 82 percent, MCGEO members decided to create their own local which was chartered on November 1, 1993 as Local 1994.
Two years later, the fledgling local confronted a fractious County Council and renewed efforts to contract-out services. Through tough political persuasion, Local 1994 teased out a major victory when the county council voted to approve funding for its contract raises by a narrow one-vote margin.
That victory was tempered somewhat when the Council also voted to abolish 160 bargaining unit jobs, although no workers were laid off.
“County workers needed our own union,” explains Renne, “because the political process plays an even more significant role for us than for workers in the retail industry.” Local 1994 has developed a reputation of fighting aggressively on behalf of its members, at the bargaining table and at the ballot box, he says, adding: “Over the first ten years, we built a consciousness among our members that we’ve got to be prepared to deal in the political arena because if the government gets stingy it puts a strain on us at the bargaining table.”
Page Last Updated: Jul 31, 2009 (10:06:36)