The sense of betrayal was palpable at Tuesday night’s Montgomery County Council hearing on Expedited Bill 24-16, which county unions say would devastate collective bargaining for public employees by tilting power in favor of the employer. Speaker after speaker excoriated the County Council – controlled by Democrats in one of the most progressive counties in the nation – for considering anti-worker legislation that appeared to have been taken directly from the playbook of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), funded by the notoriously anti-union Koch brothers. “To be blunt,” said Metro Council Executive Director Carlos Jimenez, “We can’t fathom why in Montgomery County, our leaders would entertain legislation and proposals by the same people that across the country are trying to pre-empt local rules and autonomy.” UFCW 1994/MCGEO (Municipal and County Government Employees Organization) president Gino Renne said the bill "will disrupt the labor peace we have worked so hard to achieve," while UFCW 400 president Mark Federici called it “shocking,” and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre – a Montgomery County resident – said that “I shouldn’t have to be here; I should be fighting for workers rights in Right-to-Work states” like Kansas, where other witnesses said the bill had originated. The Council chambers overflowed with union members in their union colors, especially the gold t-shirts of UFCW 1994/MCGEO, which represents thousands of Montgomery County workers. In the end, it was fire fighter Brock Cline (left) who brought the crowd to their feet. Cline, a captain at Montgomery Fire and Rescue for nearly 20 years – and a member of his Fire Fighters Local 1664’s Executive Board -- held up pictures of his two young sons. “These boys rely on me for everything,” Cline said. Alternating shifts with his wife, Cline often works 24-hour shifts and as much overtime as he can, but “It’s all we can do to continue to live in Montgomery County,” Cline said. “I am doing my best to get by.” Gesturing to the county police and firefighters who lined the back wall, Cline said that “My compatriots back here, my brothers in blue, those of us in red, and all the other employees of the county, we are at work diligently – we work hard. We have one simple mission, and that is to make the county a better place. Please do not hamstring us in our ability to continue to serve the citizens, and make a better life for ourselves and our children in Montgomery County.” Cheering, the audience rose to give Cline a standing ovation. Click here to view the hearing.
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