Wednesday, May 15, 2013

UPDATE: Labor Unions Picketed the Montgomery County Democratic Party's Spring Ball // What Happened & What's Next

Over the last couple weeks, Maryland Juice has been writing about the heated conflict that emerged between some area labor unions and Democrats in Montgomery County. Labor leaders announced a picket of the MoCo Democratic Party's annual fundraiser last Saturday, causing elected officials from around Maryland to weigh in with varying opinions on the matter. So what happened at the protest?

Below Maryland Juice provides a range of photos, videos, and newspaper commentary describing and reacting to the conflict. My early read is that the final chapter in this story is not yet written, and politicos can expect to see this conflict continuing into the future. Details below:

JUICE #1: CONGRESSMAN CHRIS VAN HOLLEN SPEAKS AT MCDCC BALL //  WHO ELSE ATTENDED? - Maryland Juice has heard various accounts of notable attendees at last Saturday's MCDCC Spring Ball. Several guests have confirmed attendance from the following noteworthy area politicos:

Rep. Chris Van Hollen Speaks at MCDCC Ball
  • Congressman Chris Van Hollen*
  • County Executive Ike Leggett
  • County Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Roger Berliner, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro, Craig Rice & Hans Riemer*
  • State Senators Rich Madaleno and Jamie Raskin*
  • Delegates Kathleen Dumais, Ana Sol Gutierrez, Anne Kaiser and Aruna Miller
  • Former MoCo teachers union political director Jon Gerson*

* NOTES: Congressman Van Hollen was at the ball to honor former Congressman Mike Barnes. State Senator Jamie Raskin dropped by late to the event to drop off a citation honoring a gun control advocate. Likewise, Gutierrez, Navarro and Rice were all presenting awards to Democratic activists.

Councilmember Marc Elrich posted a lengthy comment on Facebook explaining why he decided not to attend the MCDCC Ball. Councilmember Valerie Ervin was out of town for her son's graduation. Councilmember Nancy Floreen was out of town visiting family.

Many people noted the presence of MCEA's former political director Jon Gerson, but he was attending in his role as an MCDCC precinct official. This shows readers just one of the many complex personal ties involved in the labor dispute. Another example is that MCGEO union chief Gino Renne, who helped lead the protest, was previously scheduled to present an MCDCC award to a Democratic activist and personal friend. Obviously that didn't end up happening.

JUICE #2: MOCO DEMS LOSE UP TO $15,000  //  FOP SAYS THINGS WOULDN'T BE WORSE WITH REPUBLICANS ON THE COUNTY COUNCIL -The Gazette's Doug Tallman provided some basic facts about the financial consequences of the labor protest, and his article included some commentary from both Democratic officials and union leaders (excerpt below):
GAZETTE: About 200 union members protested outside a Montgomery County Democratic Party fundraiser Saturday, asserting the party had strayed from progressive positions. The action skimmed off about 15 percent of its normal attendance....

“They’re losing a lot of friends in the Democratic Party who would want to be there for them for the next one and now they’re not so sure,” said Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Takoma Park.

“I think it’s creating a schism within the Democratic Party against labor,” said Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda....
Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee Chairman Gabe Albornoz said about 340 people attended the fundraiser.... he said the event raised about $45,000; he had expected $10,000 to $15,000 more....

We wouldn’t be doing any worse with a couple of Republicans on the council, the way we’ve been treated the last four years. How could we do any worse?” former FOP president Marc Zifcak said....

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said he believed some of the unions’ grievances were legitimate....

JUICE #3: AFL-CIO PRESIDENT SAYS "NO EXCUSE ... 2014 STARTS TODAY" - The day after the labor protest at the MCDCC Spring Ball, the AFL-CIO Metro Council sent the following message to their email list subscribers (excerpt below):
AFL-CIO: Do Real Democrats Cross Picket Lines? Heavy rain couldn’t stop the festive mood Saturday evening as labor activists from all over the DC metro area picketed the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) Spring Ball. Started in response to the MCDCC’s position last year in favor of the Question B referendum (MCDCC Ball Boycott/Picket Focus is Solidarity UC 5/10/2013) the protest brought together activists from UFCW 1994 MCGEO and Local 400, IAFF 1664, ATU 689, OPEIU 2, Progressive Maryland, and many more. Picketers held umbrellas over home-made signs, ringing bells and blowing whistles as they cheerfully chanted “Do Real Democrats Cross Picket Lines? NO!” The Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD) were at the center of the picket, proudly wearing their MCYD t-shirts as they boycotted the Ball.

“The future of the democratic movement is out here, not in there,” said Metro Council President Jos Williams, as activists gathered at the corner. Williams introduced MCYD President Dave Kunes, who passed up receiving the “Democrat of the Year” award at the Ball to boycott the event with many other MCYD members. “This isn’t about a single issue,” said Kunes to a cheering crowd. “You all out here – you are my party!” Music blasted from a band made up of AFM 161-710 members as Williams saluted the politicians who joined the picket. At press time, two politicians – County Executive candidate Phil Andrews and County Councilmember Hans Riemer – were seen having crossed the picket. “There’s no excuse for politicians going in there” said Williams. “We are sending a message. It will not be business as usual… 2014 starts today.

JUICE #4: SOMERSET MAYOR JEFFREY SLAVIN BOYCOTTS MOCO YOUNG DEMS EVENTS UNTIL NEW LEADERSHIP IN PLACE - In the days after the labor protest of Montgomery County Democrats, the MoCo Young Dems (who backed the picket line) sent out an email announcement for their next membership meeting. Their invitation was met with a stinging rebuke from Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin, who was one of the Democratic activists receiving an award at the MCDCC Ball:
JEFFREY SLAVIN: Dear President Kunes,

Please remove me from your list.

I am shocked and appalled that you joined the protest on Saturday night.  You are supposed to be Democrats first!  And your reasons for supporting the so-called  "strike" make no sense.  There are lots of young people in office in Montgomery County and no one is stopping any of you from running.  The Central Committee does not make endorsements anyway and your group looked foolish.

I will not plan to attend any of your events until you have new leadership in place.

Thanks for considering my views. I have been speaking to many Democrats in the past few days and I can tell you that many others feel the same way.

Jeffrey Slavin
Mayor/Town of Somerset
2013 MCDCC Morgan-Jerney Community Service Awardee

cc: Maryland Juice

Interestingly, Center Maryland columnist Josh Kurtz had a different take on Young Dems President Dave Kunes (excerpt below):
JOSH KURTZ (VIA CENTER MARYLAND): When I’ve been asked over the past several days what I think of the decision by Montgomery County public employee unions to picket the county Democratic Party’s annual spring ball the other night, all I can say is, “A plague on all their houses.”

In a way you have to admire the unions’ chutzpah, and their success in disrupting the spring ball, which nevertheless was about three-quarters full....

On the other hand, the self-righteous indignation of some of the Democratic stalwarts who decided to make a show of crossing the picket line was also a little stomach turning – along with their warnings that the sky was falling due to the labor-county party schism....

Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence of the brouhaha was that Dave Kunes did not get his moment in the sun. Kunes, the president of the Montgomery County Young Democrats, was supposed to be presented with the “Democrat of the Year” award at the dinner. But he did not hesitate to pull the Young Dems’ sponsorship of the spring ball when the unions cranked up their protest....

Kunes, who works as an aide to Del. Tom Hucker (D) during legislative sessions in Annapolis, doesn’t rule out a political career someday. But in his mind, there are more important battles to fight....

JUICE #5: SEN. MANNO, DEL. HUCKER & DEL. ROBINSON GET SHOUT-OUTS AT PICKET LINE // PLUS: PHOTOS & VIDEO FOOTAGE OF THE PROTEST - A participant in the labor picket at the MCDCC Ball reports that State Senators Roger Manno and Delegates Tom Hucker & Shane Robinson were recognized as supporters during the labor protest. Below we also provide photos and video footage from the event that we found on social networking sites. MoCo Young Dem Travis Ballie posted the following comment and video footage of the picket on Facebook: "I am SO PROUD of Montgomery County Young Democrats President Dave Kunes for his principled stand today WITH Labor in MoCo. I've never been prouder to call myself a Young Democrat!"

Progressive Maryland (a picket supporter) also posted a photo album from the event. We sample a couple images below:

WHAT NEXT? - This conflict is creating a very interesting backdrop to the looming 2014 Democratic Primary cycle. Maryland Juice will be reporting on how this all plays out very soon, and we are already hearing numerous theories about what might happen next. My personal hope going forward is that all parties involved will prioritize advancing justice as they plot their next moves. Hopefully we are all Democrats and labor supporters because we believe these entities are institutions that can help us advance social and economic justice. Let's keep our eyes on the prize, folks!

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