Tuesday, October 23, 2012

5 Penn. towns disbanding police forces to bust union

A big protest for the tiny town of Newport
(UPDATES to CORRECT spelling of "Garofalo" in 4th and penultimate graf, CORRECT that Eastern Adams, West York and Middletown are looking to disband departments instead of having disbanded them already.)

The War on Workers rages across five Pennsylvania towns that disbanded their union police forces. Now they rely solely on state police.

The Evening Sun reported on Oct. 13 that Hamiltonban Township would not renew its contract with its lone police officer, who had joined Teamsters local 776.

Three days later, the Newport Borough Council voted 3-2 to ignore the police union contract and immediately dissolve the police department. Minutes later, the two police officers were told to get their personal belongings out of the police station. A constable stood by as a locksmith changed the building's locks. One councilor resigned in protest.

The two Newport Borough police officers are also represented by Teamsters Local 776. Said Secretary-Treasurer Mario Garofalo:
Everyone was blindsided. The residents are in an uproar. What was done was outrageous and the Teamsters are standing behind our members and the residents. 
What is happening here is happening in other places. It’s a domino effect.  
He's right. Police departments are trying to disband their Teamster-represented force in Eastern Adams, something Local 776 is fighting in a last ditch effort to prevent. Local 776 has viable information that West York Borough is looking to dissolve its police department. Middletown is also looking to disband, having outsourced their 911 center. They've furloughed police officers and public works employees already.

Local 776 is looking into possible open meeting violations. The meeting during which the vote was taken had been scheduled for 7 pm, but was held 11 hours earlier. And since the Teamsters contract expires on Dec. 31, 2013, the local filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.

In the meantime, residents of Newport Borough staged a four-hour protest on Saturday. The Patriot-News reported:
Newport is usually a ghost town on Saturday mornings. 
Not today.
About 50 residents carrying signs and yelling comments took to the streets of Newport for four hours to show their support for the police department, which the Borough Council abruptly disbanded on Tuesday.
They carried signs calling for the resignations of council members Tami Halstead, Lorrie Nulton and Jason Ehrhart, who voted to disband the force.
They took turns shouting into a megaphone and broadcasting the sounds of police sirens and gathered signatures for petitions to save the Newport Police Department.
Many residents of this blue-collar town on the Juniata River rallied behind Officers Richard Behne and Barry Keller, whom they consider family. Newport has about 2,800 residents.
"It’s an attack on workers," said Garofalo. "It’s an all-out attack on working people represented by unions.”

Local 776 represents about 100 police officers in south central Pennsylvania.