Prince George's strike: 1980
Five local unions affiliated with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and representing 3,500 workers called a strike against Prince George’s County workers in the wake of County Executive Lawrence Hogan refusing to sign a labor contract agreed to by his own negotiators.

The bitter dispute erupted after Hogan refused to sign the tentative agreement telling aides, “A strike sometimes is good politics.” Neutral observers said that the tentative agreement “was felt to be quite favorable to the county,” according to the Washington Post.

Hogan’s public reasons changed from “unacceptable provisions” relating to minor health and economic benefits to him saying that provisions for a closed-union shop in the previous contracts and a provision for a full-time chief steward in the tentative agreement were unacceptable.

The union charged Hogan with violating the country’s labor code and the independent hearing examiner agreed with them ordering Hogan to sign the agreement.

Hogan refused and filed suit in court to overturn the hearing examiner’s opinion. A Circuit Court judge ruled against Hogan and ordered him to sign the agreement. Hogan again appealed.

At that point AFSCME called the strike August 12th in frustration with Hogan’s intransigence. The bad blood went back to the previous election when AFSCME backed Hogan’s opponent incumbent Winfield Kelly.

Jail guards, road crews, landfill operators, building inspectors, clerical employees and others quit work.

Hogan responded by saying he was prepared to “tough it out” and ruled out negotiations.

He immediately fired 121 of the county’s 126 jail guards who participated in the strike saying they had done so illegally. Jail inmates had broken out of their cells, smashed windows and burned records after they were left under care of a skeleton crew.

The union said over 80 percent of its covered members walked off the job while the County said less than 50 percent participated.

After 11 days, AFSCME called off the strike without winning a contract settlement.

The union members voted 5-1 to accept a memorandum prepared by a federal mediator that was almost all in favor of the County and to return to work.

Hogan rejected the memorandum.
Workers had mixed feelings about the strike. One said, “I stood out for two weeks for nothing as far as I’m concerned.” Another said it did “shown Hogan that he can’t just walk on us.”

The union responded by going to court, winning three different orders for Hogan to sign the original contract.

Over the months, union membership suffered as employees dropped out of the organization. During this period it was revealed that Hogan asked for 24-hour surveillance on a union leader, but that police officials had rejected his request.

Finally on May 22, 1981 Hogan signed the agreement after Circuit Court Judge Robert Mason again ordered him to do so. Hogan signed and sent the agreement to the County Council with a five-page letter urging them to reject it.

The Council passed it easily and AFSCME finally gained a contract 15 months after negotiating the agreement, an 11-day strike and seemingly endless court battles.
The fired guards later sued both the county for wrongful termination and AFSCME for telling them the strike was legal.

The guards won their suit against the County and were reinstated in 1983 after a judge found the strike was conducted legally. In 1987, the group won $4 million in back pay and damages from the County.

Hogan also had bitter clashes with the teachers’, police and firefighters’ unions during his four-year tenure.

Hogan ran for U.S. Senate in 1982 and was defeated. Incoming county executive Parris Glendening quickly ended the labor conflict in the county.

One of Hogan’s sons was elected governor of Maryland in 2016.
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