Delaware Senator introduces bill allowing Delmar PD to collectively bargain
DELMAR, DELAWARE- State Senator David Sokola is pushing for a bill that would allow Delmar Police officers to collectively bargain with the Delaware local government.
“This gives them the clear right to bargain,” Senator Sokola said.
Senator Sokola said he believed the Delaware Legislature previously resolved the issue by allowing all police and fire departments with over 25 employees to collectively bargain, until a decision from the Delaware Public Employee Relations Board ruled that the Delmar P.D. was exempt.
“They said because Delmar was in two states they didn’t have the jurisdiction to say that the Delaware side could bargain,” he said.
Maryland did approve the collective bargaining and the Delmar Town Commission is currently in arbitration with the Delmar police.
Senator Sokola believes that the department should have the right to bargain with both states.
“I’m a big believer in the democratic process and the workplace is somewhere I think we should support that democratic process,” he said.
Teamsters 326 would be the union to represent the department in Delaware if collective bargaining rights were granted.
Opponents of the bill, including Delaware House Representative Tim Dukes, cite the ongoing arbitration as reason the bill shouldn’t move forward.
He believes the bill would open up the town to legal problems with Public Employee Relations Board (PERB).
Proponents say those issues have been resolved due to the language in the Senate bill.
“What we were hearing was that they were worried that Delmar was being singled out, that it was something they were thinking badly of the town and making a law to single it out,” said Teamster 326 Treasurer Paul Thornburg when describing what he was hearing in opposition to the bill.
He believes Senate Bill 181 would bring Delmar back up to the level of other police departments on the eastern shore.
“What they dont know is [Delmar] was given an exemption from the past, they were already singled out,” he said.
Thornburg points to the previous laws and police commissions that made the town unable to have a police union due to its jurisdiction in two different states.
Senator Sokola believes the right to collectively bargain would allow the department to get more resources.
“It might not just be pay it might be new equipment, working conditions, training, there’s a number of things bargaining units discuss,” he said.
Senator Sokola said the tragic death of Corporal Keith Heacook added pressure to get the bill passed in this term.
“I’m disappointed it took this long and I hope we can address this in June,” he said.
Supporters of the bill gathered outside the Delmar Maryland Town Commission meeting Monday night to voice their support, waving signs and soliciting signatures from drivers on the road to support Senate Bill 181.
Heacook’s own family attended the meeting.
His sister, Anita Heacook, said she wanted to see more joint meetings in the town of Delmar to address staffing shortage in the department.
“You’re making people go to these two meetings and it’s dividing your town,” she said.
Police Chief Ivan Buckley attended the meeting and laid out the changes his department was making in response to Heacook’s death.
“We have been offering overtime to compensate for shift shortages in an attempt to have two officers working,” he said adding “it’s still not enough to guarantee two offiers on the same shift.”
Thornburg believes a collective bargaining agreement will help with public frustration towards public officials as well as prevent another officer death like Heacook’s.
“They don’t want to go to another funeral, I don’t want to go to another funeral if this will fix it, that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.