Deputies vote to join Teamsters

by Peter L. McGuire, Staff Writer Sun Journal Aug. 28, 2013

PARIS — In a near-unanimous vote, Oxford County Sheriff's Office deputies have chosen to join Teamsters Union Local 340.

The move effectively disbands the in-house Oxford County Deputies Association, the group that has represented deputies for at least 15 years.

Oxford County Sheriff's Office deputies, corporals and sergeants who were represented by the association will now be represented by the Teamsters.

On Tuesday, Maine Labor Relations Board Director Marc Ayotte said 14 of the 15 ballots from association members sent by mail voted to switch union representation to the Teamsters.

The 15th ballot could not be authenticated because its envelope wasn't signed, Ayotte said. His office intended to send out the certification notices to the Teamsters, association members and Oxford County administration immediately, Ayotte confirmed. 

Oxford County deputies have been locked in protracted contract negotiations with the county commissioners for almost two years.

A recent mediation effort failed to come up with a solution and before Tuesday's vote, and according to outgoing Oxford County Deputies Association President Joshua Wyman, the parties were heading toward a fact-finding process to evaluate the deputies' claim they are paid far less than other Oxford County law enforcement personnel.

On Tuesday, Wyman said he was encouraged by the new union representation. The association had gone as far as it could in the contract negotiations and now needed the support of experienced labor negotiators, he said.

"It will be nice to have someone come and who knows a little bit more about this than we do," Wyman said.

He said positive reviews of the Teamsters' negotiation performance from other law enforcement agencies encouraged the association to seek out its representation.

Teamsters Local 340 represents the Norway and Paris police departments, as well as other law enforcement agencies across Maine.

Teamsters Business Agent Ray Cote, who will represent the deputies, said he expected to meet with the new union members at their earliest opportunity.

Cote, who has not been involved with the negotiations to date, said he intended to contact the mediator and determine if there were any areas of the contract the two sides agree on and would move forward from there.

Cote also represents the Biddeford and Kittery police departments.

Oxford County Administrator Scott Cole said he looked forward to meeting the deputies' new representation and was willing to talk over the two sides' differences.

"Negotiations have been on-again, off-again for a while," Cole said. "We welcome it to be on-again."