Three Montgomery County unions are targeting County Council member Hans Riemer over his wife’s work at Pfizer and his call for mandatory vaccination of county employees.
Riemer’s wife Angela Riemer is vice president of federal government relations for Pfizer, a manufacturer of one of three COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the United States.
The unions have asked if Hans Riemer has a conflict of interest as he lobbies for a mandatory vaccination policy for county employees. “Is he trying to protect public health or to appease the source of the majority of his household income?” », Indicates the union’s statement.
Riemer, however, said he complied with disclosure requirements regarding his wife’s work and family income.
He called the allegations “outrageous” and called on county executive Marc Elrich to oppose union tactics.
Angela Riemer did not respond to an email from Bethesda Beat on Tuesday seeking comment. Additionally, a representative at Pfizer’s corporate headquarters did not respond to an email from Bethesda Beat on Tuesday.
When a reporter asked Hans Riemer on Monday to speak to Angela Riemer for this story, he said he didn’t think it would be appropriate because the focus shouldn’t be on her. In response to a follow-up request from Bethesda Beat on Tuesday, Hans Riemer said he would ask his wife if she was willing to speak with a reporter, but added that she might need permission from the head office of Pfizer.
Riemer and council member Will Jawando lobbied for the vaccination mandate, proposing a bill that could lead the county to lay off employees who do not comply. The bill allows for medical exemptions.
Elrich favors vaccination or testing and has denounced the approach of council members as counterproductive and putting the county at risk of labor shortages, diminished public safety and legal challenges.
This past weekend, the leaders of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, which represents the police; United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1994 MCGEO, representing county government employees; and the Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters Association released an online statement alleging that Angela Riemer’s work and the couple’s actions in Pfizer constitute “strong financial ties” to the company.
Along with the statement, the three unions shared a link to Hans Riemer’s financial disclosure statement from last year, which states that he purchased Pfizer shares in March 2017 as part of his wife’s compensation and that ‘they have a value of $ 50,001 to $ 100,000.
He indicates that Pfizer does not do business with the Montgomery County government.
The unions are asking questions about how much Hans Riemer receives from Pfizer and the current value of his shares.
“Before Mr. Riemer says anything promoting the approved Pfizer vaccine, the public deserves to know the extent of their connection to the company and any possible conflicts of interest that may arise,” wrote the unions in the press release.
Gino Renne, 1994 UFCW local president and frequent Riemer critic, told Bethesda Beat on Monday that at a minimum the board member should be more open about promoting a tenure of vaccination “which could have a direct impact on the value of the stock or the profits of the manufacturer or supplier.”
“I certainly have to disclose the interest of myself and my family, my wife has under the labor laws that govern union leaders, and also as a member of the board of directors of the Montgomery County pension funds. So why is it different? That’s the question, ”said Renne.
But Riemer told Bethesda Beat on Monday that he called the union’s attacks “outrageous” and “unconditional anti-vax policy.”
“This claim that vaccinating a few hundred more, or maybe a few thousand more county employees is going to impact Pfizer’s stock price is just absurd, it’s absurd, and it’s disgusting. “, did he declare.
Riemer said he was proud of his wife for her work at Pfizer and that she was his “hero”.
“Yes, all of his income comes from Pfizer. Pfizer is his employer, and we are proud of it, ”he said. “And obviously, as part of the routine financial disclosure, I declared all of my family’s income and its sources. And so these are just routine financial disclosure reports, where me and my spouse earn all the income we have. “
The county attorney’s office did not respond to an email from Bethesda Beat on Tuesday seeking comment. A receptionist at the office said she would forward the investigation.
Riemer, who has a limited term and challenges Elrich in next year’s county leadership race, cited his opponent’s name on Monday.
“Marc Elrich should be ashamed to be on this team with a bunch of deplorable Trump-loving anti-vaccines that are making this pandemic last longer and hurting more people than it should,” he said. .
Even though Elrich’s name is not part of the unions’ statement, Riemer said it was still relevant as the county executive is opposed to the council’s vaccination mandate.
“He should be a leader in telling them to step back because they are his allies. They are as thick as thieves, and they look to him for advice and leadership. And instead of telling them to do the right thing, he just sits and watches them attack me and my family, ”said Riemer.
Elrich told Bethesda Beat on Tuesday that he had nothing to do with the union statement.
“And he can defend himself. I don’t know if this is a conflict of interest or not. I did not ask a lawyer. I don’t know what they would say if we asked them that question, ”he said.
Elrich said he “had no reason” to defend Riemer and that “the union beef with Hans is much longer and much deeper than that”.
Elrich added that Riemer’s claim that he opposed a vaccination warrant is “absolutely not true.”
“Hans says I am opposed to a vaccination warrant. I am not opposed to a vaccination mandate. What I’ve been saying from the start is that we have to make sure that we don’t end up not being able to operate the critical infrastructure and critical programs in the county, ”he said.
Elrich said he was especially concerned with police, firefighters and county jail workers when it came to ensuring that a vaccination warrant did not result in a shortage in those departments if the workers resigned.
“I have no problem with the idea of warrants. I would like the federal government to force everyone to get vaccinated. … But having said that, I want to make sure that if we go down this route, which I hope the board would be interested in, they won’t find themselves unable to staff the prison, or I don’t have enough staff. ‘paramedics, for example, to staff fire stations, ”he said.
Elrich added that Riemer had never spoken to anyone in the executive before introducing the mandate legislation last week.
Renne said Monday it was important to stress that county employees are not opposed to vaccinations. Rather, unions determine how many members are still not vaccinated and encourage them to get vaccinated.
“I have asked all of my staff to contact each member that I personally establish as personal contact [with] and inform them that county records show they did not report [their vaccination status] again, ”he said.
Renne said Riemer should have called the unions before moving forward with the mandate, but did not. The unions were planning to meet with Jawando this week, Renne said on Monday.
“[Riemer] never called, ”said Renne. “So the question becomes, why don’t you call?” You are promoting imposing working conditions that we don’t think they have the power to do.
“You are circumventing the collective bargaining that you know is taking place. And you draw lines in the sand. It is not their workforce. They are not the employer.
Riemer said Monday he would welcome a conversation with county employee unions about the vaccination mandate.
“I always talk to them. I talk to them every time they contact me, ”he said.
Riemer added that in a text message to Bethesda Beat, the federal government had purchased all doses of Pfizer.
“We just need people to take them,” he wrote.
Businessman David Blair, who is running against Elrich and Riemer for the Democratic nomination for the county executive in 2022, told Bethesda Beat on Thursday that a vaccination mandate such as the one proposed by the council had sense.
“Yes, the county should require its employees to be vaccinated. It is for their own health. It is for the health of all our residents. It’s simple. It’s scientific. Vaccines save lives, ”he said.
Asked about Elrich’s proposal to determine how many employees still need to be vaccinated, rather than a general mandate, Blair said it was the county executive’s “go-to move”.
“So, rather than being decisive, rather than acting as a leader, he calls for a study,” he said.
Dan Schere can be contacted at [email protected]