by Gonzalo Baeza | February 04, 2011
SAYING ‘YES’ TO A BETTER FUTURE – Maryland public service workers voted to ratify a strong contract that puts an end to furloughs and paves the way for wage increases. (Photo: Jeff Pittman)
In tough economic times, good news is hard to come by for working families. But AFSCME Maryland members have a different story to tell. They affirmed that the best way for working families to protect themselves and prioritize critical public services is through unity and collective bargaining.
In an overwhelming show of union strength, Maryland state employees said “YES” to their new union contract, effectively putting an end to furloughs, winning pay raises, and securing public services for those in Maryland who have felt the brunt of this economy.
By an overwhelming margin of more than 89 percent, employees voting in six bargaining units which represent over 20,000 workers ratified a new 4-year contract.
“This is a clean sweep of every bargaining unit by huge margins,” said Moe Said, a direct care assistant at Springfield Hospital in Sykesville, Md. “This is a great day for state employees and my patients. We achieved a great contract in tough economic times. We have been working hard to build the strongest union possible since we first achieved collective bargaining rights in 1997. This positions us to been even more effective in the future.”
The new agreement protects Maryland’s public service workers from furloughs through the life of the contract (2011-2014). As a result, salaries will go back up to pre-furlough levels and every state worker will receive a $750 bonus, starting July 1, 2011.
Over the past three years, 3,500 state worker positions have been cut while employees have been forced to cope with furloughs, short staffing and increased caseloads. This new contract is a welcome relief for the frontline workers serving the people of Maryland.
The agreement also provides for a 2 percent salary increase, effective January 1, 2013, and a 3 percent raise, effective January 1, 2014, as long as the state hits projected revenue levels. In addition, workers will receive a one salary-grade step increase as of April 1, 2014.
While Maryland will continue to close certain state facilities on five predetermined days to save money in 2012-2014, state workers will still be paid for those closed days. Furthermore, employees at those facilities will also receive five days of administrative leave that can be used any time prior to the employee’s separation from state service.
The contract also includes a fair share provision that all workers who are covered under the agreement pay for representation. More than half the workers who voted are not currently members. They endorsed the agreement and the idea that everyone should provide their fair share of resources to strengthen the union. This effort is consistent with the “Power to Win” plan adopted by delegates to the 2006 AFSCME International convention. Delegates understood that in order for working families to hold their own and fight for the resources we need to provide critical public services, everyone has to pitch in their share of dues.
“By voting in favor of our contract, state employees have spoken loud and clear,” said AFSCME Maryland Executive Director Patrick Moran. “This sends a powerful message that we are united and deserve respect for the vital public services we provide that make Maryland happen. Now we have greater resources to win upcoming fights in the Legislature, such as defeating unfair efforts to slash our hard earned pensions.”