Public Workers Gain Right to Unite
KENTUCKY & MARYLAND
Public employees in these two states recently gained the right to be represented by unions — achievements that took years of effort by AFSCME and other labor activists.
In May, Kentucky Gov. Paul E. Patton (D) signed an executive order establishing a Governor's Employee Advisory Council. The council will be made up of union representatives chosen by the 30,000 classified state employees who are covered by the order. It will meet periodically to recommend wage and working-condition improvements to the governor.
Under the executive order, the workers now have the ability to select a union so they can join with their co-workers to negotiate workplace improvements and ensure continued progress in the quality of services provided to Kentucky citizens. The order does not apply to employees of the state's elementary, secondary and post-secondary educational system.
AFSCME is part of an organization of several unions, called the Public Employees Alliance of Kentucky (PEAK), that will now offer workers an opportunity to organize.
In April, the Maryland House of Delegates, by a 3-to-1 margin, gave collective bargaining rights to 9,000 employees from the University of Maryland system. Lawmakers granted that power to state employees in 1999, but university workers were excluded. They had been working since then to rectify the situation. Eventually, they persuaded enough legislators to push the bill through.