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Retroactive COVID-19 response pay granted to thousands of workers in Maryland

Baltimore skyline and inner harbor. Photo credit: Getty.
Retroactive COVID-19 response pay granted to thousands of workers in Maryland
By Meredith Scalos ·

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, front-line workers across the nation have put their lives on the line to ensure that our communities were as safe as possible.

However, not all front-line workers in Maryland have been compensated fairly for going into the fray, often resulting in long hours and weeks of quarantine away from their families. Some have even caught COVID-19 themselves.

For 7,000 state workers in Maryland, some of what they are owed is coming back to them thanks to the hard work of AFSCME members in that state. For thousands of others, AFSCME members are fighting to secure emergency pay.

In late spring, AFSCME Maryland Council 3 reached an agreement with the state under which front-line workers would be paid an extra amount. These emergency response payments were to be made for the period covering September 2020-April 2021.

But Gov. Larry Hogan suspended those payments.

After Council 3 members took action and pressed the issue with various state lawmakers, Hogan reinstated the emergency response pay for those 7,000 workers. The Maryland Legislature passed a budget in April that included the response pay. Eligible workers will continue to receive this pay through Dec. 31.

“This is an important acknowledgment of the risks our members continue to take every day,” said Council 3 President Patrick Moran. “Our members have worked to contain the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities and mitigate the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. Despite being understaffed before the pandemic, we have done our jobs and done them well. Now it’s time for Governor Hogan to have state employees’ back and put some respect in their paychecks.”

But the issue is far from over. That’s because, as Council 3 points out, state workers in many job classifications have been “unfairly and arbitrarily” excluded from receiving emergency response pay – even though they worked alongside the 7,000 front-line workers who are receiving it.

Council 3 members have filed a grievance to correct this inequity on behalf of 4,000 state workers – the largest group grievance against the state of Maryland. Workers covered by the grievance are mostly in administrative, university and security positions.

The union awaits a decision on the grievance from the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings.

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