As Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) previewed his forthcoming budget proposal on Thursday, he noted that he’d be including a 3 percent raise for state employees, including those represented by the state’s largest employee union, AFSCME Maryland Council 3.
But that raise wasn’t actually negotiated with the union.
The administration reached negotiated wage deals with four of five state unions – which collectively have a membership about half as large as AFSCME’s 25,000-plus workers – in the fall and winter. But the AFSCME negotiations fell apart early and remained broken beyond a statutory deadline for an agreement.
Hogan announced publicly on Thursday that the administration had filed an unfair labor practices action against the leaders of the union in late December. It follows unfair labor practice claims filed by the union against the administration in October.
“Unfortunately, one union, AFSCME, refused to even come to the table, choosing instead to simply play divisive, political games at the expense of hardworking Maryland state employees,” Hogan said at a news conference. “…However, I do not want to punish hardworking state workers because of the failures of these paid political operatives.”
Both sides have accused the other of failing to negotiate in good faith. Both unfair labor practices claims filed with the State Labor Relations Board center on the process for establishing ground rules for the contract negotiations. Four of the five current members of the labor board were appointed by Hogan.
While the union has a three-year deal with the state on non-economic terms of employment, issues related to wages are negotiated annually.
In its claim, AFSCME alleges that the Hogan administration refused to agree to ground rules including a timeline for the negotiations, and that administration representatives dragged their feet when it came to setting meeting dates in line with deadlines defined in statute. The union says its proposed ground rules were based on rules agreed upon in past years and the timeline in state statute.
In its claim, the Hogan administration says the union refused to agree to certain proposed ground rules, including that the union could not share details about the bargaining process on social media and could not meet directly with state legislators about wage and economic proposals, which the administration characterized as an “end-run” around the formal negotiation process.
AFSCME Council 3 President Patrick Moran said the union shares information on social media in a “modern world” but had not disclosed confidential information.
The stalemate resulted in the opposing complaints about the ground rules.
Moran was tepid about the governor’s 3 percent raise announcement. He said Thursday afternoon that the proposed 3 percent raise had already been “baked in” by the Hogan administration before negotiations started.
Two unions accepted the offer, Moran said, but the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance representing Maryland State Police negotiated a better deal: a 5 percent increase effective July 1, 2019; another 1 percent increase effective Jan. 1, 2020 if revenues exceed projections by $75 million; another 5 percent increase effective July 1, 2020; along with a 4 percent increase on July 1, 2021.
Members of the law enforcement officers union would also be eligible for step increases during this time, which typically amounts to about 2.4 percent of a person’s salary.
Without going into specifics, Moran said AFSCME representatives would have pushed for a deal beyond 3 percent and more on-par with the SLEOLA agreement.
“The money is there,” Moran said, adding that after state employees faced wage freezes and job cuts and were still rebuilding wealth after the Great Recession of a decade ago, the state could afford to pay them more.
“…The governor refuses to invest in his employees,” he said.
Moran said AFSCME is also bothered by the multi-year duration of the law enforcement officers’ agreement when his union’s representatives have been told that multi-year wage agreements are not possible.
Moran disputed the characterization of himself or other AFSCME leaders as “paid political operatives.”
“I’m a democratically elected president of my union,” Moran said, suggesting that the governor might be talking about employees in his own office. “They’re the paid political operatives who have obstructed bargaining and refused to meet.”
AFSCME and the Hogan administration have sparred for years. The union endorsed Democrat Benjamin T. Jealous in the 2018 gubernatorial race and members have rallied outside the governor’s mansion in Annapolis to air a variety of grievances.