Maryland’s largest state employee union announced Friday that it was unable to reach contract negotiations with the state and said union members were being discriminated by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R).
“There is a pattern of bias and, I would say, discrimination against our members who are the lowest paid in the state,” Patrick Moran, president of The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 3, said at a news conference.
This is the first time that the union and the state could not settle upon an agreement since former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) was in office.
AFSCME is the state’s largest labor union, representing over 30,000 workers across different agencies, including the Department of Health, the Department of Juvenile Services and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Union representatives report that six members have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and that over 10% have been infected.
According to Moran, other labor unions successfully negotiated a 6.3% guaranteed wage increase. AFSCME was offered 1%, contingent on the condition of the state’s economy. He said the union was simply working toward achieving parity in the form of a 4% wage increase and a step increase.
“Not for multiple years ― for one year,” he explained. “And that was rebuffed.”
By contrast, Moran said in a statement issued in the early hours of 2021, the Hogan administration has agreed to increase pay to police officers and firefighters by nearly 25% over the course of three years.
Denise Henderson, a bargaining team member and the union representative for Department of Juvenile Services employees, called the state’s proposal “a slap in the face.”
“I could not in good conscience go back and take that offer to my membership,” she said.
Between 2020 and 2022, AFSCME members are poised to receive a 5% wage increase, explained Cherrish Vick, the union’s secretary-treasurer.
“In the same period, police and fire unions will receive over 20.9% in pay increases, guaranteed,” she said.
Moran calls this discrimination.
“By its conduct in negotiations, the Administration does covertly, that which it cannot do overtly: to favor its political supporters and to penalize those who question the Administration’s priorities,” he wrote in a letter to Joseph Horvath, the chief negotiator for the Department of Budget and Management, on Dec. 22. “By its conduct in negotiations, the Administration systematically rewards conservative white males and frustrates the careers of non-white and non-male State employees.”
Vick said at the Friday news conference that the union refused Hogan’s offer because its members are equally deserving of the pay increases that police and fire unions will see.
“The difference is clear,” she asserted, noting that AFSCME’s members are largely women and people of color while members of the police union are overwhelmingly white men.
“If that isn’t discriminatory ― and a whole lot of other words I could use ― then I don’t know what that is,” said Moran.
In turn, Horvath told Moran that his “offensive and antagonistic allegations” only hinder their ability to come to an agreement. He also asserted that leadership from other unions is better prepared in their approach.
“When the police and firefighters’ unions come to the bargaining table, they have come armed with well-reasoned proposals that are data driven and place the interests of the bargaining unit members above political considerations,” wrote Horvath.
Moran’s “proposals simply are out of touch with the reality of the State’s fiscal situation,” he continued. “AFSCME’s agenda at the bargaining table seems to be to fuel discord, cry foul and then ask the legislature to give you what you can’t responsibly negotiate.”
In an email to Maryland Matters, Hogan Spokesman Michael Ricci called the union president’s leadership into question.
“Once again, Mr. Moran has left his frontline members out in the cold while the state reaches agreement with our other — clearly better-led — unions, including teachers, nurses, police, firefighters, and healthcare professionals,” he wrote. “We all know the drill by now: he lashes out in the media to deflect from his inability to deliver.”
In addition, Ricci said that all state employees” received a 2% raise on Jan. 1.
Digging his heels in, Moran told the press that AFSCME will continue to push for health and safety negotiations with the state.
“We are not done with this yet,” he clarified. “We think that more Marylanders need to know about this and the absolute disregard for public health and safety that the governor has shown in this instance.”