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Commentary Working & the Economy

Opinion: This Labor Day, forming and joining a union should be a freedom every working Marylander can enjoy

On Labor Day, one of Maryland’s top union leaders writes that joining a union and having a voice in workplaces should be a fundamental freedom that every working Marylander can enjoy. Photo by Angela Breck.

By Patrick Moran

The writer is president of AFSCME Council 3, the largest state government employee union.

Every day, thousands of Marylanders show up to our offices, worksites, facilities and buildings ready to do our jobs and serve our communities.

Many of us do the vital and essential work to provide Marylanders across the state with quality public services that ensure our communities are safe and healthy places for ourselves and our loved ones to live fulfilling lives. Even with a global pandemic, we came to work, putting our lives on the line to take care of our fellow residents.

But in the past few decades, it’s become much harder to take home a paycheck that pays the bills, to feel safe at work, and to feel valued for the expertise and experience we bring to our jobs.

We’re seeing the wealthy few and large corporations make decisions that not only chip away at our livelihoods but also steal our ability to join together with our coworkers to build workplaces that work for all of us — not just the powerful few.

We see time and time again how these powerful few seek to stop us from trying to organize for better workplaces.

For example, in Baltimore, a supermajority of workers at the Walters Art Museum have stated their desire to form a union, but even with additional support from the community and local leaders, the museum’s management has refused to acknowledge what their workers want.

And at the state level, it’s our AFSCME union that has prevented Governor Hogan from carrying out devastating decisions that harm our ability as public service workers to ensure that our communities have what they need. Governor Hogan has spent the last 8 years starving our state agencies of the resources they need to be successful, from refusing to fill thousands of empty positions to failing to provide timely and adequate safety protections during a global pandemic to repeated attempts to siphon away needed funds. But it’s our union power that allows us to fight back and ultimately hold his administration accountable.

We’re seeing more and more Marylanders want the opportunity to join a union, from the workers at the Baltimore Museum of Art to the Enoch Pratt Free Library to the Office of the Public Defender and more.

When we as workers have the ability to organize and join a union, we’re able to have a say at work in the decisions that affect us. That means better wages and benefits, less turnover, and an opportunity to build a sustainable career out of our jobs.

This Labor Day, joining a union and having a voice in our workplaces are essential and should be a fundamental freedom that every working Marylander can enjoy. It’s critical that we come together in November to vote for leaders and policymakers who will work to enshrine our fundamental right to form a union and join together with our coworkers to have a say in the decisions that affect us in our workplaces. It’s time for Maryland to be a state that respects working people with its actions — not just empty words and platitudes.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to improve your workplace and to become a part of a union, reach out to us and let’s organize together for the workplaces that we all deserve.