By Len Lazarick
Service fees for representation by teachers unions in over half of Maryland's counties would have to be negotiated under a bill that passed the House of Delegates last week and has a Senate hearing Tuesday. The fees would have to be paid by non-union members for bargaining and other services provided by the unions.
Similar service fees are authorized at the state's public four-year colleges and universities by bills that have passed in each house. But most university employees, including administrators and faculty, are not currently covered by collective bargaining units.
The service fees known as “fair share’’ are already in effect in 10 of Maryland's 24 jurisdictions, including the largest counties, and 79% of teachers are already covered, according to Del. Anne Kaiser, D-Montgomery, the floor leader on the bill, HB667.
The fees are generally lower than full union dues, but typically amount to several hundred dollars a year. State employees in collective bargaining units must now pay “fair share’’ service fees.
Republicans oppose mandatory fees
Republicans from counties that do not charge union fees to non-members resisted the measure. “I believe it's a real mistake,” said Del. Justin Ready, R-Carroll. He offered amendments to make the negotiations optional and exempt teachers who want to negotiate their contracts directly with the school board. Both were defeated.
Ready noted that the 48 co-sponsors on the legislation all came from counties that already had the service fees imposed. (UPDATE: Two Democratic co-sponsors, Del. Galen Clagett of Frederick and Del. Rudy Cane of Wicomico, represent counties that do not currently have union service fees.)
Calling it a “tax on teachers,” Ready said the bill is forcing them to “do something they don't want to.”
“This bill will erode that local control” that is traditional on the Eastern Shore, said Del. Addie Eckardt, R-Talbot.
Kaiser insisted “this bill is about leveling the playing field” and only “mandates a discussion” of the service fees during contract negotiations. It does not automatically impose the fees.
Several other Republican delegates offered amendments to lessen the impact on teachers who do not belong to a union, but all were defeated on party line votes.
The measure passed the House 95-43, with three Democrats joining 40 Republicans in opposition; two Republicans, Dels. Bob Costa and NicKipke of Anne Arundel, voted for the bill.