By Naomi Eide
Capital News Service
A labor union for Maryland public employees held rallies across the state Thursday to place pressure on Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration for a pay raise and more money to fill vacant jobs under their current contract negotiations.
The Maryland council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is asking for “fair pay, fair treatment” at work, and resources to help provide public services, according to Jeff Pittman, a union spokesman.
The union began contract negotiations at the beginning of October, union officials said. Thursday night, it coordinated rallies in Baltimore, Cumberland, Hagerstown, Hyattsville and Salisbury. A larger rally is planned for Dec. 10 in Baltimore.
The union represents approximately 25,000 state and university employees in Maryland, according to Pittman. If the fair wage contract negotiations are successful, they would become a part of Hogan’s upcoming budget.
Asking for $1,200 raise; would cost $36 million
Craig Newman, secretary of the University of Maryland, College Park union unit and part of the university’s grounds crew, said at the rally in Hyattsville that the union is asking for $1,200 across-the-board raise for state employees covered by collective bargaining agreements.
Approximately 30,000 state employees have collective bargaining rights in Maryland, according to the state department of budget and management. Paying $1,200 to each of these employees would cost about $36 million.
Every January, the governor submits the budget to the Maryland legislature, which in turn makes cuts and restrictions. The budget year runs from July 1 through June 30.
In September, the Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates increased its general fund revenue projections for the current fiscal year by $80 million.
Hogan spokesman cites deficit
“Maryland is facing a $1 billion deficit over the next several years. Making rash decisions to spend a possible surplus is irresponsible and something that this administration will not do,” a spokeswoman for Hogan said in an email Friday.
As part of its negotiations, the union is asking the state to try to fill empty positions. Of the approximately 80,000 state positions, Pittman said, about 5 percent are vacant.
Most Maryland agencies are facing a 2 percent across-the-board budget cut and in some places it seems to be manifesting as not filling open positions, said Pittman. “We all know you don’t do more with less,” he said.
The governor’s office maintains they have recognized the hard work of the state’s employees.
“Despite Maryland’s fiscal situation, in July, Governor Hogan pushed through a 2 percent raise for state employees, which had been eliminated by the previous administration,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
CLARIFICATION, 10 a.m., 11/17: The O’Malley administration negotiated a 2% cost-of-living raise. Gov. Hogan wanted to make it a bonus so it was not part of the base pay that would be built into future salary increases. He then relented during budget negotiations, and allowed the raise to go into effect.
“The work we do deserves to get paid,” Newman said.