Public employees rally for collective bargaining rights

By Justin Snow

More than a hundred people rallied outside the State House Monday night as they urged lawmakers to expand the collective bargaining rights of state employees.

AFSCME rally

Members of AFSCME rally for increased bargaining rights for government employees in Lawyers Mall on Monday.

Many donned green hats, scarves, and shirts representing the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on the windy March night while waving signs that read “Respect, Rights, Revenue.”

Although rally-goers spoke on a number of issues, including closing tax loopholes for corporations and reinstatement of the millionaire’s tax, it was collective bargaining rights that dominated the evening.

A bill currently before the House Appropriations Committee would expand collective bargaining rights to public employees from the Office of the Comptroller, Department of Education, Maryland Transit Authority, State Pension and Retirement System, and others — all of whom are currently excluded from such labor negotiations.

Sue Esty, the assistant director of AFCME Maryland, said the bill is “enabling legislation” in that it would allow all state employees to engage in collective bargaining as opposed to just those of certain departments.

Collective bargaining in Maryland was first instituted by a 1996 executive order issued by former Gov. Parris Glendening, but that order only applied to agencies the governor had direct control over. Thousands of state employees who work in offices that operate independently, like the Comptroller’s office, were left without such rights.

“There’s a lot of employees who are really counting on [the bill] and looking forward to being able to participate in fruitful and meaningful labor management committee meetings,” said Esty.

Grievances went beyond labor negotiations with rally-goers also protesting stagnant wages and unfairness in the tax code. Many were quick to point out that as budget cuts continue, millionaires continue to receive tax cuts.

“When everyone else has been cutting and scraping, it’s the poor, poor millionaires [who are going to get a tax cut],” said AFSCME Maryland Director Patrick Moran to boos and jeers from the audience.

A study released late last year found that Maryland has more millionaires per household than any other state in the nation.

Here’s a video from the rally.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Dale McNamee

    Obviously, things aren’t too bad if they can take a work day to demonstrate…There shouldn’t be collective bargaining for gov’t. employees,nor should there be unions…FDR even said so regarding public employee unions :

    “… Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships
    and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the
    government. All Government employees should realize that the process of
    collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted
    into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable
    limitations … The very nature and purposes of Government make it
    impossible for … officials … to bind the employer … The employer
    is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their
    representatives …

    “Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant
    tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of government
    employees. Upon employees in the federal service rests the obligation
    to serve the whole people … This obligation is paramount … A strike
    of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent … to prevent
    or obstruct … Government … Such action, looking toward the
    paralysis of Government … is unthinkable and intolerable.”

    And things can’t be too bad if they can take a day off to demonstrate… The “state employee” in the clip doesn’t realize that O’Malicious deems people making $ 100,000/yr. “millionaires” ( I could never get the “new math”…).

    Perhaps all of the state employees making $100,000 + /yr. can pay their “fair share”…And it’s time to have one person doing a “one person” job instead of 2 or 3…

  2. Skip727

    HB537and SB783 is just another way for the elected officials to re-pay unions for their”hard-work” at getting them re-elected and funding their campaigns. Why must an employee who chooses NOT to join a union be forced to pay “fees” to that union? Are employees in the Office of the Comptroller, Department of Education, Maryland Transit
    Authority, State Pension and Retirement System, and others, NOT allowed to join the union? No, anyone can join if they so choose. And one last question, why are our elected officials exempt from this fee?  Or do they only pass legislation that will not affect them?
    Read more:
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution


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