PRINCESS ANNE — AFSCME Council 3 members from across Maryland along with local elected officials and community allies are calling out the University System of Maryland (USM) for illegally abandoning bargaining and keeping unionized workers out of the entire strategic planning process.
The planning process speaks to the importance of racial equity, fighting systemic racism and supporting HBCUs but the system has let UMES wither over the last five years with low enrollment and little support just as Salisbury University thrives miles away.
A rally was held June 17 at UMES, with John Kenney, president of the local AFSCME UMES chapter joined by Council 3 President Patrick Moran, local elected officials and community allies.
The USM is bound to bargain over all wages, hours and working conditions with AFSCME after the veto override of SB9 in 2021. The USM dragged its feet and finally came to the table only to refuse to negotiate about the wages for all unionized workers and summarily abandoned negotiations.
AFSCME was notified several days ago that the USM was unilaterally implementing wage and pay scale changes through their finance committee and final approval for raises in targeted categories was subsequently approved.
Additionally, the board is ratifying the USM strategic plan that claims to include major institutional internal and external stakeholders and features the goals to “achieve equity and justice within the USM.” However, the USM locked out all unionized workers from this process which are primarily people of color. Furthermore, no civil rights organizations participated in this process.
Cathryn Paul, government relations and public policy manager from CASA said, “Excluding all union representatives indicates that the USM isn’t interested in really being a partner to everyday people. They seemingly want to check the box for “diversity and inclusion” and move on when voices like ours and AFSCME’s weren’t included in the process. CASA is deeply disappointed and urges USM to stop excluding the voices of working people at the table.”
President Moran said, “The USM says they want to collaborate, have a strategic plan to uplift the community. Our experience has been these are just words. They have cut their entire unionized workforce out of their million-dollar planning process, they have walked away from the bargaining table without reaching an agreement or bargaining over all mandatory topics. Furthermore, here at UMES leadership is leaving left and right after years of low enrollment and the System has not intervened in a meaningful way. This is all unacceptable.”
— In reply USM spokesman Mike Lurie wrote, “The University System of Maryland (USM) highly values its hard-working, highly-skilled employees and is committed to providing competitive wages and benefits. As part of this compromise, the Board of Regents approved a $15 per hour minimum wage measure at its meeting last December. At their meeting [June 17], the Regents approved market-based increases for exempt salary structures. To address salary compression, they also approved additional increases to the non-exempt salary structure and compression salary increases for certain employees in the four lowest salary ranges. The USM looks forward to discussions with the representatives of these workers on wages and other issues of mutual interest.”