The Maryland General Assembly voted Monday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto on a bill that allows all University System of Maryland institutions to consolidate their bargaining contracts.
Currently, workers at each of the 12 institutions in USM bargain with their respective universities. The bill would give all the institutions the opportunity to negotiate a “master agreement” with the system so that guidelines and workers’ rights are streamlined across the state’s universities.
“This is a game changer for workers,” said Stuart Katzenberg, the growth and collective bargaining director at AFSCME Council 3, the union that represents state employees. “The university system employed a system where they divided and conquered workers … and now they have to bargain with us.”
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Members of AFSCME Council 3 and AFSCME Local 1072, the union that represents employees at this university, have been fighting for a consolidated bargaining contract for several months.
At a workers’ rights event on Oct. 9, AFSCME Local 1072 President Todd Holden said a consolidated bargaining contract would “help to standardize what represents fair working conditions for every campus within the USM.”
“It’ll finally be able to give us a venue to directly negotiate wages with the people who control the money,” said Holden in October.
Carlo Colella, a vice president and the chief administrative officer at this university, spoke against the bill when the legislature initially debated it in February. He said a consolidated contract would make it hard for the university to address institution-specific issues, and that negotiating wages on a systemwide level would put pressure on some universities’ budgets.
The state legislature passed the bill earlier this year, but Governor Hogan vetoed the legislation in May. The House of Delegates and state senate voted to override the veto at a special session Monday.
When vetoing the bill, Hogan said a consolidated bargaining contract would disadvantage smaller state institutions with fewer resources, including historically Black schools.
“Each institution has its own distinct mission, and they vary by size, budget, research category, geographic location, labor market, and proportion of employees represented in collective bargaining,” he wrote in a May letter to the state Senate’s president and House of Delegates’ speaker.
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Katzenberg said that to AFSCME, the passage of this bill represents solidarity rather than division between schools.
“The administration has not only tried to divide us between campuses, but within the campus, that, ‘Oh, the exempt workers are salaried and you’re special, and we’re going to give you something else or treat you differently,'” he said. “This is solidarity across all workers, across all campuses. And that’s what’s really special.”
On Tuesday, AFSCME communicated with USM regarding next steps about a consolidated contract.