Many University of Maryland workers said they are not receiving suitable wages to maintain their living expenses amid inflation, with some forced to take on additional jobs.
From 2022 until 2024, the University System of Maryland implemented both state cost of living increases and system merit increases to salaries each year. But between 2010 and 2020, the university system implemented just a 13.5 percent increase to account for the state’s cost of living.
Even with these raises, university employees said they are struggling to support themselves and their families.
Vincent Brown has been a landscaper at the university for the past 26 years. He also does landscaping separate from the university in order to support himself.
“They’re not really generous in giving you raises,” Brown said. “In order to make a little more money, another position would have to open up, and you would have to apply for it.”
Brown said that employees rarely get promoted in their departments and people are typically brought in to fill the higher paying positions. Rather than getting promoted within the department, Brown said employees have to apply for positions like they are applying for a new job.
Brown said he applied for a position in his department, but did not get it as it was instead awarded to a newer, less experienced employee previously brought in by management.
“They thought for sure I was going to get it because I trained a lot of them,” Brown said, referring to landscape technicians who he trained as a landscape technician supervisor. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Brown said the university has started bringing in more contractors to do landscaping work when landscapers leave the university.
Ty Hilliard is an area maintenance worker who has worked at the university for seven years. He agreed with Brown and said workers needed more raises to make a living wage.
“Nobody gets a raise here,” Hilliard said. “The wages for the standard employee is definitely not livable wages. Most people have to work two jobs or three jobs or do something on the side just to make ends meet.”
Both Hilliard and Brown said they have seen management get more raises than them.
The university did not provide a statement, but referred to information regarding raises that has been provided in the past.
“Since 2019, University of Maryland employees have received 9 cost of living adjustments, totaling 19%,” the university said in an email to The Diamondback. “There have also been 2 bonuses totaling $2000 and 3 merit increases, totaling 7.5%.”
According to a Monday statement from the university system, the chancellor’s designee and university representatives started to meet with representatives from the union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on behalf of all AFSCME-represented employees throughout the past year. The university system has engaged in collective bargaining negotiations with the union’s representatives about compensation and other employee issues, the statement said.
In July, eligible employees in the university system received a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment and 2.5 percent merit increase in addition to a total 10 percent in increases for fiscal year 2023, the statement said.
“The University System of Maryland (USM) greatly values the dedication and hard work of its employees who help maintain our universities’ national prominence in research and innovation,” the statement said. “USM institutions remain committed to providing competitive wages and benefits for its highly skilled employees.”
Nathaniel Sims Jr. is a maintenance mechanic lead for classroom maintenance and has worked at the university for nearly seven years.
“I know we’re not getting paid enough,” Sims said. “They try to seek supplements with benefits, which are good, but as far as actual pay it’s not enough. It’s not a living.”
Sims previously worked for Prince George’s County Public Schools in the carpenter shop where he took care of classrooms. He said that he currently earns the same amount at the university that he did with the Prince George’s County public school system in 2000.
Sims said that based on the employee work ethics he has seen, raises for workers at the university should be higher. He said that cost of living and merit raises aren’t enough.
“A 1% cost of living raise or a 2% cost of living raise is really nothing,” Sims said. “It’s just pennies compared to what the inflation is.”
Sims added that even if he receives a raise, university fees such as parking might increase, and he would end up returning the money back to the university.
Brown said that the organization of the departments at the university is “top heavy,” and management gets more of the wages than the workers do.
”They don’t really care much about the staff that works,” Brown said. “They really don’t.”