COLLEGE PARK – Gov. Parris Glendening on Tuesday promised University of Maryland System employees that he would arrange a meeting between the non-faculty workers and the Board of Regents to discuss pay raises and improved working conditions.
The meeting would provide the first step needed by the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to begin collective bargaining.
“Every employee has the right to collective bargaining and has the right to sit at the table,” Glendening told about 350 workers. “I will continue to do everything possible.”
Glendening listened as workers explained the union’s concerns through personal stories.
Carol Prier, an executive administrative assistant in the Clark School of Engineering for 24 years, said it is hard to watch the faculty continue to receive pay raises when it is really the other employees who deserve more money.
“I realize they are vital, but I hate to be ignored when we work so hard at our respective jobs,” said Prier. “If the faculty is the heart, then the staff is the backbone and without us services would ground to a halt. It is time to recognize our dedication with a pay raise.”
Other members raised concerns about institutional racism, taking advantage of contract employees and favoritism with the new performance review and development system.
“There is a thread that runs through all these problems – they are all man-made by the administration and the un-elected Board of Regents,” said Cynthia Walker-Reed, a University Book Center employee. “We want to sit down with the administration as equals and have some say, some place at the table. The solution is collective bargaining.”
Glendening said that at the beginning of his term, he tried to pass legislation that would give collective bargaining rights to state employees.
When he did not succeed, Glendening issued an executive order in May 1996 giving state employees that right. However, under Maryland law the order does not extend to university employees.
“Time is on our side,” said Sally Davies, president of the local AFSCME. “We can’t continue to be denied the right of the rest of the state work force.”
Aubrey Shields, a physical plant worker for seven years, was encouraged by the meeting with the governor.
“He understands our problems,” said Shields. “I think he will help the best way he can.”
Others, such as Prier, were more skeptical, but said the most important thing is to get the meeting with the Board of Regents.
“He heard us loud and clear and there was a genuine empathy,” Prier said. “But time will tell.”