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February 2, 2011

State workers approve contract

The largest state employees union have ratified a three-year contract, state and union officials said Wednesday, agreeing to a plan that includes small raises if state revenues begin to climb.

Other details of the deal negotiated between Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees include a $750 bonus on July 1, the first day of the 2012 fiscal year, and — in a reprieve after three years of unpaid days off — no furloughs at any time in the contract period.

Employees also will receive five extra paid days off when the state government shuts down to save money.

But employees would pay more for prescription drugs. And, as Republican lawmakers noted, all state workers — even those who do not wish to be represented by the union — now have to pay service fees.

That change comes after a 2009 bill signed by O’Malley. Sen. Christopher B. Shank, a Washington County Republican, noted in a recent press release that the service fee can amount to as much as $400 per year for some workers.

AFSCME has 23,000 Maryland members but roughly 6,000 votes were cast. Eighty-nine percent of those who voted approved the contract, said Sue Esty, the union’s assistant director. Voting occurred over a three-week period.

"Our members are very pleased," she said. "It’s particularly good to see such unity among the work force."

She said the ratification came after negotiations that sometimes looked bleak. She said the plan "recognizes the sacrifices people have made over the past three years."

O’Malley said in a statement that the new contract "represents a step forward for our dedicated state employees as we come through this national recession."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 7:32 PM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Martin O'Malley


MOM has went with AFSCME and screwed the state employyes again. Hopefully one day the employees will wake up and throw the bums out. Remember that the $750.00 will be taxed so people are not going to see too much of this bonus.

I find it offensive that state employees who want nothing to do with the union are forced to pay into the union. Maryland needs to pass Right to Work legislation like the surrounding states.

There are no guarentees in this contract. Any of the "agreed upon" issues in the union contract at conditional. Even if the state employees get $750 this year they won't see any of it. That amount and more will be taken from the state employees and given to the unions. Hey taxpayers, that is taxpayer funds being taken from you and given to the union. The state workers will not see ANY of that money. Also, if the union was so great, why don't all state workers choose to belong??? This is just a backdoor plan for O'Malley and his demecratic buddies to shift taxpayer dollars to the unions.

Anyone who complains about paying
service fees to the union should remember this: they too benefit from
what the union negotiates for State Staff.

Perhaps they would be happier if the
budget is balanced by paying them
less as they are not union members.

When will State Workers wake up and realize that these Bums are still blowing smoke. They continue to slap you in the face and you continue to Vote them in. Just look at the change regarding MOM's voting in his brother to become the Dem's party chairman, a pure case of Nepotism and no one is questioning the move, this is the most screwed up state I've ever seen and no one is willing to lift a hand to help straighten it out.

Yeah Danna,

Right to work , that is a race to the bottom. You can not have it both ways as a State Employee who is affiliated with the Union. The employees who did not pay dues still had to be represented by the union. It is ok when it works for them , but if it does not they want nothing to do with the union.

You can't have it both ways!

There is little point in state employees having a union. The union simply accepts whatever the State offers. I don't understand why the employees don't utilize the lawful process of having the union decertified.

Most State Employees don't realize that they will pay taxes on the $750 and they will pay Agency Fees to AFSCME of several hundred dollars per year. The Governor actually gave AFSCME millions of dollars per year and is calling it a raise for employees.

They should just take $750 and pay directly to AFSCME because tax and potential $400 fee pretty all of it.

AND what are they going to do with MULTI-MILLION $$$ to be collected from fees? GUESS AFSCME WON Lottery!!!
Shouldn't they be helping the workers?

I am happy about getting a full paycheck again and not being furloughed plus the bonus. However, the increased prescription drug costs, pension costs and service fees will eat up all of it. So it will still feel as if we have a salary decrease. Even if employees don't realize it now, it will become clear in July.

So what we have here is really a shell game. This is how it works:

AFSCME Union says we got you state workers ya whopping $750 bonus after years of nothing but cut backs and decreases. But in reality It will be taxed leaving the worker about $500. The AFSCME Union comes in and takes about $400 of what's left as a "service fee" If the worker is lucky they might get $100 out of this sham. So the state gets a big share and can claim "Look what we did for you!" and the corrupt union gets an even bigger share and says "Look what we did for you!" and the actual person who is working whom it is supposed to benifit gets a small sliver!

Wow!!! What a thimblerig the state of Maryland and AFSCME union are playing on the powerless embattled state worker! This fraud should be illegal!

The day of the union has passed long ago. Today, those unions are nothing more than state sanctioned organized crime syndicates. They should be summarily outlawed. I've passed up more than one job just because it was union-only. NO WAY! I REFUSE to belong to any damned union.

I'm confused as to how the union is representing me if I'm not given the opportunity to vote on this contract. I'm also confused as to how 6,000 ballots out of 23,000 ballots secure the fate of 70,000 people. But I also know MOM owes AFSCME for their support ($) of him. I'm not a union member and do not wish to be a union member. I do not need the union to secure my wages or job. The bottom line is if I don't like the terms the government gives me, I can leave and if the government wants to lay people off, they can. None of that changes with this contract. This contract isn't worth the paper it is printed on - I get $1000 readjustment to my pay (back to the level it was at 3 years ago or so), the $558 I lost due to furlough days and a $750 check that will be taxed to hell because it is a bonus. I now have to pay higher pension costs, higher prescription costs, other assorted higher costs that I know will hit me in July and the $400 service fees for the new union membership that I don't want. I'll be lucky if the $750 bonus after taxes pays for the new $400 expense. So, all in all, I might have a small net gain but AFSCME now collects an extra 18.8 million from the 47,000 state workers that were not affiliated with a union and it is all on the back of the taxpayer (which all state employees are by the way). Great deal for AFSCME but no one else - thanks MOM.

This is MOM's way of paying back the union for their suuport of him in the election. The union has been trying for several years to get these service fees passed, and I guess it's MOM's way of getting us back for not voting for him this past year. What does he care. He'll be gone after this term.

Maryland is a right to work state. They proved this in the early 80's with the building trades. They brought non union contractors to work in the Brandon Shores Power Plant from down south Daniels Construction. Thanks to our Democratic government; again you get what you vote for!

Hey Bill, educate yourself. Maryland is NOT a right to work state. Read up on it at this website.

So here's how it really is: The union(s) bought the politicians so they could get union dues from non-union members. Most employees know that the unions have no power and have done 'jack' for the rank and file in the past 30 years. The politicians recently stated, "The Union negotiated blablabla..." That must make them feel better about robbing the state workforce.

$400 per employee to AFSCME is equivalent to the Government creating a monopoly. This will all but eliminate the other unions, forcing all employees into a union they don't want to belong to.

Furthermore, in order to keep your pension level at retirement, you are forced to increase your contribution level or face what amounts to a 17% monthly pension reduction. Prescription copays are increasing and the maximum per family out-of-pocket copay is more than doubling.

How are we benefitting as employees? Is MOM or his cronies in the House & Senate suffering as we are? I doubt it.

Are non-classified, "at-will" State employees also required to pay into AFSCME? Technically they can't join a union because they are either management or political appointees. Nonetheless they are affected by these sweeping personnel poliices that the State negotiates with AFSCME. It's why AFSCME is so quick to throw higher-earning State employees under a bus -- these employees are likely not AFSCME members anyhow. Do you have to pay if you can't vote?

First off, state employees did not approve this contract--the union bosses did. State employees weren't given a vote on the contract.

Second, the $750 and 5 paid vacation days are contingent on the Maryland General Assembly not toying with O'Malley's budget. Given that O'Malley submitted a budget that isn't balanced except in the most magical of ways, the likelihood of these bonuses staying in is pretty slim.

Third, the unions agreed to this without tieing O'Malley's hands on pensions so now their workers will spend more on healthcare (3x the amount) and pension contributions which more than eats away the raise.

Fourth, the unions have been working on this since last summer which makes you question their endorsement in the last election cycle. Quid-pro-quos are ethically gray area.

Some fun facts about my governing union, MPEC who is directly affected by the approval of this contract:

Less than ten percent of state workers governed by MPEC in our bargaining unit are members of MPEC.

This past year MPEC collected approximately $180,000 in union dues.

If a yearly service fee of $400 is collected from non-union members MPEC will now collect approximately $2,000,000.

This upcoming year 90% of the money collected by MPEC will come from non-union members if the service fee equals $400.

Now the only way to get rid of the forced union dues would be to decertify the union. YOu would need to collect signatures of 30% of the eligible state employees (those who would be eleigible to join the union) on a patition to have a union decertified. I believe it would have to be done no earlier than one year from the date of the new contract. You could check out how it needs to be done at theis website. However, this has to be done during non working hours and not at a state facility.

The service fee is wrong and we're going to fight this. We have no problem sharing the cost of legal representation that we all benefit from. That would cost us about 20 dollars a year.

Unfortunately, that's not what the union is asking of us. By charging non union members a service fee of $400 a year, they are expanding their budget by a FACTOR OF 10 off of the backs of non union members.

If I wanted my hard earned money going to the union to pay for lobbying, conventions, etc... Well then I'd join the union.

$750 "bonus" is taxpayer money laundered through state workers so unions can contribute to Dem slush funds.

They unions and the scummy politicians must be holding their sides laughing....

I still don't understand what your problem is with unions. They fight to protect the wages and working conditions of the members they represent. If you don't like your contracts, then get involved with your union. Or get a job in the private sector and see if you feel anyone looks out for you. Throwing around phrases like "scummy union bosses" sounds like you drank the GOP Kool-Aid and have no clue about why unions were created. As for Democrat money, unions are the only big player out there on the Democrat side (and even then, are merely a pebble in the shoe of Republican money). Don't believe me? Go look it up. Maybe do a little reading on the civil rights movement and on women's rights too. I'm not willing to let hardworking people be scapegoated by jealous private sector workers or the wealthy that are 1 election away from really holding all the cards. Propaganda is turning some of you into ignorant zombies.

I didn't ask to be in this union.... I didn't ask for them to speak for me... Forcing me to pay into their treasure chest is obscene.

In the 12 years I've worked for the state I haven't seen them do anything that is worth my membership. I'm all for them being decertified.

My wife is a state employee of 29 years and has never been a member of any union. We discussed this last night over dinner and quite frankly I am amazed by this. The bottom line is that nobody should ever be forced to pay union dues or be a member of a union if he/she does not want to. Period!!! Even if they benefit from decisions made or contracts finalized by the union. Being a member of a union was not part of the job description when she took the job. We're not anti union by any stretch of the imagination but one should be a member of a union by choice not by force. Someone really needs to challenge this. It certainly can't be legal.

Added to that -- State employees, including teachers, will be paying 2% more of their salary ostensibly toward their pension -- but wait -- for AT LEAST TWO YEARS Owe O'Malley will put that money in his general fund. If we did that kind of stuff we'd be in jail. Certainly a bad precedent and this union DID NOTHING ABOUT IT.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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