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MD Behavioral Health Workers Organize to Save Jobs, Block Unfair Relocation

Maryland behavioral health care workers banded together and successfully fought a proposal to relocate their jobs.
Photo Credit: AFSCME Maryland
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By Katie Moy-Santos ·

AFSCME Maryland members at the Sykesville Secure Evaluation and Therapeutic Treatment Unit (SETT) on the Springfield Hospital Center Campus were recently told by management that the unit and their jobs would be relocated 65 miles away.

Officials at the Maryland Department of Health offered no plan for relocation and did not consult with union leaders, in direct violation of members’ bargaining rights. The lengthy commute to the new location would have caused a significant hardship for staff, leaving workers who lacked necessary certifications to transition to jobs closer to home out in the cold.

Knowing they couldn’t simply have their jobs moved and changed without negotiations first, shop stewards and leaders came together and organized. Staff at the SETT are responsible for caring for developmentally disabled patients who suffer from both mood disorders and substance abuse disorders, many of whom are court-mandated to be in psychiatric facilities. 

Their dedication helps keep Maryland safe and gives the most vulnerable members of our society a place to heal and re-integrate into our communities. Their work deserves respect and dignity.

By enforcing the union contract, workers were able to sit down with management and retain valuable, experienced staff as well as advocate for management to compensate them for training in their new positions. 

Management notified employees last week that everyone would be getting paid training for new guaranteed jobs near their homes. 

Steward Maria Thompson said, “When we were first informed that our unit would be closing and transferring 65 miles away, I thought I was going to lose my job. We came together as AFSCME and said this is unacceptable. We demanded answers and to be treated fairly. Our organizing worked.”

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