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Workers at flagship Maryland university seek better pay, safer working conditions, more

Photo credit: Linda He
Workers at flagship Maryland university seek better pay, safer working conditions, more
By AFSCME Maryland Council 3 ·

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Support staff at Maryland’s flagship public university are seeking fair pay, safer working conditions and more.  

Nearly 100 workers at the University of Maryland-College Park, as well as students and community allies, held a rally on Aug. 16 on the UMD campus, just outside Washington, D.C. 

Housekeeping and facilities staff and others called attention to ongoing issues such as insufficient pay that barely keeps up with the cost of living, stressful and unmanageable workloads, a reliance on underpaid contractual workers who have few rights or benefits, discrimination and bullying by management staff, and more.  

After bargaining for over a year, the University System of Maryland (USM) and the anti-union lawyers they have hired have done little to work towards a union contract that addresses these problems.  

“The USM has been downright disrespectful. They’ve disrespected the valuable experience AFSCME members bring to the table, they’ve disrespected the hard work we do every day, and they’ve disrespected us by not fairly compensating us for the essential work we do to make UMD a leading higher education institution,” said Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Maryland Council 3. 

Referring to UMD’s slogan, Moran added, “It’s a shame that they’re pretending to ‘Do Good,’ when doing good starts right here on this campus. It’s time for the USM to come to the table ready to truly work on a contract that improves the pay, improves the benefits, improves the lax health and safety policies and poor leave policies, and improves working conditions.”  

Todd Holden, a web developer and president of AFSCME Local 1072, the union representing many UMD workers, accused the university of hypocrisy. 

“At the same time that UMD proudly announces they are going to invest $30 million to tackle the ‘grand challenges of our time,’ they’re turning their backs on their own staff,” Holden said. “UMD … refuses to invest in the staff that work tirelessly to make the university run smoothly.”  

Saul Walker, a facilities maintenance worker at the university, pointed out the income disparity between management and rank-and-file workers. 

“While UMD leaders are being paid millions of dollars, there are UMD workers who are barely making enough to live in this area. … While these leaders are sitting in their air-conditioned offices, we’re working in hot buildings without air conditioning. We’re working without the equipment we need or with faulty equipment that has injured us,” Walker said.  

For years, USM has: 

“For several years upper management has told us not to speak Spanish at work, even though it is the language that many of us feel the most comfortable using. Upper management uses the term 'the Spanish group' to refer to us as if speaking Spanish is a problem … even though the housekeeping staff speak a variety of languages, including French, Amharic, and more,” said Roxana Cruz, a housekeeper.  

Since the passage of SB 9 in 2021, which made a consolidated bargaining process possible across all USM campuses, workers at all 12 institutions are bargaining one unified contract for the first time.  

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