MD library staff, USM students and faculty are pushing for legislation to give them the right to form unions

MARYLAND – The Maryland AFL-CIO, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and the American Federation of Teachers, Maryland (AFT-MD) will hold a press conference calling on the Maryland Senate Finance Committee to approve legislation on Expanding the enactment rights of Maryland workers, including graduate students and faculty members in the Maryland University system, and library staff.

“Today, the Maryland labor movement stands in solidarity to ensure we get legislation passed by the Senate Finance Committee that benefits working families in Maryland,” said David Sullivan, vice president general of IAM Eastern Territory. “There is nothing controversial about giving workers the freedom to improve their lives by having a voice in the workplace with a union. I urge the members of the Senate Finance Committee to do the right thing for the library and college workers in our great state.”

“We feel like our jobs and job descriptions are kind of being ignored,” said Megan Baker, a staffer at the Harford County Library.

Harford County librarians say they want to see better working conditions, with a say in decisions about remote work, pay scale and hours.
They say that without these rights, their pay and hours are subject to change without notice.

“It was very sudden that there was no indication that my position was even being reviewed for a grade change. It was on paper that it was a higher grade that I don’t get, even though our police say I should get a 3 percent raise,” library worker Morgan Michael said.

Graduates and faculty say their salaries push them outside of Maryland’s university system, making it harder for graduate students to get their work done.

“Our pay is not a living wage and we have issues with how long the administration takes our concerns about things like grievance procedures, DEI or pay seriously,” said Ph.D. UMD graduate student Daniel Smolyak, who attended the event, called on the Senate Finance Committee to allow workers like him to unionize across the state.

Smolyak says, “Management shows up, listens to our concerns, often downplays them and then moves on,” while at a union, “they’re forced to come to the table and deal with issues they don’t address want.”

Smolyak says that during a pay scale hearing for UMD students, they expressed a breakdown between their internal numbers and a USM report on unit affordability, which Smolyak said led the USM representative to describe housing affordability as ” in the eye of” to denote the viewer.”

“It’s disrespectful and when it comes to equity and inclusion issues we see people dropping out, we don’t have many first generation students because of these conditions so without the pay we’re stuck in this cycle and we lock ourselves in these students out,” Smolyak said.

Karin Rosemblatt, vice president of the American Association of University Professors, tells 47ABC that the pay not only hurts faculty’s wallets, but also their ability to hire top talent.

“Our colleagues work in California, where students at public universities make $30,000, at Ivy institutions it’s closer to $45,000, our graduate assistants make $22,000 a year, so there’s no way we can compete with the best Talent competes when our wages are so out of control. She said, adding, “We’re seeing some faculty being paid as little as $14 an hour for college teaching, which is a disgrace in a state like Maryland.”

USM responded to 47ABC’s request for comment, saying:

“The University System of Maryland (USM) has testified against the legislation. USM appreciates the important role that graduate assistants play in supporting an institution’s mission of advancing teaching, research, and public service. Tuition for research assistants is paid for by the institution they attend, in addition to health benefits and a stipend. USM has a long tradition of shared leadership among students, faculty and administration. We strongly believe that collective bargaining would disrupt shared leadership and fundamentally change the nature of residency from a learning and academic experience to an employment experience.”

Both measures have less than two weeks until the end of the legislative period.


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