For the first time since January 2020, AFT-Maryland resumed our annual in-person Lobby Night in Annapolis. The event is an opportunity for members to speak directly to legislators who make decisions about their work environments. The state federation displayed its diversity in the wide range of public employees addressing legislators. Public employees from a number of sectors including K-12 education, healthcare, state and municipal civil service, and higher education all met with elected officials to advocate for policy that would improve their work experiences.
Among the public employees that were in attendance were education professionals from the Maryland School for the Deaf Faculty and Staff Association #4828. Workers from the school were in Annapolis in advance of an upcoming union election. They were advocating around many of the same issues that have inspired so many to say yes to joining a union. Additionally, the state federation was happy to bring higher education workers to Annapolis to meet with legislators in hopes of giving collective bargaining rights to higher education professionals. The American Association of University Professors and the AFT recently affiliated and this effort is a product of that collaboration. The legislation members and activists lobbied in support of would bring collective bargaining rights, which are already enjoyed by some community college faculty and other non-educational staff at four-year colleges, to the rest of higher education professionals in the state. Among the higher ed workers there were a combination of graduate student workers, contingent faculty, and full-time professors.
Familiar faces making the trip included K-12 education professionals from the Baltimore Teachers Union #340 as well as members from the City Union of Baltimore #800 and the Baltimore County Federation of Public Health Nurses #5102. Although they work for Baltimore city and county respectively, there is legislation before the General Assembly this session that affects them including retirement income tax reduction, tax deductible union dues, and enabling legislation that allows teachers unions and school boards to negotiate class size.
Members from state employee unions (MPEC #6197, AFT Healthcare-Maryland #5197, and MCEA #1935) spoke candidly with legislators about their experiences in various agencies. State agencies have been understaffed and under-resourced for the last eight years jeopardizing the health, safety, and welfare of Marylanders. AFT-Maryland has been calling attention to the dangers of underfunding since late 2021.