Collective bargaining is the lifeblood of labor unions. Bargaining is where negotiators are able to win concessions for the collective that makes up the body of the union. AFT-Maryland consistently supports local unions in their efforts to grow and deliver material benefits for members. With that, a delegation of union members from across the federation went to Washington, DC for AFT’s 2023 Collective Bargaining Conference.
The conference was attended by members representing the Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA) Local 1935, the Baltimore County Federation of Public Health Nurses (BCFPHN) Local 5102, and the Maryland School for the Deaf Faculty and Staff Association (MSDFSA) Local 4828. Attendees heard from AFT President Randi Weingarten, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram, and American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Vice-President Paul Davis. Beyond the remarks from labor leaders, union members attended workshops covering a range of topics relevant to collective bargaining. Workshops focused on four main themes: leadership, campaigns, bargaining, and contracts.
AFT-Maryland President Kenya Campbell was pleased that rank-and-file members had the opportunity to attend the conference. “Collective bargaining is where the rubber meets the road in labor activism. Concessions won at the bargaining table are why labor unions exist and make a real difference in the lives of members. It is a joy to see AFT-Maryland members learning from experts and exchanging best practices with other AFT members from across the country.”
The conference was impactful for AFT-Maryland members, helping to develop vital and necessary bargaining strategies that members can use at the negotiating table. “This training is exciting, but more importantly it is helpful,” said Kristin Russell, a member of MSDFSA. “We scored a historic victory unionizing at the Maryland School for the Deaf. Our next step is to have our voices as workers heard through the collective bargaining process. This conference equips my colleagues and I with the tools and know-how to effectively bargain.” Deborah Hill, also a member of MSDFSA, felt empowered to move forward following the conference saying “we have expanded our hope and determination to grow our membership and negotiate a contract that benefits all workers.”
BCFPHN member Patricia Barnum saw the conference as eye-opening and believes training on collective bargaining is necessary for labor activists. “Every union member should attend a conference like this on collective bargaining. Workers win their demands at the bargaining table. I’m glad AFT is providing this for us because we can take this knowledge back to our local unions and bargain for the things we deserve more effectively,” Barnum said. Activist Beverly Grace, a member of BCFPHN, left the conference with a greater resolve to do important work for her union commenting “I’m more determined than ever to unify our local nurses union so that we ALL (speaker’s emphasis) have a voice at the bargaining table.”