With the election season coming to a close, AFT-Maryland looks back at the work the state federation and its members have done to bolster democracy, and amplify the voices of working professionals in Maryland through the electoral process.
Public employees are in a unique position when statewide elections come around because it is a chance to express their opinions on elected leaders who shape their workplace. AFT-Maryland recognizes the particular role we play as a state federation bringing together public employees who work in a number of sectors and for state and local governments. Our work then, is to provide members with as much information as possible for them to make an informed decision, so their union can speak with one collective, democratic voice.
The state federation started that process in late 2021 with candidate questionnaires. Those who sought elected office were invited to answer questions designed by the AFT-Maryland COPE committee and those responses helped committee members get better acquainted with candidates and where they stood on the issues. AFT-Maryland would go on to host virtual meet-and-greet events with members having an opportunity to hear from and ask questions of candidates for the office of Governor. Governor-elect Wes Moore participated in this forum as did a number of other candidates. Following each meeting, members offered their feedback as to which candidates they wanted AFT-Maryland to support during the AFL-CIO endorsement process.
As the primary season got underway, AFT-Maryland remained committed to labor solidarity following the endorsement of AFL-CIO endorsed candidates. Our efforts were invaluable in several races, namely in support of Delegate Stephanie Smith of the 45th District. Delegate Smith also serves as the Chair of the Baltimore city Delegation and has been a crucial ally on several legislative agenda items of critical importance to AFT-Maryland unions including but not limited to supporting higher education collective bargaining and full funding for Baltimore city public schools. AFT-Maryland volunteers did member-to-member canvassing throughout the spring and summer for labor endorsed candidates.
For the first time in history, Baltimore city held elections for school board positions and AFT-Maryland member Ashley Esposito won a seat as a Baltimore city school board commissioner. AFT-Maryland members canvassed union households throughout the fall for her and other union endorsed candidates and the diligent efforts of the state federation delivered wins at the ballot box. Those wins will likely result in wins for members at their worksites.
Additionally, AFT-Maryland was once again active with voter registration efforts at community events such as the Black Wall Street of Baltimore Business Walk. Once the primaries were over, the state federation got back out onto the streets pounding the pavement in support of labor endorsed candidates in the general election.
In the run-up to the general election, AFT-Maryland participated in a number of events that increased voter registration, and showed labor’s political power. One such event was the A. Philip Randolph Institute Conference held in Baltimore. The conference showed the vast diversity of the labor movement and AFT-Maryland rightfully took center stage on important public education and public employee issues. The state federation was also front and center for a labor rally featuring Democratic candidates for statewide office. That rally energized AFT-Maryland to push through to the finish line.
Election day was an overwhelming success for AFT-Maryland. The state federation fanned out across the state serving as election protection monitors helping Marylanders experience a free and fair election. Labor endorsed candidates won all of the statewide seats that were up for election. Governor-elect Wes Moore made history becoming the first African-American Governor in Maryland’s history. AFT-Maryland President Kenya Campbell reflected on that, but pointed her vision forward to working with the new administration on important issues including fully funding the Blueprint, keeping open important public facilities such as Western Maryland Hospital Center, and ensuring safe and healthy workplaces for public employees.
For more information about the AFT-Maryland political program, visit the AFT-Maryland’s Political Hub at md.aft.org/political-action/political-hub. Members who would like to be a part of their local’s COPE program should contact their local for more information.