Princess Anne, Md- Union leaders are called out to the University System of Maryland to support HBCUs during a Board of Regents meeting at UMES Friday morning.
Unionized AFSCME workers at the school and their counterparts at UMD and Townsown schools claim the Board of Regents bypassed unions in negotiations, instead implementing their own pay scales without union approval.
“We just want our HBCUs to be supported by this system, which means student workers and administrators get the resources and technical support they need to keep going,” said John Kenney, president of the local chapter of AFSCME UMES.
Kenney tells us that the administration delayed negotiating agreements while hiring non-union contractors as a temporary fix. He tells us that the USM has not accepted the group’s new memorandum of understanding and is deferring to previous agreements.
Kenney believes this is a strategy to delay payments.
“Time is money, so if they delay negotiations for 6 months, that’s millions of dollars saved by the state,” he said.
He says UMES is a struggling HBCU, but low enrollment should be a sign to send more resources to retain qualified staff.
“Don’t neglect us because our enrollment is down, give us the resources we need to deliver the product everyone is looking for in the state of Maryland,” he said.
Union workers also took issue with a new racial justice and equity proposal, saying local civil rights leaders like the Somerset County NAACP were never made aware of the inequalities that exist on campus.
“The problem is that there is no feedback from civil rights organizations or labor organizations that work with universities,” said AFSCME President Patrick Moran.
Moran says if the school wants equality, it can start by paying people a living wage.
“We believe USM should be paying people above poverty wages, and this is where we are after shaming them for years for not making $15 an hour,” said Moran.
Local President Kenney tells 47ABC he wants to see a consolidated contract for USM workers, rather than each school paying different rates for work, as well as a 30-year maximum pay scale, where excess income would be awarded in the form of bonuses after 30 years.
He says he would also like non-union contract workers hired by the school to have the option of joining the union, as they are currently excluded from any collective agreements.
“We want that for the university because it has a lot of growth and promise and potential, so with good salaries and potential people will come,” he said.
In a statement at Friday’s board meeting, USM spokesperson Mike Lurie said
“The University System of Maryland (USM) values its hardworking, highly skilled employees and is committed to providing competitive salaries and benefits. As part of that commitment, the Board of Regents approved a minimum wage measure of $15 an hour at its meeting last December. At its meeting today (June 17), the Regents approved market-based increases to exempt pay structures. To address the wage compression, they also approved additional increases to the non-exempt wage structure and compression wage increases for some employees in the four lowest pay bands. USM looks forward to discussions with representatives of these workers on wages and other issues of common interest.