On Thursday, Sept. 27, College staff and students marched to together to Calvert Hall to demand a fair contract for the College’s union employees. The College’s staff union, AFSCME Local 3890, began contract negotiations with St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) last week.
“What we’re asking for is open deliberation and fair consideration of both sides of all proposals,” union officials told TPN, “we expect to look at the College’s proposal, and we expect them to look at ours as well.” Union representatives and College officials have met face to face twice in the past week, negotiating details like pay rates, personal days, healthcare and anti-bullying policies.
Staff and students marched from Montgomery Hall to Calvert Hall, carrying signs and chanting in support of a fair contract. Supporters chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, State funding is up, where did all the money go?”, questioning a rise in school funding, as well as the President’s salary, as staff wages have remained relatively stagnant.
More students joined the march as it went on. Over 50 students, staff, and faculty came to the march in total, many of whom were club leaders, Resident Assistants, Public Safety officers, housekeepers, maintenance and grounds crew members.
At Calvert Hall, Union officials discussed the staff shortage. “When we’re short staffed, you all feel it. We can’t get to the work orders you need done. Public Safety can’t patrol the way they have to. Everybody’s short of staff. We have staff, administrators doing double duty because we’re not hiring people to fill positions.”
Union officials spoke about their proposed contract and how it affects them. “Our contract allows workers to collectively bargain for rights on the job, and to maintain affordable healthcare to ensure we can retire with some dignity some day,” the union officials told the crowd, among cheering and applause. “We too are invested in and love this campus.”
In negotiating a fair contract, AFSCME is asking for College employees to receive more personal days off, and to have a broader range of reasons for taking these personal days. The union is also asking for an anti-bullying policy, to prevent administrators and supervisors from “coming down on staff, routinely and unfairly, for non-job related issues.”
The contract proposal also discusses wages and merit-based pay raises for college staff. SMCM is one of the largest employers in St. Mary’s County, and union officials want to keep SMCM as an employer of choice for the community. “When unions fight and win, it doesn’t just benefit union members, it benefits every one of us. It benefits our community. Remember all the staff lives in the community, they buy the same groceries you all do, they buy the same milk that you all do, they spend the same money on gas that you all do.” According to the Maryland Department of Commerce, St. Mary’s College of Maryland has 407 employees.
The College does not comment on negotiations as they are occuring, which President Jordan, in an official statement on the march, stated “allows those representing the union and the College to work unencumbered by others toward a beneficial mutual agreement.” The President also stated that “I appreciate the input and support of the valued individuals who work to make all of our lives better.”
Regular contract negotiations between the College and AFSCME took place the week of Sept. 24. At the time of writing this article, there have been no further statements on the negotiation.