2023 Legislative Session Wrap-up: Leveling the Playing Field with Management

This year’s 445th Maryland Legislative Session welcomed a new administration, over 40 new legislators, and new committee chairs. In Annapolis, many said this session was unusual especially after the virtual sessions of the pandemic and the previous Governor’s anti-worker administration.

One thing remained the same though: our AFSCME Green Machine jumped right back into the regular swing of things. We had AFSCME Lobby Nights in Annapolis nearly every Monday, where we fought for better public services and benefits and resources for public employees. We also fought hard to expand workers’ rights. We accomplished a lot, including the passage of the Public Employee Relations Act, which will greatly level our playing field with management!

“In this session, we were able to secure over $48 million in additional pay and benefits for state employees to help rebuild our state workforce. What a difference working with the Moore administration has been. This is an administration that wants to fund state services and provide AFSCME members with both the pay and resources we need to do the important work that keeps our communities safe, clean, and healthy,” says AFSCME Maryland President Patrick Moran.

Raises, Revenues, and Respect

Along with the additional $48 million we won this session in additional pay and incentives to help retain employees, the State will be spending nearly $400 million on salary and benefit actions in FY 24. There’s no denying that our union fought harder than anyone else for this money, and the raises and extra positions we are getting are because of our members’ hard work this session. A total of nearly 300 AFSCME members came out to the 9 different lobby nights we had to share their stories and experiences and speak with their legislators. Over 50 AFSCME members provided testimony at budget and bill hearings, sharing powerful words about the lack of resources and impacts of short staffing. Just imagine what we can do next year if even more AFSCME members show up in Annapolis!

“Member participation was crucial this session. From phone calls to emails to both written and in-person testimony to our AFSCME Lobby Nights, it was exciting and powerful to witness my fellow AFSCME members join me in Annapolis. I was really pleased with those who were coming to Annapolis for their first time,” says AFSCME Maryland Secretary-Treasurer Cherrish Vick, who spent many days in Annapolis talking to legislators about our priority bills and connecting AFSCME members with their elected officials.

Governor Moore also has great initiatives that we are proud to support. Ending child poverty, increasing access to quality education, and making Maryland safer, cleaner, and healthier aligns with so much of the work we do daily in our state agencies and on our campuses. We also know that it’s our unionized state workforce that has the skills and expertise to get all of this done right. Unfortunately, after 8 years of inaction under the previous governor, our state government has been hollowed out and is in the worst shape we have seen in a while.

Carrying out these initiatives will depend on this administration and our elected leaders providing fair compensation with family-sustaining benefits and retirement security to the public employees that will be doing this important work. We will continue to remind this administration that short-term measures like privatizing our public services are costly tactics that will do more harm than good to our communities, and we will continue our work to hold the administration accountable to increasing staffing and retaining the hardworking and dedicated public employees we do have.

Legislation Summary

Below is a summary of how different pieces of legislation did.
You can view a full list of House bills in session here.
You can view a full list of Senate bills in this session here.

Priority bills that will become law

HB 984: Public Employee Relations Act
House Sponsor: Del. Jazz Lewis
Senate Sponsor: Sen. Clarence Lam

Fiscal/Policy Note
House Vote List
Senate Vote List

When it comes to workers winning power at work, achieving collective bargaining rights is always a momentous step. However, until the Public Employee Relations Act (PERA), it has often been difficult to reach a collective bargaining agreement and enforce important collective bargaining rights. Passing PERA is the biggest victory for collective bargaining for state and higher education workers in Maryland since collective bargaining rights were first won in 1998 and 2001, respectively. This bill will merge the piecemeal labor laws that Maryland currently has into a single standardized and modernized framework.

The following are major improvements that PERA provides for AFSCME members who have collective bargaining rights in state government and higher education:

  • Streamlined and consolidated labor board: PERA consolidates the 3 ineffective and understaffed labor boards Maryland has currently into a new Public Employee Relations Board (PERB). The PERB will receive more staff to help workers get fair and speedy resolutions to their workplace disputes.
  • Card check: With PERA, public employers must recognize and bargain with a union when employees can demonstrate that they have more than 50% membership in the union.
  • Unfair labor practices: PERA gives the new Public Employee Relations Board needed tools to remedy unfair labor practices and modernizes and speeds up deadlines for the Board to address complaints of unfair labor practices.
  • Public employer neutrality: PERA prevents state agencies and state funds from being used to hire union-busting lawyers to fight collective bargaining and employees exercising their rights.
  • MOU (Memorandum of Understanding/Contract) enforcement: PERA gives the new Public Employee Relations Board powers to enforce provisions of the MOUs.
  • Stronger protections for union activity: PERA adds new provisions to protect State employees seeking to exercise their rights to form, join, or advocate for their union.
  • Union access to worksites and information: These new provisions will allow the union greater access to worksites and information from the State, so that unions can bargain and organize on a level playing field.
  • Better election procedures: PERA gives employees more rights and the new Public Employee Relations Board flexibility in conducting electronic or mail elections. PERA restricts management’s ability to argue that employees should not be eligible to be in a bargaining unit.

We would not have been able to pass this bill without all of the AFSCME members who lobbied and made phone calls to their legislators about passing PERA. A special shout out to AFSCME Maryland Secretary-Treasurer Cherrish Vick for helping to generate extra constituent calls and emails to key legislators as well as our partners at the Maryland State Education Association for all of their great collaboration.

The Public Employee Relations Act becomes law on July 1, 2023, pending signature from the Governor!

HB 184/SB 79: Education and Transportation – Grievance Procedures
House Sponsor: Del. Jared Solomon
Senate Sponsor: Sen. Ben Kramer

Fiscal/Policy Note for HB 184
Fiscal/Policy Note for SB 79

House Vote List for HB 184
House Vote List for SB 79
Senate Vote List for SB 79

Dubbed the “Workday Bill”, this legislation allows MDOT and higher education employees at our public institutions to access the same grievance remedy for paycheck errors that executive branch employees in the state personnel management system (SPMS) enjoy. Pending signature from the Governor, beginning October 1, 2023, when MDOT and higher education employees experience errors in their paycheck, management will have one pay period to make corrections before employees begin accumulating damages. The damage accumulates up to 3 times the total amount owed.

HB 395/SB 223: State Facility Changes and Closures – Procedures
House Sponsor: Del. Jennifer White
Senate Sponsor: Sen. Malcolm Augustine

Fiscal/Policy Note for HB 395
Fiscal/Policy Note for SB 223

House Vote List for HB 395
House Vote List for SB 223
Senate Vote List for SB 223

This bill establishes a specified notice period and requirements on public hearings, reports, and plans when a state agency decides to close or change a state facility where at least 25 state employees are regularly assigned. After previous Gov. Hogan closed and/or attempted to close several facilities in the Department of Health, Department of Juvenile Services, and Pre-Release Units in the Department of Corrections and Public Safety prior to leaving office, we wanted to push for legislation that made these decisions more transparent and offered more opportunity for the union and other stakeholders to provide input. We’re pleased that there will more oversight of these decisions now and that agencies will be required to provide a plan for employees when they decide to close facilities. Pending signature, this legislation goes into effect on October 1, 2023.

Other priority bills

These bills did not meet the crossover deadline, but we made progress on many of them and are in a better position to get them passed in the future.

HB 183/SB 298: State Personnel - Collective Bargaining - Supervisory and Managerial Employees
House Sponsor: Del. Mark Chang
Senate Sponsor: Sen. Ben Kramer

This is a first-year bill that would have enabled collective bargaining rights for state workers in supervisory and managerial positions. We have a better sense of what the opposition’s arguments are when we bring the bill again next year. Shout out to AFSCME members who testified on this bill; your testimony was powerful and memorable!

HB 380/SB 218: Arbitration Reform for State Employees Act of 2023
House Sponsor: Del. Marc Korman
Senate Sponsor: Sen. Cory McCray

We had more support this year for this bill than ever before. This bill would provide for a neutral arbitrator to make a binding decision when parties reach impasse during state and higher education contract negotiations. This bill requires a constitutional referendum at the next general election in November 2024, so we will come back with a big push in the next legislative session.

HB 528/SB 421: State Personnel - Teleworking Programs, Policies, and Guidelines – Requirements
House Sponsor: Del. Cathi Forbes
Senate Sponsor: Sen. Shelly Hettleman

This is a first-year bill that we had truly great testimony on. While pushing this legislation, we have also been in informal discussions with the new administration about their stance on telework. We look forward to continuing discussions with the administration and negotiating a telework agreement. We can bring this back next year if we are unable to reach agreement at the bargaining table.

HB 900/SB 355: Occupational Safety and Health - Public Buildings - Indoor Air Quality
House Sponsor: Del. Ken Kerr
Senate Sponsor: Sen. Pam Beidle

This is a first-year bill with great testimony from our members and our friends at the Maryland State Education Association. As introduced, the bill had a very high fiscal note. We had some great amendments at the end to bring the fiscal note down, but we ran out of time before crossover. We’re in much better shape for next year if we decide to reintroduce this bill.

Other bills that we supported that will become law

  • HB 2: Income Tax - Subtraction Modification - Union Dues
  • HB 309/SB 574: State Employee Rights and Protections – Personnel Actions and Harassments – Complaints
  • HB 527/SB 369: Correctional Officers’ Retirement System – Transfer of Membership – Modifications
  • SB 555: Fair Wage Act
  • SB 395: State Employee and Retiree Health Benefits – Creditable Service
  • HB 636: Public Information Act – Inspection of Email Addresses and Telephone Numbers
  • HB 982: State Employees – Programs and Scholarships for Human Service Careers and Probation Agents and State Contributions to Supplemental Retirement Plans
  • HB 526: St. Mary's County - Transfer of Child Support Unit and Personnel to the Child Support Administration
  • SB 828/HB 988: Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program – Modifications
  • SB 244/HB 240: Correctional Officers’ Retirement System – Special Death Benefits – Applicability
  • SB 328/HB 498: Board of Public Works Public Comment Act
  • SB 428/HB 637: Washington County – Deputy Sheriffs and Correctional Deputies – Collective Bargaining
  • SB 516/HB 556: Cannabis Reform w/ 9% tax
  • SB 239: State Employee and Retiree Health and Welfare Benefits Program – Domestic Partnerships
  • SB 974: State-Owned Nursing Homes - Deficiencies, Citations, and Fines - Contractor Reporting Requirements

Moving Forward

We’ll be preparing for our staffing meetings with the different state agencies in July. In higher education, we will continue to bargain for the pay and resources AFSCME members deserve in our current negotiations with the University System of Maryland and other institutions. A number of legislators also expressed interest in learning more about what’s happening in our agencies and on our campuses. In the next 9 months before the 2024 legislative session, we’ll continue to meet with our elected officials so they can hear directly from you. Stay tuned!

Shout out to everyone who made this legislative session an overall success!

Thank you to Sally Davies, former president of AFSCME Local 1072 for helping to coordinate our lobby nights. A big shout out to AFSCME Local 3644 member Phyllis Coleman for attending every Lobby Night this year! And a shout out to all of our participants at our lobby nights this year, many who came down to Annapolis for the first time. Finally, kudos to the over 50 members who provided excellent testimony at bill and budget hearings this session:

  • Alethea Woodland, AFSCME Local 3655
  • Anissa Alexander, AFSCME Local 112
  • Anthony Washington, AFSCME Local 3661
  • Arpadiana "AC" McCabe, AFSCME Local 3478
  • Bernard Johnson, AFSCME Local 3661
  • Betty Carrico, AFSCME Local 1297
  • Brad Noble, AFSCME Local 1772
  • Brett King, AFSCME Local 1870
  • Charlene Wright, AFSCME Local 3478
  • Cherrish Vick, AFSCME Local 112
  • Cheryl Hughes-Redd, AFSCME Local 423
  • Christal Cooper, AFSCME Local 3655
  • Cynthia Wilson, AFSCME Local 1870
  • Darrick Jones, AFSCME Local 1803
  • Debbie Michaels, AFSCME Local 1459
  • Diane Williams, AFSCME Local 1535
  • Erica Simpkins, AFSCME Local 1072
  • Eugenia Stepney, AFSCME Local 1678
  • Farouqah Idris, AFSCME Local 1678
  • Geron MacKall, AFSCME Local 1885
  • Jackie Caldwell, AFSCME Local 539
  • Jamesa Fossett-Williams, AFSCME Local 3644
  • Jeanne Pekny, AFSCME Local 1072
  • Jenny Reese, AFSCME Local 539
  • Jose Teneza, AFSCME Local 423
  • Karla O'Bannon, AFSCME Local 1297
  • Kendra Dove, AFSCME Local 423
  • Kesha King, AFSCME Local 3661
  • Krista Bulley, AFSCME Local 1072
  • Kyle Shanholtz, AFSCME Local 1772
  • LaQuan Alston, AFSCME Local 3661
  • Linda Owens, AFSCME Local 1427
  • Lynette Ray, AFSCME Local 3661
  • Marvin Etienne, AFSCME Local 3661
  • Michael Carter, AFSCME Local 557
  • Michael McNulty, AFSCME Local 3675
  • Mike Gardner, AFSCME Local 354
  • Miriam Osborne Elliott, AFSCME Local 1072
  • Nate Simms, AFSCME Local 1072
  • Nena Kutniewski, AFSCME Local 1870
  • Nichole Brown, AFSCME Local 3661 
  • Oluwadamilola Olaniyan, AFSCME Local 1678
  • Ofonime Akpabio, AFSCME Local 1678 
  • Pam Richardson, AFSCME Local 112 
  • Phyllis Coleman, AFSCME Local 3644 
  • Quiana Tilghman, AFSCME Local 1833 
  • Rayneika Robinson, AFSCME Local 3661 
  • Renee Nadreau, AFSCME Local 3655 
  • Sally Larsen, AFSCME Local 423  
  • Samuel Ukah, AFSCME Local 1678
  • Sarina Hopkins, AFSCME Local 557 
  • Shanee Jones, AFSCME Local 3661 
  • Sharonda Andrews, AFSCME Local 3661 
  • Stephanie Reid, AFSCME Local 539 
  • Timika Williams, AFSCME Local 3661 
  • Todd Holden, AFSCME Local 1072