AFSCME Council 3 Continues Fight to Extend Emergency Paid Sick Leave

Last June, Governor Hogan, and his administration allowed the Emergency Paid Sick Leave program to expire, taking away vital protection from frontline workers exposed to COVID-19. Without EPSL, frontline workers must use their own time to quarantine after a workplace exposure instead of the emergency leave. Sometimes this means that they must use Leave Without Pay and stay out of work with no pay. Not only is this a burden to frontline workers and their families, but it also ultimately puts workers in the position to choose between their paycheck and their health and safety. 

AFSCME members continue to urge management to reinstate EPSL hours to protect frontline workers and ensure no worker has to choose between quarantining for their safety and a paycheck. Our elected bargaining team will be raising this issue during negotiations with the Governor's administration this fall. In addition, members came together to write letters to legislators overseeing the budget and spending of federal COVID aid, which Governor Hogan could be used to fund this EPSL extension. To date, the Governor has spent just 16% of the billions of federal aid. This funding could be used to extend EPSL, pay fair hazard pay and protect frontline workers in many other ways. 

AFSCME Members urged legislators ahead of a September 22 briefing on federal aid spending to question the Department of Budget and Management about EPSL and why this program has not been extended. By organizing and sending letters, we ensured the Governor's team was questioned about their decision. At the briefing on September 22, Del. Kirill Reznik (D-39) raised the issue with DBM Secretary David Brinkley.

The delegate asked, "what we are seeing is a number of our state employees are dealing with the (COVID) variants, whether they be nurses or corrections officers or others living in congregate or working in congregate facilities. At this point, they have all but expended all of their sick and personal leave time, and because the emergency leave program has ended, is there anything that you and the Governor are thinking about doing in order to compensate them, or maybe using some of the federal funds that we are getting in order to help out our state employees who have used up all of their time in their efforts to try and help the people of Maryland?"

In response, Secretary Brinkley acknowledged awareness of the issue but little else: "I think that was one of the topics that were brought up, and we're trying to do some of the research on the magnitude of it, who has what's left."  He continued, "so we'll find out where we are along those lines… but it has hit our radar scope, and we're trying to gauge exactly what that is."

Our union is leading the fight for health and safety protections in our workplaces. Stand with us in the fight for respect and raises by joining us at a March and Rally for COVID-19 Heroes on Wednesday, October 20th, 6 pm. RSVP here!

If you have not already taken the pledge to stand with Council 3 COVID-19 heroes in the fight for raises and respect: