Preparing for 2021 Legislative Session

Preparing for Legislative Session 2021

The year 2020 may be coming to a close (thank goodness!) but December for AFSCME Council 3 means preparing for the upcoming Maryland General Assembly legislative session.  On Friday, December 4 the Council’s Executive Board approved the union’s formal legislative agenda for next year.  The agenda is split into three broad categories: collective bargaining rights; health and safety; and coalition work. 

Collective Bargaining Rights 

  • AFSCME Council 3’s contract with the State expires at the end of this year.  Given the existing differences of opinion between the State and Council 3 on a host of issues, it is possible we will once again have to go to the General Assembly to assert our right to a contract that treats state employees with fairness, dignity and respect.
  • Because of the difficulty reaching agreement with the State during collective bargaining sessions, AFSCME will be pursuing changes to the law creating “binding arbitration”, a process where an independent arbiter would choose between final submissions submitted by the union and the State to determine what economic determinations would apply going forward.
  • We will once again be pursuing legislation to require the Chancellor of the University System of Maryland (USM) to act on behalf of USM and its constituent institutions, rather than the institutions’ presidents under current law, for the purposes of collective bargaining.
  • We will also be working to provide frontline attorneys within the Office of Public Defender many of the basic rights and opportunities provided to merit-based state employees; reform the New Employee Orientation process to create greater access for the union to new state hires; and open a process to provide basic state employee protections and benefits to workers at the Maryland Environmental Service.

 Health & Safety

  • AFSCME Council 3 has joined a coalition of like-minded unions and other organizations to promote the Maryland Essential Workers Protection Act, legislation which will provide much-needed standards and procedures that aim to protect the health and safety of both public and private sector essential workers during pandemics.
  • We are also introducing legislation which would require public sector and higher education employers to create Injury and Illness Prevention Programs. IIPPs are a proactive process that require employees, in consultation with their employees and their unions, to find and fix workplace hazards before they can lead to injury and illness.
  • We will continue to push for the Department of the Environment to adopt regulations to require periodic inspections for the presence of mold hazards and mold or moisture problems in each occupied higher education facility in the State.
  • The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the positives, and negatives, of telework.  Many AFSCME members have thrived with the ability to telework, while others have been challenged by equipment needs, broadband access, child care access and work schedule restrictions.  AFSCME looks to enshrine the right to telework into state law, and add requirements on management of telework, training, equipment access, and performance measurement.

Coalition Work

  • AFSCME Council 3 belongs to the Fair Funding Coalition, a group of organizations banded together to close corporate loopholes, remove special interest tax breaks, and bring more progressivity to our income tax structure.  Enhancing state revenues in a fair equitable manner will enable the state to address sorely needed problems such as public sector staffing shortages, state government program resourcing, and education quality enhancement.
  • States are taking action to extend workers’ compensation coverage to include first responders and health care workers impacted by COVID-19. A common approach is to amend state policy so that COVID-19 infections in certain workers are presumed to be work-related and covered under workers’ compensation. This presumption places the burden on the employer and insurer to prove that the infection was not work-related making it easier for those workers to file successful claims.
  • Finally, AFSCME Council 3 once again opposes calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention of the States.  The lack of a defined process, fair and equal representation and ability to limit the agenda considered make this possibility a potential Pandora’s box of nightmares.

How will we tackle such an expansive agenda?  In response, the Council has created “legislative subcommittees” which will tackle these specific issues.  They include members from all parts of state government, with the mutual determination to better the lives of their brothers and sisters – and their families – which in turn will be better for all of Maryland.  Please reach out to Lance Kilpatrick at [email protected] or Denise Gilmore at [email protected] to join!

One of the main responsibilities of these legislative subcommittees will be creating a plan to engage Maryland’s legislators while in the midst of a pandemic!  Maryland General Assembly leadership have already stated that committee meetings will all be held online, with limited floor sessions.  In addition, the legislative buildings housing Senators and Delegates have effectively been closed to the public because of COVID-19.  Lobbying Annapolis will be unlike any year before – we will be relying more and more on our members to write and phone their representatives on our issues, as well as asking you all to tune in to committee hearings to be informed and help make your voices heard.  “Virtual advocacy” is real and it’s how 2021 will be done!

Finally, as alluded to earlier December is jammed packed with events that will guide and inform how 2021 will be.  Here are key dates to know, and Council 3 events to look out for and participate in! 

  • December 9 – Council 3’s bargaining team engages with the State to negotiate our next three-year contract
  • December 11 – the Board of Revenue Estimates announces how much money will be coming into the State’s coffers for the coming fiscal year
  • December 15 – the General Assembly’s Spending Affordability Committee will take the Board of Revenue Estimates’ information to apply it to the expected fiscal year’s spending
  • December 16 – AFSCME Council 3 members will be testifying before the House Appropriations Oversight Committee on Personnel on the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • December 17 – at 7:00pm Council 3 will be hosting a statewide, all members invited online event to gear up for the New Year!  RSVP Here:
  • December 19 – at 10:00am a meeting of AFSCME’s Legislative Subcommittees and other activists will meet to share information and experiences and continue planning for the 2021 legislative session.  For more information, please reach out to Lance Kilpatrick at [email protected] or Denise Gilmore at [email protected].