Wrapping Up the 2024 Legislative Session

The 2024 Maryland Legislative Session concluded at midnight on Monday, April 8, and our union has a lot to celebrate!

Over 7,000 Workers Win Collective Bargaining Rights 

The Green Machine passed not one but TWO bills this session that enable collective bargaining rights for over 7,000 public employees within state government and across county library systems.

Additionally, legislation was successfully passed to rectify a longstanding issue affecting over 800 Maryland Department of Health (MDH) employees in state forensic facilities, who were wrongly excluded from the Correctional Officers Retirement System (CORS). As a result, these employees will now have access to a 20-year retirement, aligning them with their peers at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital. Over the past four years, AFSCME has secured over $40 million to address pay and pension disparities across MDH forensic facilities. 

None of these achievements would have been possible without the tireless advocacy of our members in green, who filled the halls in Annapolis on Monday nights and during bill hearings. 

Still No Binding Arbitration, But Important Budget Wins   

Unfortunately, the Arbitration Reform Act of 2024 (HB 114/SB 188) did not pass. This bill would have leveled the playing field during our contract negotiations in state government and higher education by authorizing a constitutional amendment to establish binding arbitration as an impasse procedure. Ultimately, we have more work to do with the administration on this bill, but we are in a much better position to continue pushing for binding arbitration in future years after our efforts this session. And we will be back. 

In a tough budget year, our members also provided insightful budget testimony, sharing truths about the resources they need to work more safely and efficiently, to better serve Marylanders every day. More resources are still needed, but what we won is significant. Some of our locals truly did outstanding work organizing their members to lobby legislators on issues specific to their workplaces. As a result, the legislature passed a Fiscal Year 2025 Budget that secures funding from the Governor’s Budget for our negotiated raises and over 2,000 newly created state positions. We also helped to reinstate almost half of the cuts proposed by the Governor’s budget for community colleges.  

We were also proud to support our Retiree Chapter who spent the session fighting to make sure our state retirees are held as harmless as possible during the transition of the state retiree prescription plan to Medicare Part D in 2025. AFSCME has been opposed to transferring Medicare eligible retirees off the state’s retiree prescription plan since it was legislated in 2011. Unfortunately, last Fall, a court in Maryland affirmed the legislature’s right to do this. This session, our AFSCME retirees helped secure an additional $3.6 million to ease out-of-pocket costs for eligible retirees beginning January 1, 2025. As a result, these retirees will now start the new year with a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) loaded with $750. DBM estimates that 3-out-of-5 eligible retirees will now see lower out-of-pocket costs next year with the transition to Part D. DBM is also required to do one-on-one counseling with retirees during open enrollment this Fall to help retirees select the right plan. We are going to continue monitoring this issue and encourage retirees to contact our Retiree Chapter to get involved. Read more about what we know right now about the Medicare Part D transition here.

Finally, our advocacy as part of the Fair Funding Coalition resulted in the addition of $450 million in new revenue to help support public services statewide. We will continue advocating for more revenues, over cuts, as the legislature and administration look for solutions during the interim and next session to deal with Maryland’s long-term structural deficit.

More on the AFSCME Priority Bills that passed:  

HB 260/SB 192 - State Personnel - Collective Bargaining - Supervisory Employees

Del. Mark Chang (D32-Anne Arundel)
Sen. Benjamin Kramer (D19-Montgomery) 

What the bill does:
Effective October 1, 2024, Maryland state executive branch employees in bargaining unit S will no longer be exempt from collective bargaining rights. Our AFSCME supervisors met with legislators during the interim last year, provided excellent testimony, and showed up in force throughout the session to make this happen. Over 5,300 Unit S employees will have the same rights as other state employees to certify a bargaining representative. Then, they can begin negotiating for improved pay and working conditions. Both bills now proceed to the Governor’s Desk for signature.

Watch testimony here: HB 260 & SB 192 
See how your legislators voted here: House Vote & Senate Vote 

HB 609 - Education - Public Libraries - Collective Bargaining (Library Workers Empowerment Act)

Del. Jared Solomon et al., (D18-Montgomery)
Cross-filed w/ SB 591 (Sen. Clarence Lam et al., D12-Howard)   

What the bill does:
This bill, effective July 1, 2024, establishes a consistent process for over 2,000 county library system workers across Maryland to unionize and collectively bargain. Utilizing the Public Employee Relations Act, which AFSCME helped pass in 2023, as a foundation, county library system workers will now possess uniform rights across all counties. We already represent library workers at the Enoch Pratt Free Library System in Baltimore City, who will finally witness their bargaining rights enshrined in law due to HB 609. Library workers in Howard County recently conducted an election to certify AFSCME as their union and will benefit from a more modern law as they negotiate their inaugural contract. Our AFSCME members who work for Anne Arundel County Public Libraries tirelessly advocated throughout the interim and during the session to pass HB 609, ensuring a fair certification process free from interference by employers for themselves and all system library workers. HB 609 now proceeds to the Governor’s Desk for signature. 

Watch testimony here: House Hearing - HB 609 & Senate Hearing – HB 609
See how your legislators voted here: House Vote & Senate Vote  

HB 1005/SB 972 - Correctional Officers’ Retirement System - Membership 

Del. Aletheia McCaskill (D44B-Baltimore)
Sen. Guy Guzzone (D13-Howard) 

What the bill does:  
On July 1, 2024, MDH employees at ESHC, Finan Center, Potomac Center/SETT, Spring Grove, Springfield, and the RICAs in Baltimore and Rockville who are classified in one of the following classifications will be transferred into the Correctional Officers’ 20-year retirement system:

  • CAHM Associate – CI
  • Developmental Disability Associate – CI
  • Direct Care Assistant – CI
  • Licensed Practical Nurse – CI
  • Resident Associate SETT – CI
  • Security Attendant

Before June 1, AFSCME members who hold a title in one of these positions should immediately get an updated copy of your MS-22 (job description). Please send this to l[email protected] to help us ensure you will be included.

Additionally, please stay tuned for an informational Zoom later in the spring to help answer any questions folks have about the transfer to CORS. Kudos to our AFSCME members in MDH from Cumberland to the Shore who traveled to Annapolis this session to help pass this long overdue bill!

Watch testimony here: HB 1005 & SB 972
See how your legislators voted here: House Vote & Senate Vote 

More Successful Bills that AFSCME was proud to support:

HB 580/SB 477 – Time to Serve Act of 2024 
After finally winning this improvement in our state contract, we were proud to support this bill from Governor Moore’s administration that extends our negotiated benefit to all state employees. AFSCME Local 1678 President Olaniyan helped lead the charge, and state employees will now have 30 days of military and disaster service leave, which is an improvement from 15.  

SB 850 – State Personnel – Line-of-Duty Death and Funeral Benefits  
This legislation raises the amount paid to surviving family members for funeral expenses of correctional officers, public safety aviation employees, and law enforcement officers who are killed or die in the line of duty from $10,000 to $25,000. Furthermore, it indexes this amount to inflation for future adjustments. Additionally, the death benefit for all state employees who are killed in the line of duty increases from $100,000 to $125,000. This legislation also extends funeral expense coverage up to $25,000 for these individuals and indexes these benefits to inflation for future adjustments. 

SB 109/HB 52 - State Employees - Parental Bereavement Leave 
This bill provides state employees, including higher education employees, who suffer the loss of a child younger than 27, with 10 days of Parental Bereavement Leave. An employee may use up to 60 days of parental bereavement leave within 60 days after the employee experiences a stillbirth or the death of the employee’s infant younger than six months of age.   

HB 1013 - State Employees - Paid Sick Leave - Certificate of Illness or Disability Signed by a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor 
Effective July 1, 2024, this legislation adds mental health counselors to the list of providers who can authorize sick leave or certificates of disability for state employees.  

SB 525/HB 649 - Labor and Employment - Equal Pay for Equal Work - Wage Range Transparency 
Effective October 1, 2024, this bill helps promote equal pay for equal work by requiring Maryland employers to post wage ranges when they post jobs internally and externally. Many of our employers already do this, but not all. 

HB 86/SB 180 - Public and Nonpublic Schools - Bronchodilators - Use, Availability, Training, and Policies 
AFSCME Local 558 President Wendy Smith provided excellent testimony on this bill to establish a policy for public schools to authorize school nurses to administer a bronchodilator to a student experiencing asthma symptoms or is otherwise in respiratory distress. This important legislation will help save lives and reduce school absenteeism. 

HB 602 - Employment Discrimination – Sexual Orientation 
In 2023, the Maryland Supreme Court decided in Doe v. Catholic Relief Services that the term “sex” does not apply to sexual orientation in the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act or the Maryland Equal Pay Act. This bill closes the gap and ensures that sexual orientation is included in Maryland’s employment protection laws. 

HB 728/SB 705 - Health Insurance - Qualified Resident Enrollment Program (Access to Care Act) 
A priority bill for our friends at CASA, the Access to Care Act allows all qualified Marylanders regardless of immigration status to purchase health insurance through the Health Benefit Exchange. This important legislation has no fiscal impact on the state but helps to save emergency care costs that we all shoulder by helping more Marylanders access vital preventative care.

HB 1450 - Howard County Task Force to Study Revenue Options for School Capital Needs Ho. Co. 18-24 
We commend the Howard County delegation for studying revenue options to meet school construction and maintenance needs in the county. This is preferred to costly long-term public-private partnership (P3) arrangements where private entities who design and construct schools continue to maintain and operate the school.  

HB 385/SB 38 - Wage Payment and Collection - Pay Stubs and Pay Statements - Required Information 
This good worker bill is even more relevant after the historic wage theft settlements that our state correctional officers recently won. This bill requires that employers provide more transparency on paychecks so that employees can more accurately see if pay is missing.  

HB 513 – Motor Vehicles - Work Zone Speed Control Systems - Revisions (Maryland Road Worker Protection Act of 2024) 
The Moore Administration put this legislation as a response to the tragic accident last Spring on the Beltway outside of Baltimore that killed six construction workers. This bill increases work zone speed camera violations and invests more funding into SHA and the Transportation Trust Fund for highway and work zone safety purposes. 

SB 134 - Office of the Correctional Ombudsman - Establishment and Funding 
This legislation establishes the Office of the Correctional Ombudsman charged with investigating any administrative act that may be against the law or regulations, conduct independent reviews and assessments relating to health and mental health services being provided, agency plans for facility closures or renovations and expansions, and other functions to improve the agency and prevent abuses. This additional oversight will give our DOC members more options to push for transparency and accountability in the agency.

Labor Seats Won on Important Taskforces and Commissions:   

We also had success pushing with our siblings across labor for some dedicated seats on important workgroups that will impact the work our members do. As the adage goes, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

HB 1509: Baltimore Regional Water Governance Model Workgroup – Established 
AFSCME Council 3 President Patrick Moran sat on the first Baltimore Regional Water Taskforce established last session. This second workgroup will continue this work over the next 3 years.  

HB 814: Juvenile Law – Reform   
AFSCME members in DJS currently have seats on the State Advisory Board for Juvenile Services. HB 814 repeals this Board and replaces it with a Commission on Juvenile Justice Reform and Emerging Best Practices. The President of AFSCME Council 3 will be able to recommend two DJS employees for dedicated seats on this commission.

SB 896: Baltimore Convention and Tourism Redevelopment and Operating Organization Task Force 
As the two unions with the most workers impacted, we were able to work with Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration to ensure that AFSCME Council 3 and Unite HERE Local 7 have seats on the Task Force that is studying the development of the Baltimore Convention Center.  

TRAIN Commission: AFSCME Council 3 represents over 2,000 employees in the Maryland Department of Transportation who help maintain, secure, and support Marylanders with transportation needs. The Maryland Commission on Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs, of which AFSCME was appointed to last year, picked up an additional labor seat through budget negotiations between the House and Senate late in session. We are happy the legislature recognizes the value of having labor at the table for these important discussions.

Bills We Opposed  

In total, over 2,700 bills were introduced during the 2024 Maryland General Assembly. Throughout this session, we tracked nearly 200 of these bills for potential impact on our members. We were proud to defeat these bills that would have threatened the safety and security of our members’ jobs and those they serve, as well as set bad precedents for protecting public employee pensions in the state.

SB 322 – Maryland Teachers and State Employees Supplemental Retirement Plans – Automatic Enrollment (DEFEATED) 
We worked with our siblings at the MD/DC AFL-CIO and the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) to oppose this legislation that aimed to automatically enroll new state hires into 401k-type supplemental retirement plans. Such legislation is often viewed as the initial step toward eroding pensions, which offer a fixed, guaranteed income during retirement unlike supplemental plans susceptible to market fluctuations. This poorly constructed bill lacked specified deduction amounts and failed to outline the employee opt-out process, leaving our lowest-paid state employees particularly vulnerable to deductions and high-fee plans they cannot afford.

Additionally, state employees would have lacked dedicated seats on the board that oversees the supplemental plan, in contrast to the pension board, which includes seats reserved for both active and retired state employees. While saving for retirement is crucial, state employees already contribute up to 7% of their income to the state pension plan and have the option to voluntarily join a supplemental retirement plan if desired. This bill was defeated a few minutes before midnight on the last day of session.

SB 511/HB 650 - Maryland Department of Labor - Report on Apprenticeship Mentoring Ratios (AMENDED) 
Apprenticeships can be useful for training and retaining entry-level workers where they are done correctly and legally. A core tenant of apprenticeship programs is the one-on-one on the job training that is offered at progressing wages to set apprentices up for success in their careers. President Biden, Governor Moore, and the Maryland legislature have all invested additional resources in establishing more apprenticeship programs. As introduced, this bill, supported exclusively by the employers, would mandate a 1:3 ratio for specific “non-traditional” jobs and all new apprenticeship programs registered in the state. We opposed this mandated increase in the ratio along with the rest of our siblings in MD/DC AFL-CIO. We worked with the MD Department of Labor to amend this bill into a report that takes a more reasonable approach. We will need to keep monitoring apprenticeship efforts to make sure they are properly negotiated and do not cheapen our work by lowering important minimum qualifications. We were successful in adding some amendments into the Growing Apprenticeships and the Public Safety Workforce (GAPS) Act (SB 470/HB 597), which passed and requires Law Enforcement and Corrections Agencies in Maryland to negotiate the terms of apprenticeship programs prior to receiving grants to implement them. We also made sure that no employer under the GAPS Act can use apprenticeships to reduce or lower minimum qualifications for employment.

SB 420/HB 1151 - State Procurement - Preferred Providers - Removal of Maryland Correctional Enterprises (DEFEATED)  
The Maryland Correctional Enterprises (MCE), staffed by AFSCME members in Corrections, operates as a work and training program for incarcerated individuals within our state prison system. MCE holds the status of a preferred provider in state government, allowing state agencies and universities to directly purchase goods such as furniture and uniforms from MCE. This policy, established for decades, rightly promotes the use of MCE to ensure that agency funds support job training for incarcerated individuals rather than sourcing goods, for instance, from overseas sweatshops. It also prevents hundreds of wasteful individual procurements for these items each year.

With over 70% of MCE sales going to state government, this bill aimed to revoke MCE's preferred provider status, effectively shutting down the program without offering an alternative. This would have left over 1,100 incarcerated individuals who are hired annually by MCE without meaningful activities to fill their days or a source of income. Moreover, the bill posed a threat to the job security of 150 correctional officers employed at MCE, with no guarantees for future employment.

We are relieved that the legislature did not pursue this course of action. Instead, they have opted to conduct a series of studies and reviews to identify opportunities for improving MCE and we are proud to participate in these efforts.  

A busy and successful 90 days made possible only by interim work:   

We achieved significant progress in these 90 days during the legislative session, but we still have more to do to fight for what our members deserve and for stronger public services. None of our priority bills would have passed this year without the commitment and dedication of our members who participated in numerous legislative hearings and meetings with legislators and began engaging their coworkers before the legislative session even began.

We will begin getting our 2025 legislative agenda together around July. As we look to prepare this agenda, please email [email protected] if you would like to get more involved.   

Make a Plan to Vote

In the meantime, please join our PEOPLE program and make a plan to vote in the May 14th primary election and the November 5th general election. Our work in Annapolis is much easier when we have pro-labor and pro-public sector candidates on our school boards and in local, state, and federal legislatures.

Find out about the AFSCME endorsed candidates and ballot measures this election, and make your plan to vote: 
Make a Plan to Vote – American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)