MD Library workers, USM grad students, faculty push for lawmakers to give them right to form union


MARYLAND – The Maryland AFL-CIO, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), and the American Federation of Teachers, Maryland (AFT-MD) will hold a press conference urging the Maryland Senate Finance Committee to move legislation expanding the rights of workers in Maryland, including Grad students and faculty in the University System of Maryland as well as library workers.

“Today, Maryland’s labor movement stands in solidarity to ensure we get legislation that will benefit working families in Maryland passed out of the Senate Finance Committee,” said IAM Eastern Territory General Vice President David Sullivan. “There is nothing controversial about giving workers the freedom to choose to better their lives by having a voice in the workplace with a union. I urge members of the Senate Finance Committee to do right by the library and higher education workers in our great state.”

“We feel as though our jobs and job descriptions are kind of ignored,” said Harford County Library worker Megan Baker.

Library workers from Harford county say they want to see better working conditions with a say in decisions around remote work, pay scale, and hours.
They say without these rights, their pay and hours are subject to change with little warning.

“It was very sudden there was no indication my position was even being looked at for pay grade change it was on paper it was a higher grade I am not getting raise even though our police says I should get a 3 percent increase,” said Library worker Morgan Micheal.

Grad students and faculty say- their pay is pricing them out of the University System of Maryland, making it harder for grad students to do their jobs.

“Our pay is not a living wage and we have issues with the amount of time administration takes our concerns seriously on things like grievance procedures, DEI or pay,” said Ph.D. Grad student at UMD Daniel Smolyak, who participated in the event called on the senate finance committee to allow workers like him across the state to unionize.

Smolyak says “the administration shows up listens to our concerns often times belittles them and then they move on,” whereas with a union “they are forced to come to the table and deal with issues they don’t want to address.”

Smolyak says during a hearing session on the pay scale for UMD Grad students, they expressed a breakdown between their internal figures and a USM report on the affordability of units, which Smolyak says prompted the USM representative to call affordability of housing “In the eye of the beholder.”

“That’s disrespectful and when it comes to issues of equity and inclusion, we see people drop out, we do not have a lot of first-generation grad students, because of these conditions so without the pay we are stuck in this cycle, and locking those students out,” Smolyak said.

American Association of University Professors Vice President Karin Rosemblatt tells 47ABC the pay doesn’t just hurt faculty wallets, but their ability to hire top talent.

“Our colleagues work in California where public university grad students make $30,000, at Ivy institutions, it’s closer to $45,000 our graduate assistants make 22,000 a year so there is no way we can compete for the best talent when our wages are so out of wack,” she said adding “We see some faculty being paid as little as 14 dollars an hour for teaching college that’s shameful in a state like Maryland.”

USM responded to 47 ABC’s request for comment saying:

“The University System of Maryland (USM) has testified in opposition to the legislation.  The USM values the important role played by graduate assistants in facilitating an institution’s charge to promote teaching, research, and public service. Graduate assistants’ tuition is paid for by the institution they attend, in addition to health benefits and a stipend.  USM has a long-standing tradition of shared governance among the students, faculty, and administration. We feel strongly that collective bargaining would disrupt shared governance and fundamentally change the nature of assistantships away from a learning and academic experience to an employment experience.”

Both measures have less than two weeks to pass before the end of the legislative session.

Categories: Local News, Local Politics, Maryland