Unionized state employees, outraged by Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposal to lay off as many as 1,800 workers as he wrestles with a $423 million deficit, vowed last night to fight the cutting of even one state job.
William Hudson Jr., president of Council 92 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, said state workers must stand together in "a do-or-die situation." The elimination of any jobs, he said, threatens all state employees.
"Next thing we know, it'll be just like cancer," Mr. Hudson said. "It'll eat right on through."
Last week, Governor Schaefer recommended laying off at least 1,800 employees, some as early as Jan. 1, in an effort to cut the growing deficit. The state attorney general has said that if jobs are eliminated because of budget shortfalls, the state would not have to follow rules requiring that workers receive 90 days' notice before a job is cut, guaranteeing seniority rights or allowing reinstatement.
"They are not laying off 1,800 employees. They are firing them," Mr. Hudson told the 80 people crowded into the council's South Baltimore offices last night. The council represents about 10,000 state workers.
Union leaders urged members to call and write the governor, the speaker of the House, the Senate president and the chairmen of legislative committees to prevent job cuts. They also plan to hold a rally next week in Annapolis.
Last night's meeting, originally planned only for union leaders, was opened on short notice yesterday to any members who wanted to attend. "We don't have much time," Mr. Hudson told the crowd. "So whatever we do, we have to be well-organized. Every one of us in this room is vulnerable to [being] fired."
William Bolander, the council's executive director, said he doubts the economic emergency the governor says he is facing truly exists. No one discussed fiscal problems during last fall's political campaigns, he said.
And if any workers need to be furloughed, "they should talk about some of these Cabinet officials taking a furlough," Mr. Bolander added. "And that can go right on up to the governor. He's got [Lt. Gov. Melvin A.] Steinberg who could run the shop for a few days."
Mr. Schaefer and other state leaders could forgo pay raises to help cut the deficit, Mr. Bolander said.
"I think we need to send a very clear message to the governor and the state that we're tired of this stuff and we're not going to take it," he said.