Another labor union has jumped into the ring to organize Maryland state workers, prompting a cry of foul by one competing union and renewing calls from labor officials for a collective bargaining law to resolve the confusion.
The new union, sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, is aimed at organizing some 6,000 state correctional workers, and opens the door for raiding members of three other state employee unions.
Heading the organizing drive for the new Maryland Correctional Employees Union (MCU) is Rick Silva, who worked 10 years as a staff representative for Maryland Classified Employees Association.
"The Maryland Correctional Union is being created to meet the specific needs of correctional workers," Mr. Silva said.
"They need their employee rights defended aggressively, better working conditions, and they must have an open line of communication" with supervisors and the Correction Division administration, he said.
"They're trying to compete with
us, but we've done our job well," said Joseph Cook, field services director for the MCEA, which represents about 22,000 state employees.
"This should push the state closer to a collective bargaining agreement," to resolve the confusion of competing organizations vying to represent state workers, he said.
Maryland has no union contract for its workers; the authorized unions provide services and grievance representation for members who choose to join. Legislative efforts to get a %J bargaining law have failed repeatedly in the General Assembly, as unions have been unsuccessful in uniting behind a single bill.
"I think it's a bad thing for state workers, but it could open the way for collective bargaining, with so many organizations involved," agreed Larry Thomas, president of Teamsters Local 103, which has about 3,000 state employee members.
"We don't feel threatened. . . . We're already there and we're growing," he said.
The Teamsters entered the state employee field four years ago in Maryland and quickly obtained the required 1,000 signatures to get automatic dues deduction from its members' state paychecks.
"The primary impact would be a lot of confusion, a move to muddy the waters," added William Bolander, executive director of Council 92 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has about 9,000 state employees as members.
"It's another good reason to have collective bargaining, so employees can have a single bargaining representative," he said.
Mr. Bolander said he was concerned that AFT was breaking a no-raid provision of the AFL-CIO labor federation constitution by organizing state employees. AFSCME's lawyers are examining that issue, he added.
Eric Rosen, a spokesman for the MCU, said the new union would aim at local and county corrections workers, as well as state corrections employees.
The AFT signaled several years ago that it would be branching out to organize other public employees.
Three years ago, a new AFT affiliate called City Union of Baltimore won the right to represent some 7,000 city employees that had been represented by the now-defunct Classified Municipal Employees Association. Last year, the CUB gained a state employees unit when the Community College of Baltimore was transferred from the city to state control.
CUB also has members working at the Baltimore City Jail, which will be taken over by the state this July, which could provide another base for organizing state corrections workers, Mr. Bolander said.