Protesting a state-mandated 40-hour workweek, at least 200 University of Maryland College Park classified employees missed work in a "stay away" job action that union leaders say closed some academic departments on the first day of the semester.
Yesterday's activity was promoted in a flier mailed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1072, which represents 800 workers at UM's flagship campus.
The employees took the day off, using personal leave or vacation days, said Craig Newman, shop steward of Local 1072.
In the office of UM President William Kirwan, a student aide did clerical work after four secretaries took the day off.
"I usually do photo copying, but today I've been here playing head and only secretary," said Kevin Fallon, a junior accounting major.
The employees have been angry -- and many have reported to working wearing funereal black -- since the UM Board of Regents voted June 19 to mandate the 40-hour work week, said Sally Davies, president of Local 1072.
The Regents acted on the orders of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who decided this year to do away with the 35- and 37 1/2 -hour workweeks that many state workers had traditionally enjoyed. The employees are to receive no extra pay for working the additional hours.
AFSCME and the Maryland Classified Employees Association filed suit to block the order but Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. upheld the governor last week.
The unions' appeal was scheduled for argument before the Maryland Court of Appeals today in Annapolis. Overall, the 40-hour workweek affects about half of the state's 80,000 contractual and non-contractual employees. The UM system employs 5,262 affected employees.
"There is a lot of anger and people are looking for a target," said Newman. "The employees don't see why the governor should get a $40,000 raise and they get a 12 percent pay cut."
Newman said he randomly walked through some of the 300 buildings on the College Park campus and reported that the job action had closed down entire departments. Yesterday was the first day of the second summer semester.
UM College Park spokeswoman Roz Hiebert described the action as "very modest," but added, "There is a lot of sympathy in a lot of corners for the people out today."
UMCP Vice President for Administrative Affairs Charles F. Sturtz said the university has allowed a six-week "transition" period for employees to get used to their new schedule, which went into effect July 1.
"It is the right of every university employee to determine how he or she uses the personal and annual leave to which each is entitled," Sturtz said in a statement.
"Personnel policy also entitles employees to use sick leave as appropriate. The university feels confident that those who are not working today are following the appropriate guidelines regarding personal, sick and annual leave."