Yes, it's politics that saves the day State workers lobby, can keep a day off.

March 25, 1992|By Michael Ollove | Michael Ollove,Staff Writer

It was not a wave of historic appreciation that kept the General Assembly from deleting Maryland Day as a paid holiday this year. It was a wave of state employees that did the trick.

History "had nothing to do with it," observed Bill Bolander, executive director of Council 92 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 10,000 state employees. "It's just another benefit state employees have had for many years," one they would not give up without punishing legislators at the ballot box in the fall.

Del. Charles J. Ryan, D-Prince George's, and Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, each sponsored bills that would have cut the list of paid holidays by three, eliminating pay for Maryland Day, Lincoln's Birthday and Defenders' Day. (A state election day every two years would also have been cut.)

The aim was clearly to save money, but state workers believed they had made enough sacrifices. They have missed pay raises for two years, they have had 3 1/2 hours added to their workweek, and they are now facing three unpaid furlough days.

"Years ago, when the state couldn't afford to give us pay raises, they gave us these days off," said Mr. Bolander.

"Now they want to take these days back and still not give us a pay raise."

Mr. Bolander said his organization made defeat of the bill its highest priority this year, mobilizing its membership to visit legislators and cajole them on the phone. The effort paid off. The bill already has been killed in the Senate and it seems to be terminal in the House as well.

"It looks pretty good," Mr. Bolander said.

For most state employees, Maryland Day is admittedly nothing more than a day off (one they have the option of saving and using later). For many others, it is not even that much.

In the employee cafeteria at the State Office Building in Baltimore yesterday, fewer than half of those questioned could identify exactly what Maryland Day commemorates -- the landing 358 years ago of the Ark and the Dove, which carried Maryland's first settlers from England.

Every Maryland Day, a group called the Maryland Colonial Society lays a wreath at the statute of Cecil Calvert outside the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse in Baltimore. The group also each year awards a $200 scholarship to a Maryland student for an essay on the state's history.

The biggest celebration of the holiday occurs in St. Mary's County, where the first settlement was built. Today, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the St. Clements Island-Potomac River Museum.

Then this weekend begins a two-day festival with historic re-creations, music and food.

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