Mayor Martin O'Malley's administration is nearing the end of a trying negotiating season with its unions during which the mayor mounted a political campaign, the labor commissioner resigned and workers staged protests against escalating health care costs and, in some cases, no pay raises.
Only two of the city's five labor organizations are still working without signed contracts, more than three months after their June 30 deadlines have passed. But the two unions -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 44 and the City Union of Baltimore -- are scheduled to vote on tentative agreements with the city next week.
AFSCME members are set to vote on their proposed contract Oct. 19; CUB members will cast their ballots three days later.
CUB and AFSCME have held out against O'Malley's demands for them to pay more in health care without pay raises by arguing that their members are the lowest paid and could not afford more expensive medical coverage.
The city reached a tentative agreement with the two unions late last month, offering a 2 percent pay raise starting Jan. 1, plus a 2 percent raise for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The members will have to pay 15 percent of health care premiums.
"It's better than a zero" percent pay raise, said Glenard S. Middleton Sr., president of AFSCME Local 44.
Middleton's conciliatory tone is in sharp contrast to the protest he and more than 200 city workers staged in June outside City Hall at the start of the primary election campaign, which ended Sept. 9.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 and the city's two firefighters unions have signed their contracts, conceding to no pay raises and the same 15 percent premiums. The contracts are for two years, but each deal allows the unions to reopen wage negotiations after the first year.
After the contentious negotiations, city labor Commissioner Denise F. Gregory resigned Oct. 3 to pursue a consulting and teaching career.