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USM Employees Demand $15 Minimum Wage

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University System of Maryland employees rallying Monday morning. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR

Dozens of University System of Maryland (USM) employees rallied Monday demanding a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

USM employees, who are unionized with AFSCME Council 3, marched at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), waving signs reading “RESPECT OUR SERVICE,” and chanting, “We want our money now!”

Angela Webb is the president of AFSCME Local 1839, the union for UMB workers. Webb said many of her co-workers make less than $15 an hour or need two jobs to get by.

“UMB is too top-heavy...and not doing anything for the people who keep this university running,” Webb said. “They have money to do what they want to do with it. But when it comes to putting money in employees’ pockets, they have nothing to give us.”

Webb added that several of her co-workers contracted COVID-19. Sometimes, she said, they go to work sick because they’re afraid of losing their jobs.

Saul Walker, the Chief Shop Steward for AFSCME Local 1072, representing workers at the University of Maryland, College Park, said USM officials have not given workers their federal hazard pay.

“I don’t know how they sleep at night,” Walker said. “They’re treating us like second class citizens in America.”

Mike Lurie, the media relations and web manager at USM, wrote in an email to WYPR that “at some USM institutions independently, there has been agreement with union representation on the issue of hazard pay.”

Lurie also wrote that essential workers have received “additional pay or administrative leave” for reporting to campus during the Spring 2020 semester.

But Walker said USM officials have avoided negotiating with their frontline workers. In May, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed Senate Bill 9, which would have required consolidated collective bargaining throughout the university system.

“We have people who are suffering, trying to make a living,” Walker said. “It’s too many, too many that are doing that.”

He added that USM is behind in “doing what is right for their employees.” This year, several large employers, including Johns Hopkins, Amazon and Walmart, committed to paying their workers at least $15 an hour.

Sarah Y. Kim is WYPR’s health and housing reporter. Kim is WYPR's Report for America corps member, and Anthony Brandon Fellow. Kim joined WYPR as a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. Now in her second year as an RFA corps member, Kim is based in Baltimore City.