Last week, nearly a hundred University of Maryland employees and their allies gathered in front of the school’s Thomas V. Mike Miller Administration Building, demanding better pay and working conditions—as well as more dignity on the job.
AFSCME Local 1072, which organized the rally, represents over 3,400 employees on the campus in departments ranging from housekeeping to IT and technical support. AFSCME Maryland Council 3, representing Local 1072 and many other public employees from around the state, also facilitated the event. The Maritime Trades Department was on the scene, with Executive Secretary-Treasurer Mark Clements and incoming Administrator Brittanie Potter standing alongside AFSCME members.
The University system’s flagship campus in College Park, MD is located in one of the state’s–and indeed, the nation’s–most expensive regions; many workers present at the rally decried the school’s lack of investment in employees at a time when it has the resources to greenlight massive capital improvement projects. Some described the necessity of taking additional gig work or part time jobs to afford living nearby, given that the university’s wages were not sufficient to cover cost of living.
Others spoke on the lack of assistance for workers whose first language was not English, including one custodial worker who was not able to access her health insurance for months due to a language barrier.
This is not the first time AFSCME members have confronted the University of Maryland administration over unfair workplace practices. The staff previously staged a rally before a Board of Regents meeting last September regarding these same concerns.
Rallygoers were quick to point out the cruel irony that the University of Maryland has embraced a slogan of “Do Good” while callously ignoring its own workers. To emphasize this hypocrisy, the rally attendees stood beneath a sculpture of the slogan holding picket signs with a simple message: “Do Better!”