Mar 21, 2011
“Keep the promise! Keep the promise! Hands off our pensions!” chanted thousands of Maryland state workers, teachers and local government employees as they surged down the main road leading to the state capitol recently. This rally on the evening of March 14 was organized by AFSCME and AFT – officially to protest attacks on state workers’ and teachers’ pensions, health care and jobs. These unions succeeded in turning out more than 10,000 workers, joined by some supporters from other unions. It was the largest and most spirited rally in the state capitol in decades.
In contrast to Republican governors in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and some other states, Maryland’s Governor O’Malley – a Democrat – hasn’t directly attacked unions and collective bargaining. In fact, the O’Malley administration will soon start collecting union service fees from all those state workers the unions bargain for who haven’t yet joined a union – the majority of such workers.
But just like Republican governors, O’Malley is proposing to require state workers and teachers to pay more for their pensions, sharply increase what retirees have to pay for their prescription drugs, and carry out other attacks on the workers’ jobs, pay and benefits.
Nonetheless, union leaders were friendly to O’Malley when he made a “surprise” appearance at the end of the Annapolis rally. They had chosen slogans and chants for the rally that did not go directly against his administration. They did their best to keep the heckling he faced at a minimum. He ended quickly, thanking those present for working hard for all the citizens of the state and for coming to the rally.
Hopefully Maryland’s public workers – and workers in other states with Democratic administrations, can see through the nice words and excuses used by both Democratic officials and their own union leaders. Then they will be in a position to organize a real fight to defend their interests and the interests of other working people in their states.