The Equality for Maryland Caregivers Act of 2013 gives caregivers at the University of Maryland Medical Center the same labor protections enjoyed by workers at every other UMMS facility in the state and by the vast majority of workers in the United States.
ANNAPOLIS— The Maryland General Assembly adjourned on Monday with an agreement to study new legislation that would provide equal labor protections to 5,000 workers at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
The proposed law, the Equality for Maryland Caregivers Act of 2013, solves a dilemma for UMMC workers, who are not covered by either federal or state labor boards. In Maryland, private hospitals fall under the National Labor Relations Board and public hospitals fall under the Maryland Labor Relations Act. The University of Maryland Medical Center is governed by neither.
“I am confident that this additional study by the legislature will help us to right this wrong,” said Sen. Victor R. Ramirez, D-Prince George’s, a sponsor of the bill. “There is no reason that UMMC workers should not enjoy the same labor protections enjoyed by workers at every other hospital in the state.”
UMMC workers, who testified and met with state legislators in support of the bill, have reported a variety of actions that at any other institution would be labor violations. These actions include, but are not limited to, employees being banned from discussing a union or union activities, workers being given the impression of surveillance as they attempted to explore collective bargaining options, and workers being threatened with a diminution of their work environment if a union is present.
“Because of some oversight, me and my co-workers are without the basic protections that the National Labor Relations Act has provided other workers for more than 75 years,” said Jacqueline Centeio, a unit secretary at UMMC, in testimony to the House Committee in March. “I understand that we are the only hospital workers in this state that do not have this protection and this exemption just doesn’t make good sense and is not right.”
In written testimony in support of the bill, Lester Spence, an associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, said the current situation at UMMC “is a glaring example of civil rights and human rights denied.”
The University of Maryland Medical Center is one of the largest employers in Baltimore and is considered the flagship hospital of the state-wide UMMS system that includes more than a dozen facilities.
“I’m encouraged that my fellow legislators have decided to look further into the situation at UMMC,” said Mary L. Washington, D-Baltimore City, a sponsor of the bill. “We are elected to represent the people of Maryland and that representation includes insuring that all residents have equal protection under the law.”