ADELPHI -- She was the only member of the University of Maryland Board of Regents to vote against mandating that 5,262 classified UM employees work a 40-hour week, but Constance Unseld doesn't want to be anybody's hero.
"Basically, I felt that I had to be honest and truthful to myself," Unseld said. "After listening to both sides of the story, within my own self, I had to respond and vote the way I did. I understand some of their concerns. It is just my personality that I am sensitive to certain things. I wasn't trying to be a martyr, I was just voting with my inside, gut feeling."
Unseld's vote earned her a two-minute standing ovation from the more than 300 UM classified employees who staged a demonstration before the regents' meeting yesterday. She later said the display embarrassed her and she expressed surprise at being the only regent to vote against the resolution.
The controversial issue has been before the regents since January, when Gov. William Donald Schaefer announced that all state employees who currently work 35- or 37 1/2 -hour weeks should be required to work 40 hours, with no extra pay, to help ease the state's fiscal crisis. For the UM employees, the extra hours total 29 days of work per year, a UM employee said.
The UM board was the last state agency to take action on the change, which will become effective July 1, and many regents said they voted for the resolution to please Schaefer.
"It's unfair, it's unjust, it's unethical," said Annette Gonzales, a secretary in the UM College Park administration building who wore a picket sign that said, "Say No to 40."
"You shouldn't ask people to work without paying them. It's demoralizing," she said.
The regents' vote moved the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents the employees at the 11 UM campuses, to file a lawsuit against Schaefer and the regents today in an attempt to void the 40-hour workweek.
AFSCME held a rally after the vote, and officials said another is planned for Monday at College Park. A statewide protest is also scheduledfor June 25 in Annapolis -- on the eve of a special General Assembly budget session.
UM employees' fears of layoffs and furloughs in the wake of $65 million in cuts to the UM system's budget have built on resentment over the 40-hour workweek mandate.
"I tend to think we'll have two reactions to this -- severe disappointment and true anger," said Craig Newman, the shop steward for AFSCME Local 272. "We suspect that they want to increase the amount of work and then cut back on the number of employees."
Most classified workers work 35 or 37 1/2 hours a week and object to working a full 40 hours without more pay. Their average salary is $20,000.
Newman and many other employees say the 40-hour mandate will force them into costly child-care dilemmas. About 80 percent of the employees affected by the new workweek are women.
"They are going to lose the goodwill of the people working on the campus," said Kathleen Klein, a 21-year clerical worker at UM. "Many of us work loads of overtime for free, but not anymore."
Regent Chairman George V. McGowan said the university presidents have been asked to factor flexibility into the schedules of classified and clerical workers when the new work schedule starts.