Dozens of Maryland government employees rallied Wednesday in downtown Baltimore, protesting what they say is the Hogan administration’s refusal to fill thousands of vacant positions in state government.
“There’s a crisis in staffing and a crisis in services,” said Patrick Moran, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Maryland Council 3 union, which represents correctional officials and other state employees. “But Governor Hogan has ignored this much in the same way he has ignored Baltimore City and the rest of the state, because it doesn’t give him any donations. It doesn’t bring him any opportunities for his business in real estate.”
Union members said they were frustrated by Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to not release $245 million in funding approved by the Maryland legislature that included money for retaining corrections officers and providing raises.
They said the funding is needed in light of a study by the state’s Department of Legislative Services that concluded last year that more than 2,600 state job vacancies have not been filled.
State Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said Wednesday that the problem with unfilled positions has gotten worse since 2018, not better.
“I am sick and tired of silently sitting by and watching the dismantling of the great state of Maryland’s government,” Ferguson said at the rally. “It has gotten worse. There are more vacancies in more agencies.”
The problem with vacant positions is perhaps most pronounced in Maryland’s prisons and jails.
According to the Department of Legislative Services, the percentage of unfilled corrections positions rose from 2.4% in 2013 to 17.4% in 2018. To cover for the vacancies, overtime spending for corrections officers has risen sharply and totaled more than $110 million in 2018.
Ferguson said the vacancies “make the state of Maryland a less safe place to live. This is unacceptable.”
At the rally, which took place under Interstate 83 near the state-run Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, Moran passed out photos of Maryland Department of Health workers who had been assaulted in the past year.
“It looks like all Hogan cares about is running the state as cheaply as possible and giving tax credits and tax breaks to his friends and not providing quality services to the residents of Maryland,” Moran said. “His own employees have been viciously beaten at work. Look at the faces of Governor Hogan’s employees and look how they’re being treated at work.”
Mike Ricci, Hogan’s spokesman, said in a statement in response to the protest: “The governor’s budget provided raises of at least 3 percent for professional state employees, as well as an additional 4 percent increase for correctional officers in order to improve recruitment and retention. Instead of working with us in good faith, AFSCME’s leaders continue their shameful pattern of playing divisive political games.”
The governor has frequently clashed with Moran and the leadership of the AFSCME Maryland union. This past budget cycle, the Hogan administration reached wage deals with four of the state’s five employee unions, but not Moran’s.