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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has reached agreements with multiple unions -- including the state's largest employee union -- that will result in a 2% cost-of-living adjustment for thousands of workers.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has reached agreements with multiple unions -- including the state's largest employee union -- that will result in a 2% cost-of-living adjustment for thousands of workers. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that he’s reached an agreement with the state’s largest employee union that will give workers a 2% cost-of-living increase with a possibility of a $500 bonus next year.

The agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees comes after both sides were locked in a disagreement over negotiations for more than a year.

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Each side filed complaints of unfair labor practices against the other, and an administrative judge found in favor of AFSCME Council 3 this fall.

Most state employee unions have multi-year contracts with the state that leave open the ability for the unions to seek wage increases each year. Last year, Hogan, a Republican, put a 3% raise into his budget for AFSCME members — mirroring what other unions negotiated — even though the administration and AFSCME hadn’t reached an agreement.

Under agreements announced Thursday, about 26,000 workers who are members of AFSCME, the Maryland Professional Employees Council, the American Federation of Teachers and the BWI Professional Firefighters Local 1742 will receive a 2% cost-of-living increase on Jan. 1, 2021. They would also get a $500 bonus next Jan. 1 if the state’s revenue comes in at least $75 million above projections.

Additionally, about 2,700 employees in hard-to-fill positions such as social workers, direct care workers, nurses, teachers, pretrial release investigators, lab scientists and benefits specialists will get a 6% salary increase.

Also, correctional officers who reach retirement eligibility will be offered retention incentives of up to $37,500 if they agree to work for four more years.

About 6,500 employees will be eligible for student loan repayment assistance.

“I am thrilled that we were once again able to collaborate with the exclusive bargaining representatives of the state’s employees and reach agreements that benefit our hardworking and dedicated employees,” David Brinkley, the state’s budget secretary, said in a statement.

AFSCME officials, however, had tried to negotiate for a 5% increase, similar to what state law enforcement officers are receiving, said Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Council 3.

“When we go to the table, we are negotiating for the people of Maryland to ensure the people of Maryland have the quality of services," Moran said. "We are not Alabama or Mississippi — that the services in Maryland reflect the wealthiest state in the nation.

“But this administration is not concerned with that. They are concerned with whatever is going to win them favor in the press. That’s a shame.”

The union is planning a rally in Annapolis later this month to call attention to what it calls a state staffing crisis, particularly in the state’s prisons, juvenile detention facilities and psychiatric hospitals, where employees are often forced to work overtime to cover gaps in staffing.

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