Union boss goes off at meeting, prison guards say
Mr. Shank said the little-known provision will require roughly 12,000 non-union Maryland employees to pay as much as $400 annually, allowing AFSCME to collect millions of dollars.
AFSCME, with 1.6 million members nationwide, is Maryland’s largest public-employee union with an estimated 23,000 members. The group reportedly spent a total of $87 million on the 2010 midterm elections. Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, was endorsed by the Maryland chapter.
State lawmakers in Wisconsin, California and elsewhere have focused increased attention on public-employee unions as they grapple with ways to close budget gaps, including cutting benefits contained in union contracts.
Supporters say Republicans have used budget problems as cover to attack and weaken unions.
Twenty states, by some estimates, approved some form of pension-reform plans last year.
Maryland faces a $1.4 billion budget shortfall and $16 billion in unfunded pension costs. Mr. O’Malley has proposed reducing those gaps, in part, by requiring that state workers with no changes in their benefits to increase contributions to their pension programs from 5 percent to 7 percent — a plan AFSCME strongly opposes and has countered with a request to instead increase taxes.
The guards said that their concerns were specifically with Mr. Berger, and that they were resigned to union ways, largely because unions are entrenched in heavily Democratic Maryland and for fear of losing good-paying jobs, which start at about $36,000 annually.
“I get abused [by inmates] every day at work, so I don’t have pay somebody to do that,” Sgt. Kelley said.
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