November 5, 2021
Dear Senator :
In an outrageous move harkening back to the establishment of leper colonies, managers at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission unilaterally decided to ostracize and isolate the non-vaccinated workforce this week. They’ve moved 88 workers into two workplaces and then moved the fully vaccinated workforce out of those locations into other locations owned by the Commission.
They made this decision without notice to the union, informing the workforce on Monday that they’d be required to report to a new workplace the following day. According to one of our members, they moved some of the unvaccinated workers in a single vehicle together and the vaccinated were similarly moved together like a scene out of some dystopian novel. How does this make anyone – vaccinated or unvaccinated – safer?
This move exposes the workers to even greater risk while it does nothing to protect the public. These jobs are mostly outdoors, mowing lawns or maintaining park and planning properties. All you must do is look at the concentration of Covid cases in elementary schools where children weren’t yet able to be vaccinated versus our high schools where children are to realize this is an ill-advised and downright dangerous choice.
The workforce we represent is both distraught and furious. For some of these workers, this move adds more than an hour of commute time into their day. These are not high paying jobs and an hour or two of unpaid work (their commute) is completely unfair. For others, this puts them into jobs they’re unfamiliar with both the responsibilities and the dynamics of the workplace. They can’t access their usual tools and equipment and they can’t access restrooms or breakrooms same as they could previously.
This is the worst management decision I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I’ve seen a lot of bad decisions. The political appointees heading up the Commission seemingly have no idea how to manage or interact with their workforce. The current director has made it impossible to maintain labor harmony and approaches negotiations with a combative, dismissive attitude, diminishing the workforce and treating their health and welfare with harsh contempt.
Early in this pandemic, we presented them with several proposals to enhance safety at the yards. We requested they stagger clock-in times to reduce risk and asked for leave related to Covid exposure. Instead of listening to our requests, they resisted and rejected our proposals. We had to fight tooth and nail to get them to use common sense then, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this latest move, but I am still completely dumbfounded.
In our recent negotiations, we proposed a testing program for unvaccinated workers. Instead, the Commissioners engaged in bad faith bargaining and imposed this utter nonsense on the workforce.
We’ve filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the Commission for its failure to bargain in good faith. People who oversee a large workforce like that at M-NCPPC should have the common sense to understand that destroying morale and playing with people’s lives and health and welfare is immoral.
Due to this Commission’s continued refusal to make their workforce and labor relations a priority, maybe it’s time for the Commission to be disbanded or restructured to have a bi-county planning function and maintenance of the recreational and parks services moved into the respective county governments. We propose that both the Prince George’s and Montgomery County Delegations revisit the long-standing discussion of restructuring the park and planning commission and draft legislation to pursue that goal.