Employees Crowd Another City Council Meeting to Testify on Their Desire for Voice on the Job
For Immediate ReleaseMarch 29, 2023
Laurel, MD – On March 27, 2023, employees of the Laurel City Department of Public Works packed the City Council public hearing for the second time in two months to demand the passage of a bill recognizing their collective bargaining rights. Over 90 percent of the workforce have signed union authorization cards with UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO.
The current city code does not codify collective bargaining, except for the City’s police force. Unionizing the DPW workforce requires City Council legislative action.
When employees submitted their union authorization cards, demanding union recognition, several members of the City Council indicated that, while they support bargaining rights, they wanted to give Laurel City’s administration ‘professional courtesy,” allowing them a few months to investigate the issue.
Frustration and exasperation from the workforce boiled over at the City Council meeting.
Kate Wright, a DPW administrative assistant and a member of the union organizing committee, told the Council:
“One month ago, most of you said you support public works unionizing. Words without action are only words. Just as public works takes action every day to provide exceptional support, to go above and beyond to serve the community, we’re asking the council to take action, to go above and beyond, to show your support to put together a special session to expedite public works unionizing.”
“I have just given to you draft legislation for you to give deep consideration to expedite unionization,” said Lloyd Holloway, a public works employee and member of the union organizing committee. “We put our life on the line every single day, just like Laurel PD does. They have their union. We’re asking for the same thing. You’re asking for time to investigate, but we didn’t commit a crime. There’s no need to investigate. We want our equal right to unionize. Bottom line: you say you support union rights. What’s the holdup?”
“Everybody on the dais is elected to run this city,” said Gino Renne, president of Local 1994. “I’m perplexed as to why when you already have a model collective bargaining bill that you’re taking so long for you to decide whether or not you want to respect the request of your essential employees to exercise what I believe to be a human right, to sit down at the bargaining table and negotiate their wages and benefits. Then I hear a conflicting message that it’s essentially up to the executive to make that decision or lead on that issue. A public executive who stands in the way of a bill respecting bargaining power is no better than a CEO who stands in the way of their employees.”
Trevon McMillan, another DPW employee and union organizing committee member, delivered a petition of over 200 signatures from members of the Laurel Community calling for the Council to grant collective bargaining rights for the Laurel City DPW.
Local 1994 represents 7,000 public employees in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and beyond. From its inception, UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO has fought to protect workers’ rights, negotiate fair wages, and protect safety and security of workers.