Staff, community members and union leaders occupied the front steps of the University of Maryland administration building in College Park Wednesday to rally for higher pay and better working conditions.
Over 100 attendees bore signs reading “One job should be enough” and “Invest in workers” as university staff shared stories of discrimination and disrespect in an environment of high workloads and poor health and safety regulations.
“Workers united will never be defeated,” the crowd chanted.
Wednesday’s rally is the latest effort to push the University System of Maryland to create one system-wide contract that represents employees at all 12 institutions, as per legislation that passed in June 2021. Before then, each union chapter had to negotiate with its university directly, leading to disparities in conditions and wages within the state system.
In September 2022, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union and its members rallied at a Board of Regents meeting for similar causes. But some say not much has changed since then.
Rosana Cruz, who has worked in housekeeping at the University of Maryland-College Park for five years, described a “workplace culture of intimidation, disrespect and bullying.”
Cruz said she and her coworkers are told to not speak Spanish on the job, and are reprimanded for taking sick days.
“Management is constantly bullying us, telling us ‘You will lose your job if you keep calling sick,’” she said.
Housekeeping schedules also change last-minute, making it difficult for workers to hold second jobs, Cruz said.
“But [the university] doesn’t even pay us the living wage that allows us to support ourselves and our loved ones,” she said.