A recent decision by the Maryland attorney general supports labor protections for workers at UMMC, the flagship hospital of the statewide University of Maryland Medical System.

In a 19-page decision on Nov. 21, 2013, the office of Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler wrote that the Maryland General Assembly has the authority to enact legislation subjecting UMMC to Maryland’s collective bargaining law.

In Maryland, private hospitals fall under the National Labor Relations Act and public hospitals fall under the Maryland Labor Relations Act. The University of Maryland Medical Center, based in Baltimore, is governed by neither. UMMC is the only hospital in the state where workers do not have basic labor protections.

The Equality for Maryland Caregivers Act was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly earlier this year to solve this dilemma, by bringing UMMC workers under the protection of state labor laws. While UMMS opposed the legislation, stating that UMMS is not a state institution, proponents detailed the unique relationship that UMMS does have to the state, including the fact that the board of UMMS is appointed by the governor. The State Senate Finance Committee asked the attorney general for an opinion on the matter.

“The Medical Center’s employees are not currently covered by either the NRLA or Maryland’s collective bargaining statute,” the opinion concluded. “However, because the Medical Center is a State entity for at least some purposes and remains a creature of statute within the ultimate control of the State, the General Assembly has the authority to enact legislation that would subject the Medical Center to Maryland collective bargaining law.”

While this opinion does not guarantee passage of the Equality for Maryland Caregivers Act, it goes a long way to support labor protections for UMMC caregivers, who were met with threats and harassment when they had an opportunity to vote to join a union last year. UMMC management spread false and damaging information to workers at mandatory meetings, giving workers the impression that their vote would not be confidential.

Stay tuned for more updates from 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which supports quality patient care and good jobs for Marylanders.

An article about the Attorney General decision was published by The Baltimore Sun. is part of an effort by 1199SEIU to hold the University of Maryland Medical System accountable to taxpayers, patients, communities and caregivers. Nearly 58 percent of the funding for the system comes from taxpayer dollars, so we need to make sure UMMS is truly putting Maryland first.