A new law provides caregivers at the University of Maryland Medical Center the same labor protections enjoyed by workers at every other UMMS hospital in the state and by the vast majority of workers in the U.S.  Maryland’s largest healthcare union says that fair work conditions support quality care for patients.

ANNAPOLIS—Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law today a bill that will provide equal labor protections to 5,000 workers at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

The bill is an updated version of the Equality for Maryland Caregivers Act backed by 1199SEIU last year and solves a dilemma for UMMC workers, who were not covered by either federal or state labor boards. In Maryland, private hospitals fall under the National Labor Relations Board and public hospitals fall under the Maryland Labor Relations Act. The University of Maryland Medical Center was governed by neither.  

UMMC workers, who testified and met with state legislators last year, reported a variety of actions that at any other institution would be labor violations. These actions include employees being banned from discussing a union or union activities, workers being given the impression of surveillance as they attempted to explore collective bargaining options, and workers being threatened with a diminution of their work environment if a union is present.

As a result of their lobbying, the Senate finance committee asked the state attorney general Doug Gansler to issue an opinion on the matter, which he did in November 2103, writing that the Maryland General Assembly does have the authority to enact legislation subjecting UMMC to Maryland’s collective bargaining law.

The University of Maryland Medical Center is one of the largest employers in Baltimore and is considered the flagship hospital of the state-wide UMMS system, which includes more than a dozen facilities. UMMC is unique within the UMMS system because it is the only hospital under the direct control of the system-wide board appointed by the governor. Other University of Maryland Medical System hospitals are governed by their own separate boards.

Under the new law, University of Maryland Medical System Corporation– Governance – Medical Center Employees, the board of UMMC will be privatized and the hospital will come under the jurisdiction of the federal National Labor Relations Board, which will have jurisdiction over any claims or petitions presented by UMMC employees.

Mary L. Washington, D-Baltimore City, a sponsor of the bill, said of her support, “as elected representatives of the people of Maryland, we have a responsibility to insure that all residents have equal protection under the law.”