Maryland Community College Workers Say "Union Yes"

Workers at Howard Community College (HCC) and Frederick Community College (FCC) filed for official union recognition today to win respect, dignity, and better wages and conditions on the job.

After months of organizing, more than 80 percent of the 170 faculty at HCC and 100 faculty at FCC petitioned the state Public Employee Relations Board to join the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), AFT-Maryland, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Howard Community College faculty have created an award-winning community institution in Columbia, Maryland, yet are under constant threat of dismissal and are continually disrespected by administrators. Longtime educators who once relished working at HCC feel their dedication is being used against them and are told by their supervisors that if they are unhappy “there are plenty of exit signs.”

HCC English instructor Tim Bruno said he was organizing for a seat at the table: “I'm for unionizing because faculty know what's best for our students, our schools and higher education, and a union and a contract will finally give us our say. Administrators tell us how to do our jobs without knowing their way around a classroom. But when it comes to our students and their learning, I trust my colleagues. I trust faculty.”

Frederick Community College faculty are organizing for respect—for the profession, for their students, and for their dedication to learning. They have been disrespected by ever-increasing workloads, abusive management, unclear and inconsistent policies, and inadequately stagnant compensation. In elevating their collective voice, they plan to address these issues and so much more as they try to preserve and protect public higher education.

Greg Coldren, an FCC math faculty member, said, "I support FCC faculty's unionization effort because the history of the institution shows that no existing organization, including FCC's board of trustees and various state and regional accreditation organizations, will protect faculty and other employees from abusive administrators. The solidarity and power we are creating with our union will ensure our protection."

HCC and FCC are the first community colleges in Maryland to organize since the Maryland legislature reformed the collective bargaining process at the start of the last academic year, joining the full-time unionized faculty at the AAUP-AFT affiliated Montgomery College. Under state law, the new units will be officially certified in 30 days.

AFT-Maryland president Kenya Campbell said, "We are excited to welcome faculty from Howard Community College and Frederick Community College into the AFT-Maryland labor family. Workers see a union as the way to have voice, which is why labor power has been surging across the nation.

“AFT-Maryland is a statewide leader in the field. The affiliation between AFT and AAUP has only strengthened us as a state federation as we organize and protect public employees across Maryland. Faculty at community colleges across Maryland are public employees engaged in the essential work of preparing the bright minds of today to confront the challenges of tomorrow.

“Workers all over the United States see the value of collective bargaining and worker solidarity, and community college faculty are no different. We welcome these new members into our union family and remember the deep roots AFT-Maryland has in organizing higher education faculty dating back to Local 1980 at the former Community College of Baltimore. We will continue to fight for higher education workers throughout Maryland to get the representation they deserve and democracy in the workplace."

AAUP president Irene Mulvey said, “With this important step, the faculty at these two outstanding community colleges will have a stronger collective voice to promote the core academic mission, to demand the respect they deserve, and to advocate for policies to ensure their institutions are the best they can be.”

AFT president Randi Weingarten said, “The freedom to teach and to learn, the freedom to research and the freedom to be economically secure are at the center of these workers’ fight. I am so proud of the Frederick and Howard community college faculty who joined together to help their students and bargain the conditions and wages they need and deserve.”

The AFT, the nation’s largest higher education union, has now organized 54 new units this year, bringing its total membership to a record-high 1.72 million.

“Higher ed faculty want unions—and the more workers who are organized, the more students see that respect and voice leads to greater opportunity, that’s the way more families have access to the middle class,” Weingarten said. “That’s why it is such a hot labor summer.”

Publication Date: 
Monday, August 21, 2023