While their federal counterparts ponder the merits of a more active political life, organized public workers in Maryland next week may approve a plan to put their money and collective muscle directly into 1978 statewide elections.
The event is of interest to federal brass and union leaders here (not to mention rank-and-file workers) because Maryland is either the bedroom or workplace for many of the area's 347,000 politically impotent U.S. government employees.
It's national story because state and local government workers are among the fastest growing sector of the labor force. And - with a strength of between 12 million and 14 million - they far outnumber the federal bureaucracy's 2.8 million aides who are just beginning to test political waters.
On Tuesday, delegates to the Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA) will meet at Pikesville Armory to vote on recommendations that they raise a political war chest and take an active role in upcoming elections. The MCEA says it has 33,000 dues-paying members of a Maryland public employee work force of about 200,000.
Maryland, the union says, has between 65,000 and 70, state employees. They range from the people in the toll booths at the Bay Bridges to State Police and hospital workers.
The other 13,000 public employees in the state work either for country or local government as teachers, police and fire personnel, office workers, etc.
In Baltimore County alone, MCEA claims 10,000 members who represent a voting bloc (along with their families) which executive director Edward T. Kriener says could "make or break" a political candidate.
By coincidence, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote Tuesday on legislation that would eliminate most restrictions on political activity in the cases of the federal government's 2.8 million employees. State and local government workers paid partially with federal funds were removed from Hatch Act political restrictions a couple of years ago.Many non federalpublic employees, and their unions, have moved to get directly involved in campaigns.
MCEA leaders will ask 250 voting delegates to clear by laws for the new political arm of the union called The Employees Action Movement (TEAM).
Union brass hope to raise $100,000 from membership contributions (dues cannot be used for politics) to finance TEAM operations. These will include aiding candidates friendly to state public employees and helping retire those who are not friendly.
Kriener said MCEA doesn't want to run the government for which members work. "No union or association has the right to control the government," he said. "We don't want a New York City situation." What MCEA wants, and hopes to get by getting into the political fray, is to be able to "communicate" better with lawmakers and officials who handle issues-such as pay raises-that affect employees.
Union officials also are looking to Washington and the federal government as a source of inspiration for pay rises. In many areas the state pays workers less for the same job than does the federal government.
In July, state employees in Grades 2 through 8 will be getting a 6 per cent raise. Grade 2, union officials say, is the beginning level for a secretary or a hospital maintenance worker. The new rate for these will be $5,995 to $7,220, while Grade 8 will go to $8,759 to a top of $11,442.
Grade 9 workers in Maryland will get 5.7 per cent; Grade 10, 5.4 per cent; Grade, 11, 5.1 per cent and workers in Grades 12 through 23 will get a flat 5 per cent increase. Federal employees tentatively are slated to get a raise of about 6.5 per cent across the board, Oct.1.
The Federal Bar Association's D.C. Chapter will announce the winner of the Tom C. Clark award Monday.E. Clinto Bamberger Jr. of the Legal Services Corporation will be the speaker at the National Lawyers Club session. Call 638-0252 for reservations or information.