At the November 29 bargaining session, AFSCME Local 1072 again advocated for campus transportation policies which are affordable, sustainable, and which help to maximize the benefits of service for its most vulnerable members. While countering the administration's proposed increase in parking permit fees for employees and faculty is one of Local 1072's top priorities, other campus transit issues demonstrate that this is a matter of equity which affects the entire campus population.
In an exciting development, two students joined the union at the negotiations to participate in a discussion with David Allen, Executive Director of DOTS. Much to everyone’s chagrin, the students were forcefully rebuffed by the administration's representatives at the table and denied any opportunity to ask questions, make comments, or provide their own specialized perspective on campus transportation issues.
Nevertheless, the bargaining team persisted in their efforts to present the terrible reality that workers, students, and faculty face with the intended implementation of a parking fee increase and the ongoing decrease in available parking spaces.
In questioning David Allen, the union established that there is no material plan to replace the 3000+ parking spaces lost to construction. While a new parking garage could happen in the theoretical future, DOTS has not allocated funds in several fiscal cycles to add spaces. This means that parking scarcity can only increase in the near-term.
TRANSIT ACCESS FOR ALL
DOTS contends that Shuttle-UM is primarily a student-oriented service, and has threatened service reductions if students do not accept an increase in their mandatory fee. DOT's own SmartCommute program encourages Shuttle-UM use by employees who would use those same eliminated routes. Workers who rely on the shuttle to get them to work during weekends would be adversely affected.
The same SmartCommute program encourages telework as an alternative to driving. The union has proposed improvements to the current telework policy. The union wants both workers and supervisors to have clearer guidelines and better ground rules so that more people can use telework and reduce their driving footprint. Thus far, the administration has rejected this proposal outright.
DOTS’ support of more commuting by bike is both responsible and admirable. However, it should not be seen a viable option for everyone. Workers with disabilities or limiting conditions and those workers with early morning start times who arrive on campus in the dark most of the year should be able to commute safely and park affordably.
Our bargaining team believes that when a diversity of voices representing the entire campus community is heard equally and fairly, it results in better outcomes for everyone. We continue to seek out open dialogue with whomever and wherever we may find it, and encourage you to join with us as we labor to protect and improve a workplace that is worthy of the name Maryland.