Amid contract negotiations, the union representing University of Maryland employees is fighting to eliminate their campus parking fees.
Employees at this university pay between $427 and $853 in yearly parking fees, depending on their salaries. The Department of Transportation Services uses a five-tiered system, which is dictated by salary, to designate the amount an employee pays.
During past negotiations, this university struck a deal with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 1072 union to cap parking rate increases to 7 percent annually.
However, AFSCME 1072 President Dawn Jackson said this university has indicated during negotiations that it wants to eliminate a side letter of the contract that includes this cap. In this case, employee parking fees could increase by more than 7 percent per year.
The union, on the other hand, is asking to remove the parking fee entirely, Jackson said.
"They want to get rid of the cap," Jackson said. "We say, we don't want to pay to park. There will be a middle ground, but we don't know what it is."
Jackson also works at this university as a research specialist for the Department of Laboratory Animal Resources.
Cara Plewinski, DOTS assistant director for marketing and communications, said if DOTS has an increase in parking fees, it's because of mandatory increase, such as paying for more for electricity.
University spokeswoman Katie Lawson said it is too early to comment on the negotiations.
Jackson said the parking fee eats up about 1 percent of her salary, and workers have complained that even though they pay for parking, sometimes they can't find spaces.
"I'm at sort of one of the higher ends for paying for parking, so I'm looking at paying like $800-plus per year to park and I'm not guaranteed a space," Jackson said. "I have to fight for my space just like everybody else does."
DOTS estimates it will lose about 2,700 parking spaces by fall 2018 due to campus construction projects.
Plewinski said there should still be plenty of parking for staff and faculty, adding that this university has overflow lots for students and employees if they can't find a spot.
"Technically they should be able to find parking," Plewinski said. "So it might just be a matter of knowing that there is overflow parking available."
But Jackson said the overflow parking can be far away and inconvenient for staff and faculty to use if their assigned lots are full.
[Read more: UMD DOTS adds spaces to Lot 1 amid parking shortages]
The union will continue negotiations with this university Wednesday.
Union leaders have distributed about 1,000 stickers that read, "No parking fee!" to their contacts throughout the university. They're urging people to wear them on Tuesday — the day before the planned negotiations — so people will "rally behind [them]" and become informed on the issue, Jackson said.
They also plan to make hard buttons with similar messages to distribute throughout the campus.
Students should care about the negotiations because they deal with parking issues as well, said Chris Bangert-Drowns, a senior economics major.
"We're a large commuting school," Bangert-Drowns said. "DOTS makes a lot of money off of parking fees and parking fines and that comes from both students and staff. If we can win parking decreases in this contract that will affect students just as much as it impacts staff."