Gov. Wes Moore’s administration announced Wednesday the hiring of a D.C. labor council president experienced in public employee contract negotiations as the year-end talks with the state’s largest workers’ union near contract ratification.

Dyana Forester, who most recently served as the president of the Metropolitan Washington Labor Council, AFL-CIO, will join the governor’s team on Jan. 10.

Forester will represent the governor in “labor relations activities” and work closely with the Department of Labor and the Department of Budget and Management and the state employees’ bargaining reps, according to a statement.

Earlier this week the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Maryland Council 3 announced they had reached a preliminary agreement with the state.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The annual pay negotiations in years past have resulted in pay increases, cost of living increases and bonuses for some state workers. This go-round of talks is Moore’s first with the labor union, which represents approximately 45,000 public sector employees across the state, of which 20,000 hold state jobs and would be affected by the deal’s outcome.

In a press release Wednesday evening, Moore confirmed the tentative agreements made with four civilian employees unions including AFSCME Maryland Council 3 and thanked the involved parties.

“Rebuilding state government and supporting our state employees is a top priority for the Moore-Miller Administration,” the statement said.

A statement from AFSCME Maryland Council 3 President Patrick Moran indicated negotiations with the Moore administration were “markedly different” than in the tenuous talks during former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s two terms in office.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Moran thanked Department of Budget and Management Secretary Helene Grady for being at the bargaining table and addressing “key issues affecting our state workforce and state services,” and said his team will continue to work with the administration, elected officials and allies “to find solutions, including raising additional state revenues, to tackle this staffing crisis and ensure our public services can continue to function.”

AFSMCE often criticized Hogan and his administration for stalling state workforce hiring, eliminating state jobs and straining critical government services. Moore’s executive branch inherited thousands of agency vacancies from his predecessor. So far, approximately 1,800 positions have been filled since the end of 2022, and the executive branch still had nearly 5,400 vacancies as of October 2023, according to state data.

One day after the bargaining deadline, AFSCME posted on social media that they had reached a “tentative” deal with the state.

The Jan. 1 post read: “Stay tuned for updates on ratification and details of the agreement.”

View post on X

But workers are covered by their current contracts, thanks to a 2018 evergreen law that keeps the current deal in place until the new deal gets ironed out.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

AFSCME did not comment on Forester’s hiring. However, Moore said in the announcement he was grateful the veteran organizer had taken the job.

“If we want to be Maryland Strong, we need to be Union Strong,” the statement read. “Dyana recognizes that vision, and she will work with us to make it a reality. She is, hands-down, the right person for the job.”

Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify Dyana Forester’s experience and the status of AFSCME’s contract negotiations.