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Thousands Of Union Employees Rally To Keep Pensions

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Police shut down streets in Annapolis Monday night as thousands took part in a massive demonstration.  Union members marched to Lawyers' Mall and when they got there, they were greeted by other protesters wearing pig noses.

Kelly McPherson explains what both sides are fighting for.

Thousands of union state employees took over Annapolis, marching to let legislators know they do not want their benefits---specifically their pensions---to change in this year's state budget.

"We must also fix and save our state's pension system," said Governor Martin O'Malley.

But state workers say they've sacrificed enough.

"And the commitment to us was that we would have a living wage, that we would have reasonable health benefits and that we would have support after 30 years of hard work," said Tami Metz, Social Services worker.

Workers came in on more than 75 buses, but they weren't enough.

There were actually two rallies: the union side and the folks who are upset about what the public employees are asking for.

"As taxpayers, that's not OK for us to watch: a bullying entity threatening legislators into not being wise about legislating," said Cindy Sharretts from Harford County.

"I sympathize with them.  I'm a worker, too, but nobody is paying my pension.  We've all got to contribute to our own retirement," said Lynn Beiber from Bowie.

Many mentioned Wisconsin, where the governor stripped that state's union of collective bargaining.  Here, it's about funding the pension.  The AFL-CIO president says corporations should pay more taxes and put people back to work to cover it.

"We have the deficits, not because of the pension or health care---we have these deficits because of the massive number of people who have been laid off," said Richard Trumka.

The governor says that the unions have and will continue to have a seat at the discussion table during budget debates.

The state legislature has until April 11 to finalize the state budget.

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