Staff workers: "We are going to have a voice"
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 12:09
For the first time in UVM history, staff members may be represented in a union.
Staff members who can get overtime pay voted 339-278 supporting unionization in an election that took place Sept. 17 and Sept. 18 in Billings Lounge.
“This is the largest union election in Vermont and there have never been two unions on a ballot — it’s history making in Vermont,” retired staff member Jennifer Larson said.
Which union UVM chooses to affiliate with is still up in the air.
The two unions staff members voted on were University Staff Union, in affiliation with the National Education Association (USU-NEA), and the local union United Staff — a third option was neither.
After a result of 168 votes for United Staff, 183 votes for USU-NEA and 260 votes for neither, a runoff election will occur between USU-NEA and neither as they were the top two choices.
Seventy-nine percent of eligible staff voted in the election, said Michele Patenaude, library support senior staff member and USU-NEA supporter.
“If you look at the votes, we clearly won — so if all the people who voted ‘yes,’ vote for [USU-NEA], we will have an overwhelming majority,” Patenaude said.
Bailey/Howe library staff member Paul Chapman said he has been working toward staff unionization for more than two years.
“I feel great about the results,” Chapman said. “We expected ‘neither’ to win because anyone that voted ‘no,’ voted ‘neither.’”
“My hope is that all staff that want a union can come out and support USU-NEA,” he said.
After someone walked up to Chapman and whispered in his ear, Chapman said supporters of USU-NEA were grateful for the other union, United Staff.
“Without their work, we couldn’t get a union,” he said.
Upon hearing the results, United Staff supporters, whose union will not be up for the runoff election, quietly and quickly left the room.
“I’m very ambivalently confused,” said Zhanna Gordon, Bailey/ Howe staff member and United Staff supporter.
Graduate student Nolan Rampy said students should support unions whenever they can because faculty and staff are the heart and soul of the University.
“All of the students here are future workers, so the level of union strength will have a direct benefit on us,” Rampy said.