Anyhow, to avoid being googled and this being spread all over, I'll just use this photo to tell you what state I was in:
I arrived on Wednesday and met the folks I'd be working with for the next few days. The group included 4 of us from midwest universities, coming to spread the good news of the union. The governor recently signed an exec. order allowing for organizing on campuses. The requirement is to be able to get 50% + 1 of the employees to sign a union card. As a result, there are two international unions working on organizing the campus. As a result, there is even more pressure being put on the employees to sign cards and back one union or another....in addition to being fed misinformation by the administration. Here's the office for the union I believe will best represent the employees!
The campus is beautiful with flowering trees and bushes, old buildings mixed with new, construction going on. The perfect picture of a thriving campus. But, yet, the employees are being told that there is not a lot of money to pay for generous raises AND the health insurance they have grown used to. One of the stories an HR manager used in an email to employees stated, "she didn't know how she would find the $32 a month to pay union dues, as a single parent, she'd have to make her daughter give up dance lessons". Needless to say, organizers who were single parents had real issues with that. Being a single parent trying to make ends meet is about more than dance lessons that cost a whole lot more than $32 anyhow. Another "tale" being spread by the HR department is that the union would "take away" their benefits. Hmmmmmmm......... Guess those health insurance increase don't count as taking benefits away. But, that is what the union is up against here.
The building to the left in the above photo is the library. LC2 did go there. There is support there (of course, library workers are usually pro-union). I had a great conversation with a librarian at the reference desk. The Faculty ARE represented on this campus, and the one I spoke with believed that the staff need a union. The Faculty just finished a prolonged contract negotiation, but, came out with a good settlement, both economic and benefits. This will be a great tool for the staff organizing drive.
In previous Organizing experiences, I've encountered folks who were against joining a union. This was the first time I experienced folks who were scared to even talk. We spent time leafletting the first day. This was our first taste of the problems we would face. Talking to folks as they left the parking lots (oh ya, parking fees are also a big issue), we encountered reluctance to talk with us. That reluctance grew as the day went on. Spending time in an area with the shops and IT department, we encountered real resistance to our message. At one point, we spotted employees watching out a window. It was close to quitting time, yet no one came out of the building.....until we left. The same thing happened when we tried again to talk at break time the next morning. After we left, folks came out. In the shops, usually a pretty easy place to go and talk to folks, our two blue collar brothers from the midwest were met with a very cold shoulder by their colleages.
I went into the IT building and had a conversation with an employee tearing down a computer lab. Making small talk and IT chit chat, I started having a pretty good conversation, including talking a bit about the union. As soon as another employee came in however, she clammed up, and the other employee started in on the "who is that, they aren't supposed to be in here". Oh, well, you gotta try!
In the same complex as the facilities shops, the IT building, the HR Dept. had their offices. This is a site 1 mile off the main campus. So much for HR being where the employees can deal with them face to face. Guess they have to hide out so they don't have to face the folks they're messing with.
That evening, an event was held at the union office to allow employees to come and meet the organizers off campus. That was where I heard some horrow stories, but, also had some very fulfilling conversations with folks with questions about the union. At least we were able to give them real answers, and not the misinformation that HR is spewing out.
There is some tough work that needs to be done here, but, fortunately there are some leaders coming out of the employees who are willing to be upfront about supporting the union. My concern is that management will use one of them as an example and give them grief for supporting the union. When something like that happens, it can either help the cause, or scare other supporters away.
The second day produced successes and more frustration. We traveled around campus talking to employees and trying to get the truth out. The group I was with got to ride with one of the pro-union employees to an off campus site on the water. Although the employee out there was not willing to support the union, she understood the need "others" probably had for one. It was interesting talking, since she did not have the spector of HR hanging over her head.
After debriefing, the local organizers got ready for a "summit" the next morning. This was going to involve planning between the organizers, the local supporters and those visiting from other campuses. Unfortunately, most of us from the midwest had to make our planes to return home and weren't able to participate. Hope it went well.
In between a lot of walking and talking, there was some time for some great seafood meals in the evening (this was New England after all). We also had some time for really kicking back on Friday night at a bar serving micro-brew. This is called a "Paddle" and features 10 samples of the various brews. LC2, was one of two who finished every glass.
Other then meals, there was little time for sightseeing. But, I took a backroad to the airport to see Derry, the location of many Stephen King novels. LC1 is a big fan. Note, the play that is being done at the Derry Opera House soon---Little Shop of Horrors.
Stay tuned for a report on the WCLC Labor Dinner and the Chicks contract.