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Local 796 Prevails
In ‘Hellish’ Talks
With McGregor School


Contract Settled!

After "a heck of a fight" and "hellish" negotiations with Antioch College’s McGregor School, UE Local 796 members finally concluded a new contract.

The 16 union members faced an arrogant, highly confrontational administration unwilling to participate in real bargaining. In addition to their own determination to see justice done, the Local 796 members enjoyed the active support of students and UE Local 767, Antioch College staff.


The McGregor School staff overwhelmingly approved a three-year agreement containing significant wage increases and benefit improvements. The contract, UE members say, could have been achieved without the school’s unnecessary expenditures on unionbusting lawyers, public relations consultants and security guards, not to mention stonewalling in negotiations and attacks on the union. "Hellish is a good word to describe it," said Local Pres. Diana Tomas.

The McGregor School, which offers academic programs geared towards working adults, is a sister institution to Antioch College.


The school’s new president, Barbara Gellman-Danley, created a hostile atmosphere when she called the Local 796 executive board to a meeting and warned that those "not on board" would be "gone."

The administration invoked the re-opener clause in the contract in June to propose that staff contribute 10 percent of the cost of health insurance and make co-payments. "It was pretty insulting," recalled Local Rec. Sec. Sue Roderick. The school’s failure to provide union negotiators with pertinent information stalled talks. Negotiations on the new contract began in August.


Bargaining had a rocky start. The school’s attorney, from a law firm known for its unionbusting, laid down "ground rules" that included a news blackout. The union committee rejected the rules. The attorney retaliated.

To the surprise of the union committee’s veteran negotiator, UE Intl. Rep. Dennis Painter, the school called in federal mediation before presenting the union with any proposals. The administration went weeks without making proposals or providing needed information — and the McGregor representatives frequently stormed out of the talks at the slightest provocation. Local 796 leaders faced harassment on the job, including surveillance; union leaders’ email and computer files were accessed and scrutinized.


Antioch students who questioned McGregor President Gellman-Danley about these developments heard claims of vandalism, death threats and racial slurs. Gellman-Danley, who did not report the alleged threats to police, hired a bodyguard at college expense.

Students, who felt they had been lied to and manipulated, became a major ally of the embattled UE local. Marches and demonstrations of students and Local 767 members in support of the McGregor staff became an important boost to Local 796. Antioch students leafleted McGregor students during class. McGregor students contacted the school to express their support for the school’s staff. The campus protests, and a march through the center of town, drew extensive media coverage.


As a result of the union strategy of involving the students and media, relates Chief Steward Tom Blessing, "management had a change of heart."

Local 796 members gain a 4 percent wage increase retroactive to July 1, 1999, the beginning of the school’s fiscal year; a 3.5 percent wage increase on July 1, 2000 and 3 percent in 2001. The contract guarantees that if McGregor school administrators or faculty receive higher increases during the life of the agreement, union members will receive the higher percentage, too.

Changes in job classification will add upwards to a dollar and beyond to the pay of some McGregor staff. Those staff with college degrees will receive an additional $500 per year. Employees with continuous service will receive a 30-cent increase, effective on their fifth, tenth and fifteenth anniversary dates. Everyone received a $200 signing bonus.

The individual employee’s choice of a religious holiday is added as a new paid holiday.


In a significant improvement to the retirement plan, the college will contribute an amount equal to 8 percent of employee gross monthly pay if employees contribute 2 percent of pay.

Instead of the 10 percent employee contribution to the health insurance premium sought by the school, workers will contribute 5 percent beginning in 2001, with the amount capped at $27 a month. For the first time, McGregor school staff gain vision care. Life insurance, which had been $10,000, will now be double an employee’s annual salary.

The bereavement clause is amended to include "grandparent" as a member of the immediate family.

The Local 796 committee consisted of Pres. Diana Tomas, Vice Pres. Betty McCarley, Chief Steward Tom Blessing, Rec. Sec. Sue Roderick and Fin. Sec. Doug Warner. They were assisted by Intl. Rep. Dennis Painter.

UE News - 01/00

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