Local 796 Prevails
In ‘Hellish’ Talks
With McGregor School
YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio
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
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
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
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.
'CHANGE OF HEART'
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
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,
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