Voice Vote UE
For years, the 120 clerical, custodial and other support workers
at Hawkeye Community College have been forced to put up with arbitrary changes in their
schedules and job duties, no real seniority and a "grievance procedure" with no
time limits for management and no guarantee of an impartial hearing.
All that changed on Dec. 9 when workers voted 71-18 to be represented by
their own union, UE Local 855.
Delores Kuhse, an account clerk and member of the Organizing Committee,
said workers chose to organize now because of increasing enrollment and changes in the
administration. "What better time than now for the classified staff to join together
as a united front?"
Once a majority of Hawkeye workers had signed UE cards, they met with
local leaders of UE Local 893-IUP and the Black Hawk Union Council AFL-CIO to explain why
they were organizing and to enlist their help in winning a fair union election. Workers
presented a petition calling for a fair election signed by more than 300 community members
and union leaders to the Hawkeye Board of Trustees on Sept. 16.
While the community campaign was successful in preventing an all-out
anti-union campaign, the administration did engage in legal delaying tactics. The union
fought hard to keep everyone in the bargaining unit, but the administrations lawyer
used dubious testimony to exclude department level secretaries from the union. The new UE
local is committed to continuing its fight to bring all classified employees under the
protection of a UE contract.
Despite the administrations delaying tactics, workers maintained
solidarity by holding weekly coffees after the first shift and lunch-time meetings during
the second shift. Organizing Committee member Jane Walters said that "Keeping
everyone informed was a key factor in our victory."
Issues Hawkeye workers are looking to address in their first contract
including winning insurance and holiday benefits for part-time workers, fair wage scales
and wage increases, and, of course, a real grievance procedure. Union members are looking
forward to beginning negotiations in late January.
The Hawkeye Community College support staff was assisted by UE Local
893-IUP Dan Kelley, Lynn Sigler and Mary McElroy, UE Local 896-COGS members Russell Hess,
Jonathan Kissam, Julie Schmid, Margaret Loose and Jolene Stritecky. UE Field Org. Heather
Riemer was the lead organizer on the campaign; she was assisted by Field Organizers Rick
Hartmann, Leah Fried and Sylvia Kelley and Intl. Rep. Greg Cross.