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Delaware, Ohio Schools
Workers Join UE

DELAWARE, Ohio

UE's Newest Members ... Delaware Schools Workers
UE’s newest members celebrate their election victory. From left Dan Compton, Chuck Davidson, Dan Verner, Dick Kelley, Shirley Thrush, Org. Gail Francis, Norma Scott, Brian Vincent, Harriet Fairchild, Beverley Matar, Barb Whitaker, Mike Williams and Org. Michael Wilmore (kneeling). The workers pictured are custodians, maintenance workers, cooks and bus drivers.

No Stopping Us Now!


"the administration just doesn’t get it — we’re like a runaway freight train and there’s no stopping us now!"

 

Food service, custodial, maintenance and transportation workers employed by the Delaware City School District (DCSD) chose UE by a strong majority of 46-30 in a State Employment Relations Board (SERB) election on March 23, 1999. Delaware is a central Ohio city of about 20,000, located north of Columbus.

The victory came after a year-long organizing campaign — the workers had first petitioned SERB and the school board to recognize their union on April 29, 1998. Union supporters held strong through the year of school board stalling, torturous bureaucratic SERB delays, and a final heavy-handed anti-union blitz by the school administration.

Delaware school employees united to gain respect and a real voice on the job, as well as a demand for fairness in hiring and promotions, clear job descriptions, fair compensation for and assignment of overtime, a union grievance procedure, and decent wages for all. "It’s not right for the big guys to put all the money in their pocket and keep it from the little guys," stated bus driver Chris Boham. Workers suffered without a wage increase last year, while the Superintendent gave himself a 4.5% increase in the last year alone, on top of his $90,000 salary.

CHALLENGE

The school board challenged the right of these workers to organize as their own group, instead claiming that all employees — including clerical and child care workers who had markedly different working conditions and concerns — should be forced into one unit. DCSD cook Shirley Thrush was the official observer every minute of all three days of the SERB bargaining unit determination hearing, which included a record setting continuous 19-hour final day that ended at 4 a.m. Following that experience Shirley declared she intended to be even more actively involved in building the union.

A large core group kept together majority support and never let the school board forget that they had formed their UE union! Actions by the workers included regular appearances at school board meetings, picketing the administration building, leafleting car windshields throughout Delaware to let taxpayers know their money was being spent on unionbusting, and various petitions to the school board, SERB, and the local newspaper.

DCSD workers enjoyed the support of other UE locals as well as members of a UAW local who sent a letter of support signed by 200 workers at Pittsburgh Plate Glass.

‘RUNAWAY FREIGHT TRAIN’

In the middle of the year long wait, in the face of unfair labor practices and continued stalling by the school board, the gutsy nature of the Delaware workers was summed up by bus driver Sandy Barrows, who stood up during a membership meeting and exclaimed "the administration just doesn’t get it — we’re like a runaway freight train and there’s no stopping us now!"

During the DCSD administration’s late anti-union blitz, workers pulled together by keeping each other informed, passing out newsletters, wearing UE buttons and shirts, confronting the Superintendent at an anti-union meeting, and generally having a great time anticipating their election victory. "I’ll have to send Superintendent Thomas a thank-you note, because the more they fight us, the closer we’ve become," said custodian Margaret Compton.

Finally, at the March 23 post-election victory party, celebration was had by all — but after taking a deep breath, many of the workers stated "All right, now we’re ready to get to work on our contract."

Staff on this campaign at its conclusion were Field Organizers Michael Wilmore and Gail Francis and Intl. Rep. Gene Elk.

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Rank and File Support
Key to Victory

No Stopping Us Now!

Throughout the year-long campaign, the support of UE members was a key to keeping Delaware Schools workers focused on the long-term goal of making improvements in wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Early on in the campaign, a simple phone call from a Delaware bus driver to an Iowa School district employee who bragged about her UE local bolstered support in the Delaware Schools Bus Garage. Last spring, a visit from Ron Jacobs and Dave Kuninger of UE Local 712 strengthened confidence in UE. (Their local represents workers at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.)

Soon after, a nearby UE Organizing School provided the opportunity for DCSD workers to meet UE members from Locals 767 and 751 at a social event.

Later in the campaign, Delaware Schools administrators and their high-priced anti-union attorneys went on the attack by criticizing UE Local 791 — falsely claiming that UE members on the Ohio Turnpike are paid "about the same" as DCSD employees (many of whom currently start at $6.75 an hour). Once given the truth about the improvements made by Local 791 over the years, Delaware Schools workers were even more anxious to have their own UE contract.

Two days before the election, Ron and Dave from Kenyon College came back to Delaware and were joined by Ed Havaich from Local 751 to let the DCSD workers know that they were proud to be UE — the most fiercely democratic and hard-fighting union around!

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UE News - 04/99


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