"the administration just doesnt get it were
like a runaway freight train and theres 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
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. "Its 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.
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
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 doesnt get it were like a
runaway freight train and theres no stopping us now!"
During the DCSD administrations 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. "Ill have to send Superintendent
Thomas a thank-you note, because the more they fight us, the closer weve
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 were 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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