Boss, Other Union
In Glenwood Vote
Organizing by the Glenwood Community School Districts custodians,
food service workers and teaching assistants culminated in a Nov. 25 victory in a secret
ballot election monitored by the Public Employment Relations Board. UE received a strong
majority despite concerted management opposition and intervention by another union.
More than twice as many votes from the custodians and food service workers
went to UE than were received by "no union" and the other union combined, while
teaching assistants gave UE a 59 percent majority of the ballots cast.
TIME FOR A VOICE
After working along side the districts unionized teachers for years,
support staff workers decided the time was right to have their own voice in the district.
Food service worker Michelle Bennett said, "I was hoping to organize this union for
respect. In the past weve been told we didnt need a wage increase because our
kind came a dime a dozen. Everyone who works for the district has an important job no
matter what they do if they provide the best possible environment for the children to
learn in. I hope in the end that we can find better understanding and more respect."
The first organizing meeting in August was so well attended that the
number of people standing in the back extended into the hallway. Curiosity wasnt the
draw. Glenwood schools workers were motivated by issues that included very low pay, lack
of adequate benefits, no recognized seniority, and for some, no holiday or bereavement
ISSUES AND MORE ISSUES
Legislated increases in the minimum wage had provided many workers with
the bulk of their pay increases over the past 10 years. But wages and benefits were not
the only issues. School workers also organized to gain respect for their years of service
and dedication. Jeannie Wagner, both a cook and a Kids Place employee said,
"For me its all about respect. When decisions are made about our work life, I
would like to have a say. Right now, I have absolutely zero."
One week after that initial meeting, Glenwood schools workers committed to
forming a union and signing up their co-workers. In just two weeks, a solid majority
signed UE cards.
The administration tried to derail the campaign by forcing hearings under
Iowa labor law to determine the eligibility of UE supporters. Days before the scheduled
hearing, a small but courageous group of secretaries and "supervisors" removed
themselves from the bargaining unit so that everyone else could go ahead with the
This didnt slow down the employer, who sent personal anti-union
letters containing veiled threats of job loss to each worker in the district. By this
time, the other union had intervened. These proved to be minor distractions, however, as
workers busily forged alliances with the teachers union and the community, compiled
bargaining surveys in anticipation of their first contract, and worked on a
get-out-the-vote plan. Other workers in this western Iowa community signed petitions
expressing support for the UE effort.
'BARGAINING AS EQUALS'
Their first-ever bargaining committee was scheduled to be elected in
mid-December, in preparation for upcoming negotiations. "Were really excited
about being able to bargain as equals with the administration," said custodian Wes
The Glenwood workers were assisted by UE Field Organizers Rick Hartmann,
Jennifer Hill and Leah Fried and Intl. Rep. Greg Cross.