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UE Overwhelms
Boss, Other Union
In Glenwood Vote

GLENWOOD, Iowa

Organizing by the Glenwood Community School District’s 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 district’s 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 we’ve been told we didn’t 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 wasn’t 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 pay.

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 Kid’s Place employee said, "For me it’s 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.

UNION-BUSTING ADMINISTRATION

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 election.

This didn’t 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. "We’re really excited about being able to bargain as equals with the administration," said custodian Wes Hunt.

The Glenwood workers were assisted by UE Field Organizers Rick Hartmann, Jennifer Hill and Leah Fried and Intl. Rep. Greg Cross.

UE News - 12/97


Home -> UE News -> 1997 Archives -> Article

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