District Goes Union
Do you really need a union? Dont we pay you enough already? On Dec.
3 the 113-person Spencer Community School District support staff answered these and other
management questions by voting for UE by a five-to-one margin.
"Its been a long time coming," said Bev Skinner, a teacher
associate. "It was more than needed. We didnt have a voice, and it was becoming
more apparent every year that we needed our own voice. We were never asked what we needed.
We were told."
Citing low or stagnate wages, high health insurance costs, job security
and no benefits as reasons for organizing, workers took the initiative to change things
for the better for both themselves and their northwestern Iowa community. And when
management started making promises about changing conditions, workers claimed their first
"little union victories."
"The Spencer support staff has banded together," said Sheryl
Lee, a teacher associate. "Were working to make the schools a better place for
its workers as well as our children."
Throughout the campaign workers made it a point to break down
managements long-held idea that secretaries should only speak with secretaries,
cooks with cooks, and so on. "All of us, united, are definitely stronger than
before," said Lee. "We started this without much confidence, but once we got to
know everyones feelings, once we no longer viewed each other as individuals with
individual problems, we found confidence."
SONGS AND CHEERS
Creative individuals, support staff workers spread their union message
with songs and cheers in addition to the routine meetings and house visits.
"Share our thoughts/Sign our cards/United we become, Speak our peace
and build respect/For a victorys at the end" went the Lincoln School union song
set to the tune of "Jingle Bells" as the election day and the holidays
Having built a measure of respect for themselves, workers are now setting
out to build their local and to get ready to bargain their local and to get ready to
bargain their first UE contract.
"Weve gained by winning our union," said Lee. "Now
were looking to gain whats fair at the bargaining table."
The Spencer Schools Support staff were assisted by Field Org. Ryan Downing
with support from Intl. Rep. Greg Cross.