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Spencer School
District Goes Union

SPENCER, Iowa

Do you really need a union? Don’t 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.

"It’s been a long time coming," said Bev Skinner, a teacher associate. "It was more than needed. We didn’t 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."

KEY ISSUES

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. "We’re 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 management’s 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 everyone’s 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 victory’s at the end" went the Lincoln School union song set to the tune of "Jingle Bells" as the election day and the holidays approached.

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.

"We’ve gained by winning our union," said Lee. "Now we’re looking to gain what’s fair at the bargaining table."

The Spencer Schools Support staff were assisted by Field Org. Ryan Downing with support from Intl. Rep. Greg Cross.

UE News - 12/97


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

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