Staff Council broaches topic of unionizing

Staff Council considered the benefits of unionizing UAA staff at the Nov. 2 meeting. The Council decided to assess interest staff had in learning more about unionizing through a poll. The poll stated this was not a vote to unionize, but an assessment of interest.

The decision to gauge interest through a poll was based on a similar effort by UAF’s staff governance. Based on the UAA population, the Council stated that monthly dues would cost approximately $57.91.

Staff Council Co-Vice President Kathy Lardner shares her concerns regarding past unionizing efforts and false information at the Nov. 2 meeting. Photo credit: Cheyenne Matthews

Brenda Levesque, co-president of Staff Council, said she wants to see staff have a larger voice than they currently do.

“I think that one of the reasons that we are moving forward to get information about doing this, is so that staff would have a voice, because that’s something that we have not had,” Levesque said. “We see that faculty has a voice and they are recognized and we always feel like second class citizens here at the university. The other was for more job security, because of all of the layoffs and the reorganization and the restructuring and how concerning that is to see that type of thing to happen to our employees.”

Nelta Edwards, sociology professor, is also the vice president of the United Academics Union at UAA. At the Staff Council meeting, she said unions are good at establishing a process for employees to be treated fairly.

“What we have here in the contract is a process that is open, that everyone is treated the same way in terms of tenure and promotions,” Edwards said.

This past year, the faculty did not receive raises, and Staff Council Co-Vice President John Moore said he was concerned staff would also see little benefit.

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“In our immediate time frame, the concern would be that nobody is getting anything, union or otherwise,” Moore said.

Edwards said unionizing is a decision for the future.

“You begin by getting a contract and then every time you negotiate,” Edwards said. “And so they say, ‘We can’t give you money.’ So you say, ‘OK, so, we want power.’”

Co-Vice President, Kathy Lardner, was worried about misinformation from past failed union efforts being used to support potential current efforts.

“One of the problems with the second unionization effort was false information getting out there about people who didn’t sign up,” Lardner said.

Hillary Haslip, Staff Council member, said unionizing was a step that was in the best interest of staff.

“I’ve never really thought that unionizing was a step of aggression towards the university because the university has done a lot to try to find that equal balance,” Haslip said. “If they really do care about their staff, they would support also a more lined-out contract for us as well, because they would see that — if it isn’t in the best interest of staff — it’s just a continuation of what they’ve been trying to do for us.”

According to Time magazine, Alaska has one of the densest union populations with 23.1 percent of workers in a union. The magazine ranks Alaska as second in the nation for percentage of union workers.