Unionizing for fairness


by Mary Ellen Flannery

Not too long ago, a staff employee at the University of Vermont, a woman who had worked there for 30 years, was handed a pink slip and told to pack up. The reasons were vague: a department reorganization, which never happened, and unspecified budget issues. But the consequences were very specific. This woman was six months and 15 days away from qualifying for pension benefits—and she would never get them. “It was really an awful thing. We were all horrified,” said Helen Maciejewski, an administrative coordinator in the university’s animal science department. Horrified, but not paralyzed: Maciejewski and her colleagues knew they needed a union.

Job security, workplace conditions, fairness, and respect: At the University of Vermont (UVM), and also at Mount Hood Community Oregon, where classified staff employees have recently joined the NEA, staff members are talking about these basic issues. Why does my less experienced colleague get paid $20,000 more than me? Who has my back when my boss verbally abuses me? Shouldn’t there be a fair and consistent approach to staff layoffs and staff? Why aren’t employees involved in decisions to change their health and retirement plans?

Without a union, these employees have concluded, you don’t have a strong voice. Important decisions that affect your job, your wallet, your family, your health, your life… are made without you. And, as public colleges and universities become increasingly like private corporations, focused on glossy metrics and profit measures, staff members and support employees need that strong voice more than ever.

Get the full story at NEAToday.org.

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