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Bates Workers Begin Voting in Union Election This Week

Andy O’Brien
07 Jan, 2022
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Ballots will be mailed to Bates adjunct faculty and staff members this Thursday, January 6 to start the voting process in their union election. Votes will be counted on January 31st by the National Labor Relations Board, the neutral third party conducting the secret mail in ballot election.

Bates adjunct faculty and staff members, who petitioned the NLRB to form the Bates Educators & Staff Organization (BESO) with the Maine Service Employees Association (MSEA-SEIU Local 1989) in October, seek to strengthen their collective voice with a union contract to protect and improve their benefits, secure fair pay and sustainable working conditions, and ensure the College fulfills its commitment to equity and inclusion. 

“There are so many improvements we could make through our union: a hiring policy that rewards previous experience in the field, fair pay differentials for weekend, night, and lead capacity work, having a say over our workloads so management can’t change schedules or add additional job duties without employees’ agreement, bargaining job descriptions to ensure our pay and responsibilities are accurate, transparent wage and salary scales so there’s a fair pay floor, and much more,” said Ian Brownlie, Grounds and Maintenance Worker at Bates.

The workers are feeling optimistic, but the college administration continues their union busting effort. Workers will continue to need our support to negotiate a fair contract if they prevail in the election. Bates employees’ effort to form their “wall-to-wall” union — excluding only campus safety officers, management, and tenured or tenure-track faculty — would be a historic first among private higher education workers in the United States. However, the administration recently filed an appeal of the National Labor Relations Board’s bargaining unit determination. 

Meanwhile, the administration has beenstrongly urging hourly workers to attend in-person anti-union meetings with an out-of-state labor consultant ahead of the election this week, despite updated college restrictions on in-person gatherings and outside visitors, established by the college to protect public health during students’ return to campus amid the highly contagious omicron variant surge.  

To ensure hourly staff are exposed to anti-union talking points before their upcoming union election, the college has made an exception to its own public health policy, endangering its employees, students, and the community at large. Salaried employees were sent similar details for meetings and information sessions — but held over zoom. 

“If the administration says it’s unsafe for students to have in-person classes, for large gatherings to take place, and for outside visitors to be on campus, then anti-union meetings with an out-of-state consultant should be off the table,” said Julia Panepinto, Assistant Softball Coach at Bates and BESO Organizer. “The College's choice to violate its own covid policy, to push against our right to unionize free from undue influence or interference, places us, our students, and the community at risk. This only proves to us how important it is that we have a voice in the workplace decisions that affect us, our students, our families, and our neighbors too.”