UVM staff debate union option - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

UVM staff debate union option

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University of Vermont staff member Joanne Barrows says joining a union is not for her. "The NEA, I do not believe can do anything more for me than the University has done for me," said Barrows.

The longtime employee is one of roughly 800 clerical and administrative staffers on campus who will vote on creating a National Education Association affiliated union at UVM or going with no union at all. The decision's been whittled down to these two choices after a third option of forming a United Staff Union failed to gain significant traction earlier this year.

"There's an open-door policy with my director, there's an open door policy with managers, the supervisors, if I have an issue and I am not agreeing with something they are doing, I can go in and shut the door and have my say," explained Barrows.

Like Barrows, UVM Library staff member Michele Patenaude's been working on campus for roughly a decade, however she's strongly in favor of forming a union.

"I have a great relationship with my management too, but I don't believe that, that means a union isn't going to benefit me," said Patenaude.

Pateneaude says her colleagues are among the last to be part of a union on campus and that banding together like professors, police and maintenance workers at UVM can dramatically improve their time on the job. "What it does is it allows us to be in our numbers and to actually have a legal contract in which we can discuss all the things, our pay, our benefits, our working conditions," explained Patenaude.

Now these two women are rallying supporters with just days to go before they vote.

"The bottom line is I want everybody who is an eligible voter to go vote," said Barrows.

Staff members will cast their ballots on the union decision November 13th and 14th.

UVM administrators say they are not pushing employees in one direction or another but are urging staffers to consider their options.

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