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Latest News - April 2013

April 16, 2013
Southbridge town workers' union to be decertified
Source: Telegram & Gazette Staff
By: Brian Lee

A spokesman for the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said the agency Wednesday will decertify a local union composed of Town Hall and library workers.

On April 9, Service Employees International Union Local 888 Southbridge Town/Library Employees voted 21-0 to decertify, state spokesman Kevin Franck said.

Many workers thought the union hadn't done much for them, according to Max E. Gullekson, a local steward who works in the Southbridge collector's office.

Twenty-three workers were eligible to vote, Mr. Gullekson said.

The state received the union's petition for decertification on Jan. 7, Mr. Franck said.

The state Division of Labor Relations deals with about 40 to 50 cases a year that involved some changes to a bargaining unit. But cases where workers voted to decertify a union and opted to have no representation in bargaining are very rare, Mr. Franck said.

There were no examples in recent memory, he said.

Mr. Gullekson said many workers thought their union was not as strong as others, and did not have as many grievance rights.

In addition, many believed SEIU Local 888, headquartered in Charlestown, was “distant” and created unnecessary problems, he said. He declined to elaborate.

Workers also found it offensive that SEIU Local 888 in January raised bi-weekly union dues about 50 percent, from about $16 every other week to $24, Mr. Gullekson said. Little prior notice was given, he said.

The workers unionized in September 2002.

Mr. Gullekson said decertification was a pragmatic decision.

“For me, I wasn't sure it was a great fit with a white-collar job.”

He added there are “no egregious problems anyone is having with their boss that would require protection.”

A message left today for Steve D'Amico at SEIU Local 888's headquarters was not immediately returned.

Without a union, bargaining will revert to town personnel regulations, which are similar to that for non-union administrative department heads, Mr. Gullekson said. The union's percentage pay increases have often mirrored those of department heads, he said.

Town Manager Christopher Clark said the decertification was a compliment because it showed “the employees at the library and Town Hall feel that the administration can be reasonable and is trustworthy.”

He called decertification a “rare occurrence” in municipal government.

Mr. Clark pointed out that he could not be involved in the election.

“We were contacted by the state and advised of what was going on.”



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