Library workers win fight for affiliation — finally
December 3, 2010
IT HAS TAKEN a long, long time. In fact, the process of
affiliating Timberland Regional Library members with Council 2 has been
the longest in the history of the union — by far.
Normally affiliation takes a few weeks. But in the case of Timberland the process took more than a year. “The employer fought it all the way,” says Council 2 Director of Organizing Bill Keenan. “And all for nothing.”
The Timberland Library system serves 421,000 people through 27 branches in Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific and Thurston counties.
The process began in August 2009 when library members, who already had an existing contract and existing officers under an employees’ association, voted to affiliate with Council 2. The election saw an 86 percent voter turnout — largest in the organization’s history — with 71 percent voting to join Council 2.
But the employer challenged it. When the dispute could not be resolved, it was taken to the Public Employees Relations Commission (perc).
Before the commission made its ruling, the employer challenged another aspect of the affiliation, the one that included all 300 staff members in the bargaining unit — managers, supervisors and their staff. The employer said that the 27 managers in the unit should be treated separately.
Instead of initiating a hearing with perc, Council 2 suggested that a separate bargaining unit be formed to satisfy the employer’s objection. Some 70 percent of the managers signed cards authorizing the creation of such a unit.
“Once we thought we had the two matters resolved, the employer raised another objection,” Keenan says. “They decided that the 27 supervisors should not be in the base unit.
“So we asked the supervisors to choose whether they wanted to join the managers’ bargaining unit. More than 70 percent signed cards authorizing them to be part of the managers’ unit.”
Council 2 filed an amended petition to include the supervisors in the managers’ bargaining unit.
“Once again, we thought we had the matter resolved,” says Keenan. “But once again we were wrong.
“While we were waiting for a hearing before perc to determine whether there should be two or three units, we received a decision from perc saying our original election to affiliate was appropriate.” Therefore, in terms of the ruling, the 246 members who were not managers or supervisors were approved as members of Council 2.
It had taken almost a year to reach that point. Council 2 formed a new local 1938 and began the bargaining process for a new contract.
A hearing on the unit for the managers and supervisors was held in July with a perc mediator. Following the mediation and discussion with the parties, Timberland Regional Library officials agreed to withdraw their objection to the single bargaining unit for supervisors and managers, agreeing it was appropriate.
By early October the second unit of supervisors and managers was certified and bargaining for that unit began.
“After more than a year of litigation and the employer filing four objections, we finally got this resolved,” Keenan says.
But the saga is not yet over. In mid-November the bargaining for the base unit was referred to mediation with perc.