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Latest News - July 2012

July 9, 2012
Mystic Seaport workers will vote on union
Source: (Connecticut)
By: Joe Wojtas

National Labor Relations Board to schedule election at maritime museum

 The union that hopes to represent Mystic Seaport employees has announced that "well more" than 50 percent of the museum's workers have signed their union cards, which means the National Labor Relations Board will now schedule an election so all employees can decide if they want a union to represent them.

Disgruntled employees have charged a union is needed because Seaport officials have not listened to their input about the maritime museum's operation. They said the museum had laid off employees, cut benefits, awarded occasional but small raises, increased insurance premiums and enacted a six-week closure this past winter without asking employees for suggestions or alternatives.

Mystic Seaport United, which would be part of AFT Connecticut, announced Friday that it had filed "a majority" of union authorization cards with the NLRB office in Hartford. The museum has 200 full-time employees as well as seasonal workers. Thirty percent needed to sign the cards to force a vote. A majority of workers would now have to vote for the union for it to be established.

Last Thursday a small group of pro-union employees and union officials presented Seaport CEO and President Steve White with a letter asking the museum to voluntarily recognize the union, which would eliminate the need for an election. White declined.

Seaport spokesman Dan McFadden said Sunday that White declined because the museum wants to give every employee the opportunity to cast a vote instead of the union making the decision for them.

He added that the museum maintains that a union "is a very bad idea for its employees and the institution." He said a union adds cost and a layer between management and workers.

"We feel we can sit down (with our employees) and work things out. A union will not help that happen," he said.

The union released a statement from several of the pro-union employees.

"We are extremely excited to be filing for an election," said Mike Bartles, an employees in the interpretation department. "It has been inspiring to see workers from all across the Seaport coming together. We know we have a strong majority of support. In some ways, we have already formed our union and the election is just a formality."

"We have filed a petition for a union authorization election because we feel forming a union is the only option we have left for addressing our issues," said Linda Prior, who works in the membership department. "We want to see the Seaport restored to what it once was and then improved to what it has the potential to be. We believe that as a partner with management we can achieve that goal. This is our way of making sure we have a seat at the table."

Eric Bailey, a spokesman for AFT Connecticut, declined Sunday to say exactly how many of the museum's workers had signed union cards. He said the NLRB will now hold a hearing to decide which workers would be in the union.

In a statement that his organization would be "closely monitoring the Seaport to ensure that workers are not being harassed or intimidated by anyone in management."

The union has already filed an outstanding unfair labor practice charge against the museum, charging managers have been sitting in break rooms at all times to make workers feel as if they are being watched and cannot discuss their union efforts. Bailey has said anti-union employees are being allowed to talk openly about the process and distribute literature while pro-union employees cannot. The Seaport has denied the charges.



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