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Two Washington County employee groups vote to unionize

July 20, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County's wastewater collections and maintenance employees have voted to unionize, county Human Resources Director George William Sonnik III said Tuesday.

Those work groups, who operate and maintain sewer equipment, voted "overwhelmingly" in a secret ballot election March 4 to be represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Sonnik said. They will join AFSCME Local 2677, which already represents Washington County highways, transit, landfill and 911 dispatch employees, he said.

The Washington County Commissioners voted unanimously to modify the county's existing memorandum of understanding with the local to add collections and maintenance as represented work groups.

The commissioners had no choice about allowing the representation, but a formal vote is needed to modify any resolution the board has previously approved, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said.

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The change affects 23 employees, Sonnik said.

AFSCME Council 67 staff representative Jim Bestpitch said after the meeting that the employees contacted him about representation "not so much for wages and benefits, but for dignity and a voice in the workplace."

"They don't feel their management in that area is very responsive to their needs on the job," he said.

Their concerns include fairness issues related to scheduling and work assignments, he said.

Bestpitch said he would be in contact with Sonnik and planned to sit down and have some meetings in an attempt to resolve some of those issues.

While wages were not the primary motivation for the employees to join the union, the local will be able to negotiate for raises such as cost-of-living increases for represented work groups when its next contract with the county is negotiated, Bestpitch said.

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