POLITICS: Bylaw Employees Vote To Unionize
The Board of Selectmen has been notified by the majority of town bylaw employees that they have voted officially to form a union and will be represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 93, AFL-CIO.
Town Manager Mark Haddad told the Board that a recently circulated Citizen's Petition to demand appointment of a Personnel Board, "forced the issue." He added that now that the Board has been notified, a letter will go to the Department of Labor. "The Board of Selectmen can protest, but in my 27 years in municipal government, I have never seen formation of a union denied," Haddad said.
The push for reappointment of the Personnel Board was initiated by Selectman Jack Petropoulos. The issue goes back to a previous Town Meeting vote not to abolish the Personnel Board even though there is now a Charter form of government in place. Petropoulos contended that this meant that the Board must appoint a Personnel Board.
Following a discussion at one of their meetings, Selectmen, including Petropoulos, agreed to wait for the Bylaw Review Committee to issue its report. Within days of that agreement, Petropoulos instigated the Citizen's Petition, and that action set the wheels in motion that resulted in the vote for another union for town employees.
Land Use Director Michelle Collette spoke on behalf of the bylaw employees, who are mainly department heads, and told Selectmen that when the issue of reappointing a Personnel Board was discussed at their meeting several weeks ago, employees asked Selectmen to wait until the Bylaw Review Committee had completed its assessment of the bylaws.
When the bylaw employees then learned that there was a "Citizen Petition" being circulated, "It made us realize our vulnerability and our discomfort and concerns as bylaw employees. We are the only ones not covered by a bargaining unit. There are 15 bylaw employees, 11 signed the cards and two others signed late. That is better than a two-thirds majority. We respectfully ask that you not contest this action."
Selectman Josh Degen said, "I am not happy about it. We pushed you into it. You were pushed into it," adding that he hoped that there could be a Personnel Board.
Selectman Chairman Peter Cunningham stressed that the Bylaw Review Committee was continuing its work and he viewed the "Personnel Board as advisory and having no impact on the bylaw employees. The majority is not subject to the Personnel Board and there might be a couple of people to oversee."
Department of Public Works Director Tom Delaney reiterated to the Board, "This is a security issue and protection from the unknown," adding that the move on the part of the bylaw employees was not about money.
Haddad advised the Board that of the five potential applicants for appointment to the Personnel Board, two have withdrawn their names from consideration because of this. He asked if the Board still wanted to continue as there would be no bylaw employees for the Personnel Board to be responsible for.
Chairman Cunningham said that they would talk about it at their next meeting, when they also have scheduled interviews for the Personnel Board appointments.