After collecting the majority opinion required to receive a ballot, employees of the Alcona County Library cast their votes this week on whether or not to unionize.
Votes from the 13 employees of Alcona County Library's four branches were due today to be mailed to the Michigan Department of Labor in Lansing, where they will be counted and reported on Friday. If the count reveals a majority plus one in favor, the bid for unionization will pass and the employees will begin contract negotiations with Teamsters Local 214.
The vote for a union ballot was not unanimous - the original count was 9-4 in favor - but those in favor say the decision to pursue unionization came after they feared for their job security when an employee was fired last July. Circulation clerk Anne Tait said the insecurity of at-will employment terms made them uneasy.
"The main reason the staff wanted it was for job security and to have a process for communicating and to have a little bit of representation when there's a problem," she said. "And the way at-will employment was being used was what triggered the staff to take a second look at where we stood with the management."
They resolved to explore options for unionization in January and acquired a ballot after talks with Teamsters representatives. Tait said the unionization process is new to most of them, and though many unions across the country have been shut down and accused of being bad for business, she claims the library employees' goals were not financial but contractual.
"Most of the people have had very little experience with unions, or none, so this is kind of a big deal," she said. "We don't want to have at-will employment, we want to have a disciplinary process in place if we're written up, and we would like clear job descriptions ... We're not asking for benefits or salary increases."
In the event the bid doesn't pass on Friday, the Alcona County Library employees would have to wait another year before they would be allowed to reapply, though they have yet to discuss that contingency.
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693.