HARRISVILLE - More that 16 months after they officially decided to unionize, employees of the Alcona County Library are set to vote on their first union contract next month. The proposed contract, which will affect the library's 10 part-time and two full-time employees, originally was supposed to take effect Jan. 1, but delays pushed back an approval vote until early January.
Employees met with representatives from Teamsters Unit 214 on Tuesday to finalize a proposed contract, and though the library's board of trustees met the next day, the contract was not typed up in time for the board members to read it at the meeting. The employees decided to unionize last year after Library Director Carol Luck fired an employee allegedly without explanation in July 2011, and they approached Teamsters to help them negotiate for contracts that would not include at-will employment.
Employees of all four of the library's branches - Harrisville, Lincoln, Caledonia, and Mikado - voted 8-4 in favor of unionizing that same month, and after several delays attributed to switching representatives, they are set to vote on a contract on Jan. 3, 2013. Teamsters representative Dan Older of Rose City, who took over as Unit 214's representative in October, said the library board of trustees will then hold a special meeting to vote on the contract if the employees approve it.
"Once I came on, because I do live close, we were able to get things rolling and basically wrapped it up with two or three negotiation sessions," Older said. "Basically it seals in a grievance procedure, a discipline procedure, and it gives both sides some guidance on what's expected from each side ... The proposed contract gives a small increase in wages, but I think it's the same as what it's been with the (administrative) employees of the library, the non-union members."
Board Chair Judy Sheldon said library administration has been negotiating with the employees and Teamsters since February, but nailing down a new contract without a template to build from proved difficult because the Teamsters representatives were either reassigned or too busy.
"There wasn't (a contract) to work from, because they were a new unit. We've been meeting as often as possible since February," she said. "This is the third union representative, because the man who started with us took a different job, and then we had Mr. Valenti, who was the president of the Teamsters out of Detoirt, and then just recently Dan Older has been assigned now to this district."
Sheldon said she has no clear idea of whether or not the employees will agree to the proposed contract, but if they do, she expects the board will convene shortly after that for its own vote.
"We will look at whether we have to call a special meeting so that we can get together, and it would have to be a scheduled meeting for us to come in and vote," she said. "We're just kind of waiting to see what happens with them, because obviously if they were to turn it down, you go back to the beginning."
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693.