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WA School Fights Employees’ Efforts to Unionize

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December 11, 2008

Lakewood, WA – An informational picket line will form this afternoon at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood. The action follows seven months of disagreement between college administrators and the union representing some college employees. In June, 65 percent of the school's professional staff voted to join AFT Washington, the state branch of the American Federation of Teachers.

Since then, the technical college has been fighting the union. The Public Employees Relations Commission ruled that the workers have the right to unionize. The college appealed, saying the wording of state law does not include these types of staff members. Most of them are directors or department supervisors in areas of the school other than instructional.

Tom McCarthy, a union organizer, calls the picket a last resort.

"The administration has decided it's a priority, essentially on a technicality, to waste state resources appealing the right of these folks to form a union. Clover Park Technical College has a history of troubled labor relations. The faculty has been working for over two years to bargain a fair contract, and they are nowhere near finishing that."

The Clover Park faculty and classified employees already are members of AFT Washington, and similar types of professional staff members at other colleges also are union members. The case could set a precedent for the rights of college workers other than faculty members. The college administration has said it will go to court if necessary to resolve the issue.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA