The state of the union isn’t strong
By Amber Sandlin
Sun Star Reporter
After a long battle, the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA) withdrew its petition to represent University of Alaska (UA) staff on Sept. 21, 2010. The ASEA had been fighting for the right to represent UA nonunion employees such as clerks, administrative assistants and support staff. In March, ASEA successfully petitioned the AFL-CIO to gain exclusive rights to petition the UA staff.
Bruce Senko, the president of the Alaska Public Employees Association’s (APEA), said he was surprised that ASEA withdrew from representing the staff. Senko’s union currently represents UA faculty and some staff. The APEA is in competition with ASEA to represent the rest of the UA staff. Senko said the APEA would be “good for everyone.” While the APEA will be on the ballot for the eventual union vote, they are not allowed to advertise on any UA campus.
In order to get on the ballot, a union must secure a pledge of support from 30 percent of eligible employees. The university and the APEA have disagreed with ASEA’s ways of getting pledges. In particular, they contest a decision by ASEA to try and buy votes by entering union card signers in to a raffle with a prize of 25,000 Alaska Airlines miles. For its part, ASEA has said that they have been “actively oppos[ed]” by the university.
In September, UAF Human Resources released a letter saying, “It is important to know that ASEA’s action was not merely a request to postpone the election. The petition itself has been withdrawn and cannot be reactivated.”
Duncan calls that “another example of where the information being given by the University is misleading and incomplete.”
UAF HR offered a counter argument on the UAF Grapevine website, UAF’s official rumor mill, saying that the university has the right to express an opinion about unionization and a duty to correct misinformation that unions spread.
President Gamble sent out an email urging employees not to unionize. Gamble said that if UA were to unionize, “the university staff voice [would] go directly to the top leadership, could no longer provide input on matters relating to compensation, health or any matter negotiated by contract.”
Although the union organizing campaign is over, UA will continue to communicate with staff regarding issues the campaign brought up. In the meantime, ASEA has withdrawn to gather information. ASEA will continue to work with the staff to re-collect staff signatures over the next six to eight months.
Duncan said the university neutrality changed when President Gamble was hired in June. “With the new president, they’ve been very active in putting out negative statements,” Duncan said in an interview with the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “We just don’t have time to counter them.”