YSU Trustees hear from employees seeking a union
Union organizers say they have the support of 51 of 81 employees.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Amos Walker Sr. waited patiently through the meeting of the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees.
But just before the trustees adjourned, he said what was on his mind.
"I work at Christman dining hall, and there's tremendous ... dehumanizing taking place there," he said at the Friday meeting. "I'm curious why I haven't gotten any response from Dr. David Sweet or the YSU community."
Walker and other food-service employees at YSU have been waging a unionization campaign since December. They are employed by a private company, Sodexho, with which YSU contracts to provide food services.
Walker, who said he has not missed a day of work in 14 years, told trustees he has tried to contact administrators for four months. His complaint was cut short as Board Chairman Chander M. Kohli asked him to discuss the matter with Sweet, YSU's president, on an administrative level. Although many local governing bodies provide time for public comment during regular meetings, the YSU trustees do not.
"It's been very discouraging because we haven't been able to get a response from the administration or the board of trustees," said Susan Brown, a research analyst for the Hotel Employees & amp; Restaurant Employees Union Local 10 in Cleveland, after the meeting. "Workers felt it was important to be here to let administrators know they're still fighting to get a union."
Walker was joined by Brown, another union administrator and four other food-service employees. Workers trying to unionize say issues are wages, health-care benefits and various policies.
Brown said the number of food-service workers ranges from about 110 to 81 throughout the year. Walker said about 51 of the group of 81 workers have voiced support of unionization.
The YSU administration has said that the university does not regulate the collective bargaining activities of private contractors, but only provides oversight to ensure that vendors adhere to applicable law.
After Friday's meeting, Sweet said he would look into the status of the unionization issue.
"I've maintained all along, there is a framework for decision-making," he said. "I support a secret-ballot vote based on federal rules and regulations."
What unionizing workers want is to be allowed to seek unionization through a "card-check neutrality" system, in which the union is required to gather signatures from a majority of workers before a union can be formed. Sodexho prefers an election under the auspices of the National Labor Relations Board; card-check neutrality votes are not monitored by the NLRB.
In the card-check neutrality system, Sodexho would be required to stay neutral. Sodexho officials have said an election would allow both pro- and anti-union sides to give information to employees and would provide privacy.
But union officials say an election can be appealed by an employer, meaning it could take years before there is any conclusion.