Created on Thursday, 26 April 2007 06:26
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 April 2007 06:26
By Erin Post
The road crew for the town of Warren has become the first in The Valley to join a union.
Highway department employees voted at the beginning of the month to become members of Teamsters Union Local 597 based in Barre, said road foreman Richard Robinson this week.
He said the department's five employees have received their union cards and are paying dues, but no further action has taken place.
The next step will be to set up a meeting with union leadership and begin to review procedures and possible contract options, he said.
Robinson declined to elaborate on why the road crew decided to join Local 597, stating that because the decision is still so new, the group is just beginning to work out how to proceed.
A highway department employee who asked to remain anonymous said he supported the move, not because he has any major complaints about his job or his pay but because of the security that union membership and the collective bargaining process stands to provide.
He said it's hard to find employees dedicated enough to work the hours required of the road crew-citing the long days and unpredictable schedule in the winter-and that guaranteeing benefits from year to year, such as overtime pay and health insurance options, would ease the minds of workers as well as help retain valuable crew members.
Currently, wages and benefits for road employees are set by the select board through the town's annual budgeting process.
Warren Select Board Chair Mac Rood said the board is aware of the road crew's decision and plans to seek legal advice before taking any action. Town officials want to make sure they know the legalities involved with communicating through a union, he said, noting that the process is not one the select board has had to negotiate in the past.
Rood added that he was unaware of any specific issue the road crew was seeking to resolve by joining the union.
Local 597 represents over 900 members working for more than 21 companies throughout Vermont, according to their website.
The Barre-based union is an affiliate of Teamsters Joint Council Ten New England, a coalition of 28 Teamster unions representing nearly 60,000 workers. The council is headquartered in Boston.