Employees vote to keep union

GW housekeeping and grounds staff members voted Wednesday to maintain representation with their current union instead of bringing new representation to GW.
Service Employees International Union Local 82, which has represented the GW workers for about 30 years received 91 votes, while its opposition, Local 621, received 77 votes. Local 82 is part of the AFL-CIO.
Out of 208 eligible voters, 170 workers cast ballots, including two abstaining from choosing a side.
“I feel good about (the results),” said Francis Williams, a housekeeper in Strong Hall. “I’d rather stay where I was.”
Local 82 representatives said the next step is to continue contract negotiations with GW before the workers’ contact expires on Dec. 17.
“I’ll feel better (when we continue bargaining),”said Sheri Davis, an organizer with Local 82 who burst into tears upon hearing the results.
Local 82 officials said they want to prevent GW from allowing third-party groups to bring in their own housekeeping and grounds workers, stop health care costs from rising and change the designated workers policy – which requires employees to attend work when D.C. closes in emergency situations.
“The bargaining teams have met once and that session focused primarily on the negotiating process itself,” said Bob Ludwig, interim director of media relations, in an e-mail. “From the University’s perspective it was a productive session.”
GW housekeeping and grounds workers said they are afraid they could eventually lose their jobs if GW continues to hire third-party workers, who are not unionized.
“If the University is constantly growing, why isn’t housekeeping growing?” grounds worker Warren Jefferson said.
Officials said there is no provision in the current contract preventing subcontracting.
“Provisions in the collective bargaining agreement permit the University to contract with outside companies for certain work,” Ludwig said. “The University has been and remains in compliance with those provisions.”
Several workers said they are concerned that their health care costs have more than tripled over the past few years and that GW is planning to raise costs again.
“While several of our health plan options have seen a rate increase, GW has preserved the quality and type of medical benefits offered as well as the ability of employees to choose among different plans,” Ludwig said.
Workers also said they are unhappy because GW requires them to come to work during emergencies such as Hurricane Isabel and last February’s blizzard.
“The University has a large residential student population which requires services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of whether snow storms, hurricanes or other situations require the cancellation of classes,” Ludwig said. Representatives from Local 621 said the election was a “disappointment.”

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