LEWISTON, Maine — Supporters of unionization efforts at Bates College have accused the school of flaunting its own COVID-19 rules by bringing an outside expert to hold in-person meetings with employees who’re set to vote this month on whether to join a union.
Bates’ policy allows vendors, contractors and others to enter its buildings without violating the school’s COVID-19 protocols — but the union that’s looking to organize contends no visitors are allowed in campus buildings under those restrictions, The Lewiston Sun Journal reported Tuesday.
“Anti-union meetings with an out-of-state consultant should be off the table” in order to help block the spread of the virus, said Julia Panepinto, a pro-union assistant softball coach, in a statement.
The college has said this week’s “voluntary information sessions” aim to answer questions about unionization and that employees are “strongly encouraged” to attend, but not required.
More than 600 hourly employees are eligible to affiliate with the Maine Service Employees Association, part of the Service Employees International Union, including nontenured or tenure-track faculty and college support staff, the newspaper reported. Bates has 938 employees in total.
Last month, Bates had pushed to hold the union vote in person, rather than by mail, but was rejected by National Labor Relations Board Regional Director Laura Sacks.
The college also argued that the interests of faculty and support staff are widely divergent, so they shouldn’t be part of the same bargaining unit. However, Sacks didn’t consider that in her ruling, saying the school failed to file its paperwork on time.
Ballots will be sent Thursday to eligible employees, and must be returned to the NLRB’s Boston office by Jan. 28.