A Bates College student lounges on a bench near a pond at the Lewiston campus in this March 25, 2022, file photo. Credit: Russ Dillingham / Sun Journal via AP

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

The National Labor Relations Board has granted a request by union organizers at Bates College to have ballots cast more than a year ago to be opened and counted.

Employees voted on whether to join the union in Jan. 2022. But the ballots were impounded following a request by the college to have the National Labor Relations Board review the union’s structure.

Earlier this month, the board rescinded a rule that opened the door to a ballot count.

“Is it a good sign? I think it’s the appropriate sign. And I would just say, these ballots should have been counted a long time ago,” said Jeffrey Young, an attorney representing the organizers.

Young expects that the ballots will likely be counted later this week.

But he notes that several questions are left to be answered, including the result of the college’s request for review, as well as whether adjunct professors and professionals want to be included with other staff in the union.

“Even with the ballots being counted, there still could be a long road to go here,” Young said.

Bates President Clayton Spencer said in a message to staff last week that the school will “await notice” as to when the count will occur, and will share what it learns when it hears from the NLRB’s regional director.