Orono town office and public library employees are on their way to forming a union nearly three months after first announcing their bid to unionize.
Orono town leadership and Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — or AFSCME — filed an Agreement on Appropriate Bargaining Unit with the Maine Labor Relations Board on April 27, Sophia Wilson, Orono town manager, wrote in an announcement. AFSCME Council 93 covers state, county and municipal employees in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.
The Orono employees’ unionization push follows a wave of workers from various companies ranging from Starbucks locations to health care facilities throughout Maine who are making bids to unionize to secure fair wages, benefits and working conditions.
The agreement between the town and the bargaining unit includes nine administrative job classifications covering 12 professional and clerical staff positions, Wilson wrote. Several other municipal positions were removed from the unionization bid following the town’s objection to their inclusion.
Wilson wrote the town’s agreement with AFSCME Council 93 was made through “collaborative negotiations” between the two parties.
“The town of Orono values all of our employees and respects the rights of our municipal workers to organize and bargain collectively,” Wilson wrote in the April 27 announcement.
With the agreement filed, the Maine Labor Relations Board will determine the next steps in the collective bargaining unit certification process, Wilson said.
After Orono town office and library employees first announced their unionization campaign in early February, the town’s attorney filed objections to several employees being included in the bargaining unit because they’re part-time or per-diem employees, appointed to a position, or independent contractors rather than town employees.
These objections to some people being included in the union led Orono residents to voice concerns that town leadership was trying to pick apart the bargaining unit and prevent the union from forming altogether.
In a March 6 statement, Orono town councilors declined to comment for or against the union, but stated town employees have the right to join a union under Maine labor law. Legally, councilors don’t have any role in the union formation process, they wrote.
The councilors also denied accusations from the public that Wilson “is operating in bad faith, attempting to prevent the formation of this union, without council’s knowledge or consent.”
“Had the town manager not challenged the parts of the petition that don’t align with state statute, she wouldn’t have been doing her job,” the council wrote. “The narrative that has been circulating is absolutely unfair to her, and the accusations are categorically false.”