WNY Labor Today: Seventy Tompkins Community Action Employees Vote To Unionize With Buffalo-Headquartered International Union Of Painters & Allied Trades/District Council 4

From WNY Labor Today:

TCA Workers Say Union “Will Give Them The Ability To Achieve Their Goals Of A More Just and Democratic Workplace”, IUPAT DC 4 Business Manager Mark Stevens Says Workers Reached Out For Representation, Adds His Union Looks Forward To Representing Them

Published in WNY Labor Today on Wednesday, January 9, 2013
by Tom Campbell/Editor-Publisher 

ITHACA, January 9, 2013 – A group of70 Workers employed by the Non-Profit Tompkins Community Action (TCA) Organization in Ithaca have voted for Union Representation with the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades (IUPAT District Council 4, which represents nearly 1,800 construction and non-construction Workers in a region that encompasses 33 New York State Counties – from Buffalo to Binghamton, up into Watertown and back down to the Southern Tier.

Buffalo-headquartered Business Manager Mark Stevens told WNYLaborToday.com the workers – who were “without a Voice in their workplace” – had sought out union representation and that District Council 4 now looks forward to negotiating a first contract with management and representing this “good and solid group of Workers.”

“These were a group of Workers who looking for a voice on the job,” said Stevens to Your Regional, the online labor newspaper of the TCA.  “And now, and now we are their ‘Voice.’ We listened to their needs and we’re exciting about representing them.” Tompkins Community Action, a private, not-for-profit charitable organization, partners with low-income households and individuals as they develop to their full potential. It represents a 70-member, non-professional staffers who are employed in its four primary program areas: Energy Services, Housing Services, Early Childhood and Family Resources. Since 1966, TCA has implemented as many as 28 programs that serve more than 6,000 low-income individuals and families across Tompkins County each year.

“With this vote, these workers will have a ‘real Voice’ at work and can begin to address some of the concerns that led them to organize. We expect to sit down with management shortly and work quickly to develop our first contract to address these concerns,” said TCA Information Technology Worker Josh Ganger – who also serves as a Member of IUPAT DC 4’s Organizing Committee – after the January 3rd Vote that was supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

“Over the years we’ve received many complaints from TCA Employees,” said Pete Meyers, who
serves as Workers’ Center Coordinator, in a distributed press release.  “It was frustrating to see the problems continue. The new Union will empower the Workers and give them the ability to achieve their goals of a ‘more just’ and Democratic Workplace.”

Stevens said the group of non-professional workers initially came to IUPAT DC 4, which represents a number of non-construction workers, including 32 at Buffalo Pre-Natal (a health care company) and another 61 employed at Buffalo Newspress, a printing company.
“This was a good, ‘old-fashioned’ organizing drive. We met with them on a regular basis in the Fall (2012) and there was solid enough feedback to move forward on a vote,” Stevens
told WNYLaborToday.com.  “We were listening to workers who did not have a ‘voice’ in their workplace and it was sad. I felt bad for them. Unfortunately they were considered ‘at-will’ employees who did not have representation and could have lost their Jobs at any time for any reason. They weren’t coming to us for better wages and benefits. They were coming to us for a ‘voice’ in their Workplace,” he said.

“Now begins the process of negotiating a first contract with management at TCA,” added Stevens, who said IUPAT DC 4 is looking forward to “working with them” to make the TCA even more successful. “Their CEO probably, at first, was nervous about a union coming in, but we
want them to flourish and with our connections (in Albany) and understanding the grant process, we are there to help,” he said.

Stevens, meanwhile, praised the work of both IUPAT DC 4 Representatives Bob Casella, who serves as the union’s director of organizing, and Ithaca Representative Dan Jackson for the roles the two played in organizing the TCA Workers.