St. Michael’s College custodians ratify historic first contract 03/25/2014

A group of custodians working at St. Michael's College in Vermont set new standards for fair pay and working conditions on the campus by ratifying the first union contract in the 110 year history of the college.
The 27-2 vote came 16 months after the custodians took the courageous step to form the first and only union at the prestigious higher education institution, an accomplishment that many believed would never happen.  The union secured wage increases, shift differential pay and a strong just cause provision that protects the custodians from unfair disciplinary action.  While the vote to initially form the union was close, the nearly unanimous vote to approve the contract showed that AFSCME's hard work at the negotiating table had won over some of the most ardent opponents of the union.

Council 93 Executive Director Frank Moroney lauded the AFSCME staff and custodians who negotiated the contract for their "courage and strong determination at the bargaining table." Moroney also gratefully acknowledged the support of the many students, faculty and community organizations who supported the union from the early stages of the of the organizing campaign and throughout the negotiation process.
St. Mike's custodian and bargaining committee member Pratit Gurung voting "YES" for the group's first contract.

AFSCME's establishment of a union foothold on the campus and the long and sometimes contentious period of negotiations with management inspired many individuals and organizations to support the AFSCME custodians. The Vermont Workers' Center  held a series of rallies and informational forums aimed at generating support for the custodians while several hundred graduates of the college signed a petition pledging to withhold financial support until the college reached a fair agreement with the union.  But perhaps the strongest showing of support came from the students of the college.  Led by the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM), the students held a number of campus rallies, petition drives and other events urging the college to support the union and treat the custodians fairly. Following the ratification, SLAM issued the following statement to the campus newspaper the Defender.  "SLAM is proud to have been a part of this ground-breaking and historic achievement and proud of the school for finally upholding its commitment to social justice. Although the signing of the custodians' first contract is a victory and a relief, SLAM stands ready to support future organizing efforts on campus."
AFSCME also initiated a number of community and campus actions including a paid media radio campaign.
In an interview with Seven Days  St. Michael's President Michael New called the agreement "mutually beneficial" for the union and the college.  New also said the agreement served as a "learning experience" that taught him "that it's important for all administrators or managers to listen to their employees."

Click here for more information on forming a union with AFSCME Council 93.