by Matt Kelly
to the union agreement included (from left) Jan Cornell, local
union president, Brooks W. sunkett (at rear), a CWA vice president,
and Peter Catucci, a CWA vice president.
Employees form union
By Matt Kelly
of the Labor Action Group have taken the first steps toward forming
a union, creating the Staff Union of the University of Virginia
and signing a pact with the Communications Workers of America.
a noon-time ceremony Feb. 6 at Newcomb Hall attended by about
75 people, Jan Cornell and Sylvia New Strawn signed on behalf
of SUUVA, and national officers Peter Catucci and Brooks W. Sunkett
signed for CWA.
hope to recruit 500 members for the new local within a year, according
to Cornell, the president of SUUVA and a facilities manager at
the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. There are approximately
4,200 classified employees in the academic division and 4,900
employees at the Medical Center. New Strawn, executive vice president
of the union and an administrator in the art department, said
dues are $10.70 per month and may be paid through payroll deductions.
Virginia law, public employees are not allowed to bargain collectively
or go out on strke, but Cornell said the new union would give
U.Va. employees a voice both locally and in Richmond, where many
decisions are made affecting University employees.
always welcome input from faculty and staff, said Leonard
W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Many of the issues identified by the group this week, such
as how to reward hard-working employees, especially in times of
tough budget cuts, are matters of great concern to all of us.
one example of an issue the union hopes to address, Cornell cited
specifically the states classified employee compensation
plan and its three-level evaluation system, derided at the meeting
as pass, fail and walk on water.
who said she loves her job, but is frustrated by the ineffectiveness
of working inside the existing system, chided the University for
not doing more for its employees. U.Va. should help us out
in times of economic crisis, she said, describing the University
as wealthy and well-managed. I cant see why we have
no raise or bonus.
University should not be raising parking fees or health care premiums
at a time when employees are not getting raises, she said, noting
that classified employees will take home less money this year
CWAs vice president of public, healthcare and education
workers, praised LAG and SUUVA for its positive and lasting
influence, and said the union would help make U.Va. a place
where employees have a voice and economic security, which he said
are also important lessons for college students to learn.
started as a telephone union, Catucci said, then branched out
to add members from the public and non-profit sectors. Its approach
is a triangle of bargaining, organizing and political activity,
with each side holding up the others, he said. He credited the
union with helping elect Mark Warner governor of Virginia.
political arena may be where most of CWA/SUUVAs battles
will be fought, since the University cannot recognize the new
union as a bargaining agent for employees. J. H. Verkerke, U.Va.
professor of law and director of the Project for Employment and
Labor Law Studies, said that Virginia law does not permit collective
bargaining for salary and working conditions for public employees.
But he also noted that an organized group can raise visible public
pressure more easily than single individuals.
Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, University ombudsman Brad
Holland and the employee relations division of Human Resources
are among the entities set up to resolve employees concerns.
professor Susan Fraiman said LAGs efforts have been building
toward a new staff union because of conditions at the University,
not influence from outside agitators. She predicted
that graduate students and others would join the CWA.
Herndon, a member of LAG and SUUVA who works for the Health System,
said it was important that the University understand that the
union was not formed out of anger or spite, but from a concern
for the institution and the constituents it serves.