The Communication Workers of America says it has collected enough signatures of staff and clerical workers to trigger an election for union representation at the University of Akron.
Local President Todd Leyda said the union on Tuesday submitted an unspecified number of signed union cards to the State Employment Relations Board, which administers Ohio’s collective bargaining law.
“We’re excited, hopefully to bring the overall work experience to a higher level,” Leyda said.
UA spokeswoman Eileen Korey said the university was notified about the filing, but had no comment.
UA President Luis Proenza has said he recognizes employees’ right to organize, but that a union may not be the best solution.
“There simply is no logical basis to expect that collective bargaining can generate increased resources or otherwise redress our shared financial concerns,” Proenza wrote on a UA website called “Know the Facts” about union membership.
The CWA has been collecting signatures for the past year from clerical and noncontract professionals on the UA campus.
Leyda said the CWA had collected “significantly more” signatures than the 30 percent it needed of 500 potential union members.
A pro-union website urges employees to sign the union authorization, because staffers are not making the same advances in pay and benefits as others on campus or as their colleagues at sister state universities in Ohio.
For example, the website says a UA delivery worker makes $9.42 a hour and the same staffer at the University of Cincinnati, $16.95 a hour.
“Workloads are greatly increasing for staff. Enrollment has gone up significantly over time, but the number of staff has not kept up. We are all doing more with less,” Sylvia Juscak, an administrative assistant in the philosophy department, said in a media release.
Susan White said she chose to move from a clerical job in the psychology department to a staff job in student judicial affairs after she earned a bachelor’s degree.
But she’s making $1,500 a year less in her new job than her old one.
With a union, “We could better negotiate our pay and have some security,” she said.
Union supporters said in a release that more than 100 UA staff members earn between $8.50 and $12.50 per hour, including people with more than 10 years of service and sometimes advanced degrees. In Summit County, $17.72 an hour is considered a living wage for one adult and one child, the CWA said.
If the SERB finds the signatures to be valid, the union and UA administrators would determine what positions would be part of the bargaining unit. An election could be held in about four months, Leyda said.
The CWA already represents about 260 UA employees in skilled trades and crafts.
Employees in three other kinds of jobs also are represented by unions – full-time faculty by the American Association of University Professors, police by the Fraternal Order of Police and stage hands by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.