Clerical workers and other support staff voted 151-116 on Tuesday in favor of joining a union at the University of Akron.
That will expand the ranks of the Communications Workers of America from 260 members in the skilled trades and crafts to a total of about 600 at UA.
“We’re the last large group of people on campus not organized,” senior library associate John Ball said. “Salary and benefits are major concerns to me now that I’m in my 50s.”
Local President Todd Leyda said the State Employment Relations Board will be asked to certify the vote at its next meeting in March. Then the CWA will begin to negotiate a contract with the university.
“It’s going to be an initial contract, so we’ll take our time,” Leyda said. “We’re very excited for the staff.”
UA spokeswoman Eileen Korey said the university had a positive working relationship with CWA in the past and looks forward to more of the same.
Some UA staff members began pushing for a CWA union 18 months ago. They said the average UA faculty salary has shown strong gains since the faculty allied with the American Association of University Professors in 2003 and that union workers in similar jobs on other campuses often made considerably more money.
“We are concerned about increasing workloads, job security, health-care costs, the lack of opportunities for advancement, added duties, barriers to transferring jobs, low starting wages, and — most of all — the absence of a way to meaningfully address these issues,” proponents of a union said on a UA staff website.
Susan White, an administrative assistant in student judicial affairs, said the vote for the union is “the first step in our journey to secure more opportunities. There’s a lot more work to be done.”
The CWA represents 600,000 employees in public service, publishing, health care and education nationwide. That includes clerical staff at three tax-supported universities in Ohio — Toledo, Shawnee State and Cleveland State — and skilled tradespeople at Ohio State.
In addition to the CWA and AAUP for full-time faculty, other unions on campus are the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.