St. Albans, VT
On January 21 – Martin Luther King Day – Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I) was enthusiastically welcomed by workers at Stanley Associates, who are organizing to become members of UE. The union has petitioned the NLRB for representation elections for 400 workers in Vermont. Two days after the Vermont rally, UE petitioned the NLRB to represent an additional 600 Stanley workers in Laguna Niguel, CA.
The workers, mostly women, are employed by Stanley and several subcontractors, but the clerical work they perform is for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS.) All told, the two service centers in Vermont and California employ well over 1,000 workers. Because of the multiple subcontractors, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has divided workers into several bargaining units. Workers in each unit will vote in a separate NLRB election, with elections scheduled for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
“These guys get rich by knocking your wages down,” Sen. Sanders told the St. Albans workers – his words broadcast on Burlington’s WCAX Channel 3 and covered by other news media– and the Senator was exactly right. The impetus for the organizing campaign was a $2 an hour wage cut imposed by Stanley when it took over the operations in December. The company also robbed workers of personal and sick days and a chunk of their vacation.
“I could not pay my heating bill in December. And I’ve been told by the utility company I’d better, or else,” Stanley worker Jacki Hayes told Channel 3. “I took a $70 a week pay cut,” said Norma Thibault. “Can’t pay all my bills. I juggled them!”
Pam L’Esperance told the TV reporter that the comment of a top Stanley executive soon after the takeover convinced her of the need for a union. “The first words out of his mouth was about the wages, ‘Get Over it!’ And I wish we all would’ve walked up and you know gone out of the room at that time because it was like a slap in the face,” said L’Esperance. This boss’s arrogance also inspired L’Esperance to come up with the organizing button that huge numbers of Stanley workers soon began wearing. The button advises the company, “We’re UE. GET OVER IT!”
The vote at the St. Albans center was fast approaching as the UE NEWS went to press, and Sen. Sanders warned the workers to expect the company to fight dirty in their effort to stop the union.”They’re going to lie to you. Have they brought you into the back rooms yet? They will!” Sanders told workers. “Have you seen the video tapes yet? You will!”