Colonie employees formally seek union

About 200 asking for approval of United Public Service Employees

Section: Capital Region,  Page: B8

Date: Saturday, December 22, 2007

COLONIE - Non-unionized employees on Friday requested that the town recognize the United Public Service Employees Union on their behalf, according to one person involved in the effort.

Mary Burke, director of the town's Youth Bureau, is leading the effort to unionize and said the letter had been faxed to the town Friday afternoon and will be followed by other copies sent via certified mail. The move marks a significant development in the last-minute effort to organize before the incoming Democratic administration of Supervisor Paula Mahan takes office Jan. 1.

Many town employees are already represented by unions, but more than 200, ranging from clerical staff to department heads, are not.

Some have argued they are unfairly asked to shoulder the burdens of the town's financial problems while other employees avoid deeper concessions through union representation.

Once the letter has been sent, it is up to the Town Board to decide within 30 days whether to recognize the union, or the matter would be referred to the state Public Employment Relations Board, Gary Favro, a labor relations representative with UPSEU, said earlier this week.

Favro said the union would not request recognition without pledges of support from 60 percent of the eligible employees.

The town board met for the last time under its old membership Thursday night. On Jan. 1, three Democratic members will be sworn in, as will Mahan, who has a vote on the board.

Mahan could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Earlier this week, Burke criticized Mahan for personally distributing fliers in town offices to some employees, urging caution about rushing into a hasty decision to unionize. Burke said some interpreted that move as intimidation at a time when many people are already worried about their jobs during the change of administration.

But Mahan - who received the backing of CSEA, the town's largest union, in November's election - said she just wanted to make sure the workers weren't rushing into a decision based on rampant and untrue rumors of job and benefits cuts. She vowed, however, not to get in their way.

Also this week, fliers carrying the CSEA logo and a large "STOP" sign were faxed to town departments, saying "CSEA is the better choice for you." The source of those fliers was not immediately clear.

Burke initially said employees may have been able to stop their health insurance contributions from going up if they requested recognition before Jan. 1. But, on Friday, she said that the town's human resources director had since told her that may not be true.

Either way, Burke said, the request for recognition is a victory for employees who have not been treated equally for too long.

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@