University professional, technical workers consider union

Posted: Sunday, February 04, 2001

FAIRBANKS -- An effort has begun to organize administrative, professional and technical staff members of the University of Alaska.

A similar effort failed three years ago.

Close to 30 white-collar and administrative, professional and technical staffers at the Fairbanks campus attended a meeting Thursday hosted by the Alaska Public Employees Association and the American Federation of Teachers. More than 20 employees attended a recent organizing meeting in Anchorage.

''What the difference is this time is people are at the meeting,'' said Laura Lee Potrikus, an administrative assistant in the UAF Department of Foreign Languages. ''That makes a big difference.''

About 1,000 employees could be represented if they decide to organize.

In the last five years, most UA employees have joined unions. The system now has three faculty unions and a blue-collar union representing more than 1,200 employees, according to UA labor analyst Rhonda Ooms.

If white-collar workers vote for representation, the Alaska Labor Relations Agency will decide whether administrative, professional and technical workers would be included in a separate bargaining units or kept together.

Employees who attended the meeting Thursday said they were distressed that decisions affecting them have been made without consultation, such as changes in health care benefits and benefits.

Ron York of the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service said he objected to a requirement that vacation time be taken at the end of the year.

''That bothered me, because I don't want to take annual leave between Christmas and New Year's,'' York said. ''I want to take it in July when the fish are in the river.''

In 1998, when the last effort to organize white-collar workers came up for a vote, unionization was defeated roughly 2 to 1.

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