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City workers vote for union

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By Pat Hibbs

City of Williston employees have voted by a wide margin to affiliate themselves with the AFSCME union.

The vote was 27 for unionization, four against and 14 not voting.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, describes itself as "the nation's largest and fastest growing public service employees union."

The union engaged in an aggressive campaign among city employees to entrust their salaries and benefits to union negotiation. Even those employees who choose not to join the union will be bound by the contracts negotiated with the city by AFSCME.

City manager Jim Coleman said that negotiations will probably begin within 30 to 45 days.

Upon receiving the results of the vote City attorney Norm Fugate sent out an e-mail to city supervisory and management personnel stating that, "effective immediately, all discussions or communications between management and employees regarding changes to benefits, terms and conditions of employment are off limits." They are to be handled only through the collective bargaining process, Fugate said.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Fugate again emphatically warned managers and council members of the consequences of the vote.He cautioned that, as the vote is official, the union is the sole bargaining agent for employees and that any discussion about salary, benefits and the like must be referred to union representatives. He did clarify that, until a formal agreement is struck, regularly scheduled performance evaluations and increases should continue.

He reiterated that, although individual members of the work force may choose not to join the union (i.e., be dues-paying members) they are nonetheless governed by the union's agreement with the city, once it is finalized.