Some Harrison employees choose union

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

HARRISON — Seven of Harrison’s 14 town employees have voted to join a union, the Teamsters Union Local 340 of South Portland.

While Town Manager George “Bud” Finch said he’s “disappointed” by the news, he told selectmen Tuesday that he’ll work with the new union to negotiate a contract and doesn’t expect it to impact this year’s town budget.

“Unfortunately, this is something that I believe is a result of a breakdown in communications between the town and some employees” over health issues during the tenure of his predecessor, Town Manager Brad Plante, Finch said. “This took place before I arrived in Harrison and was in the process to a point where I was limited by law in my ability to intervene in a manner I would have preferred.”

Finch, during his time serving as Eastport’s town manager, oversaw both the voting in and dissolving of several municipal unions. He said contract negotiations are likely to take a long time, and won’t be finalized in time to have accurate budget figures included in the town’s budget to be voted on in June.

The results of the vote were made public at Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting. The election, by mail-in ballot, took place in February with the results released by the Maine Labor Relations Board on March 7 in Augusta.

Seven of nine employees eligible cast their ballot for representation while two members chose not to submit their ballot. Included in the bargaining unit are the town’s driver/mechanic, road foreman, code enforcement officer/assessor, agent/licensed plumbing inspector, administrative assistant, equipment operator/truck driver, equipment operator and equipment operator/laborer. All other town employees are excluded.

Finch said at this point he “sees this as remaining an administrative issue” and will act on the board’s behalf as a negotiator for the town.

“My job is unique in that I work for the board of selectmen and have an obligation to them but the employees work for me and I also have an obligation to them,” he said. “With that said, yes, I am disappointed the employees did not give me the opportunity to address their concerns without a third party, but I am confident that cool, logical thinking and action by the employees and the town can eliminate future issues.”

Town Clerk Judy Colburn was one employee who did not elect to take part in the union. She said she is retiring next year and didn’t want to get involved for that reason.

John Wentworth, the town’s CEO, has been vocal in seeking raises for town employees in recent years. The employees were given a raise last June, but their health benefits were reduced in that they had to pay more of a percentage in their paychecks for those benefits.

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