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A group working to unionize Bates College's staff has filed charges against the school

Hedge Hall at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.
Wikimedia Commons
Hedge Hall at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.

Employees behind an effort to unionize at Bates College have filed charges against the institution over what they say are unfair restrictions on organizing.

On Monday, the Bates Educators and Staff Organization, or BESO, filed an unfair labor practice charge against the school with the National Labor Relations Board.

Peter Osborne, who works for the college's Center for Purposeful Work and is an organizing committee member, said one colleague was told not to communicate about unionizing with other members during work time, and was not allowed to use work WiFi to communicate around organizing.

Organizers say the college is also restricting union solicitation on work time, even thought it has in the past accommodated non-union activities, such as signing petitions or selling cookies.

"BESO really wants to give the NLRB an opportunity to conduct an official investigation, and collect their testimony and evidence," Osborne says.

Ian Brownlie, an organizer and grounds and maintenance worker, says multiple staff members were also told by a manager that they could potentially lose benefits if a union is approved.

"That's in violation of labor law. That's an inappropriate threat, and it's not true," he said.

A Bates spokesperson said the college "has yet to receive notice of any charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board" and is declining specific comments until it sees formal allegations.

On its website, the college says "there are no restrictions on general conversations about the union during working time provided work itself is not interrupted," but union solicitation is restricted during working time, as are other kinds of solicitation.

Organizers launched their unionization effort in early October, and the union would cover about 650 staff and non-tenured faculty at the school.