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Bates union organizers call for count of election ballots sealed for more than a year

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

Union organizers at Bates College are calling on the National Labor Relations Board to count election ballots that have been sealed for more than a year.

Bates employees voted in the union election in January of 2022. But the ballots have yet to be counted because the school filed a request to review the structure of the union and its inclusion of all Bates staff and non-tenure faculty.

A previous rule required that the election ballots be held and impounded while the board reviews the college's request.

But Jeffrey Young, an attorney representing the organizers, said that the NLRB announced last week that it would rescind that rule — opening the door for the ballots to be counted.

"My understanding is that, in two similar instances, the NLRB has already ordered the opening and counting of ballots. We're hopeful they'll do the same here," Young said.

Union organizers have now filed a motion with the National Labor Relations Board requesting that the board order that the ballots be opened and counted.

In a statement, Bates President Clayton Spencer said that the college opposed a request earlier this month for the NLRB's Regional Director to count the ballots.

"We opposed this request, because, among other things, it is not clear whether the change in the rule applies retroactively to cases, like ours, already pending before the Board or whether it applies only to future cases."

"Additionally, since our case questions the way the bargaining unit—and by extension the voting unit or units—is defined, opening ballots before the full Board in Washington has ruled on the underlying question of whether the unit is appropriate is particularly problematic in this case," Spencer wrote in a letter to employees.

Spencer added that she recognized "the frustration of union-eligible employees, regardless of how you voted," in not yet knowing the final outcome of the union vote.