Mystic Seaport workers try to form union

Mystic - Mystic Seaport employees, who have faced layoffs in recent years, are trying to form a union.

According to Eric Excell-Bailey, a spokesman for AFT Connecticut, a vote to form the union could occur as the early as the end of this month. If a majority of the 200 Seaport employees support the formation of a union, then a union will be created and begin negotiations with Seaport management.

He said Monday the employees he's spoken to love the Seaport and want it to be successful but feel their voices are not being heard by management when they have ideas for improvement.

He said they now feel a union will give them "a stronger voice in the workplace.

"They want to have say in what is happening," he said.

Excell-Bailey said workers notified management last week of their intent to try to form a union. He said that once the majority of employees sign their union cards, they will be delivered to the National Labor Relations Board. He expected that to happen by the end of this week. The labor board will then schedule a vote.

"We're very excited for the workers. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and exercise their right to form a union," he said.

While the employees wait for the vote, Excell-Bailey said his organization will keep its eye on management to make sure there is no interference, coercion or firing of workers who support a union.

"If anyone gets fired (before the vote) we'd be on that so fast. Those are cases we don't lose," he said.

Seaport spokesman Dan McFadden said Monday that no one from the union had approached Seaport senior management about the effort but museum officials began seeing fliers and cards circulating last week. He said the museum is listening to employees and answering their question and will abide by all regulations.

"We don't think a union is in the best interests of our employees or the institution," he said. "We value having direct communication with our employees. We don't think that forming a union is the best way to work together," he said.

In a newsletter for Mystic Seaport United which would be part of AFT Connecticut, four museum employees discussed working conditions at the museum and answered questions about forming a union.

"In the last couple of years I have witnessed interdepartmental relationships dim. I have seen communications quiet and camaraderie fail. As staff we have grown more tired and weary," said shipyard worker Nick Canzellarini. "The stress of having to work more, with less resources and little compensation, has changed our ability to be there for each other."

He said in many areas, staff has learned to focus on departmental survival rather than the health and longevity of the museum. But with the formation of the union, he said employees are starting to talk to each other again.

Membership department employee Linda Prior said that forming a union is "our legal right and each worker's personal decision."

"We hope management will respect our rights to have a voice without interfering with our decision," she said.

The flier also lists the things employers cannot do to prevent the formation of a union.

Shipyard worker Deb House said it's a myth there will be layoffs if a union is formed.

"The reality is there could be layoffs tomorrow and we would have no say in where or how it would happen. But when we form our union, management will have to negotiate these and other working conditions with us. We will have a voice at the table to advocate against cutting staff, because we know the impact that will have on the Seaport," she said.


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