Highway workers on path to union

JOHNSTOWN – The town Highway Department employees are trying to join a union.

During Monday’s Town Board meeting, Supervisor Nancy MacVean announced employees of the department notified her they are seeking to unionize.

Cathi Radner, the town attorney, said she received a letter from Philip Sedlock, a representative of the United Public Service Employees Union. The letter declared the union was going to be representing the town’s highway department, she said.

However, Radner said she did not see any other documentation with the request.

Radner asked the town’s department if they had decided on appointing this union as their representative.

According to Jack Smullen, a member of the department, the 10 employees have voted unanimously to join a union.

“We just want to notify the town we are forming a union, we haven’t gone any further,” Smullen said.

Radner said before the board could accept the unionization request, it should be given documents showing this union was the department’s choice.

Smullen said those documents will be provided to the Town Board.

Earlier this year, the Town Board changed an overtime policy, which affected members of the Highway Department.

During February’s Town Board meeting, MacVean said a state auditor expressed concerns about the use of overtime in the town Highway Department.

According to MacVean, the audit discovered members of the department would use sick time or vacation time in the same weeks they would receive overtime pay at a rate of time and a half.

The Town Board approved the updated overtime policy at February’s meeting. Under the updated policy, if an employee were to use eight hours of personal time in a 40-hour work week but had to work extra time, he would not receive time-and-a-half pay unless he made up the personal time. Instead, he’d be paid at the normal rate for the additional hours.

Members of the Highway Department have expressed concerns about the policy.

However, Smullen said unionization was not related to disagreements between the board and the department.

“It is just a precaution. There are some discrepancies with what we understand and what [the Town Board] understands, and nobody has it in writing,” Smullen said.

Smullen said no timetable has been established for the unionization process.

MacVean declined to comment until more information is made available.

Highway Superintendent T.J. Bradt also declined to comment.