MORRILL — A super majority of workers at Ironwood — a mental health treatment program and school for struggling teens in Morrill — have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to form a union with the Maine Service Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989, according to a news release circulated June 14.
The new union, Ironwood United, would represent over 50 employees at the facility if election is successful.
The Ironwood employees initially asked management to voluntarily recognize the union on Monday, but it refused, so now the NLRB must schedule a secret ballot election, the release said.
Ironwood United members are asking the company to remain neutral in their union election and not resort to anti-union activity as they exercise their right to freedom of association. A mission statement from the Ironwood workers reads:
“We are Ironwood employees working together to ensure that we have a fair say at our institution, for ourselves and for our residents. We are forming our union because we want Ironwood to fulfill its mission and succeed, and we know that cannot happen if we do not have a seat at the table. To preserve what we love about working at Ironwood and create the positive changes we need in our workplace, we need a meaningful voice in the decisions that affect us at work. Forming our union today will ensure a better future for generations of Ironwood employees and residents. Our mission is to build a strong, unified voice to improve labor conditions at Ironwood.
“Too many of our coworkers have left due to dissatisfaction, low pay, and poor working conditions. High turnover has added more work for those of us who remain, diminishing our capacity to provide quality learning and living conditions for our residents. By forming our union, we establish a means to improve these conditions and therefore protect the Ironwood we know and love.”
Ironwood employees say that by forming a union they believe they will have a stronger voice to improve conditions for both staff and residents.
“While there are certainly short-term issues our union will need to address, a major motivation for me is the long-term improvements we’ll be able to make for our residents and staff,” said aid Ronanne Haigh, Direct Care Staff at Ironwood. “My intention is to make Ironwood a better workplace for future staff, and a better program for residents. If we have a strong, united, and consistent team working for Ironwood, then it will be a better atmosphere for the residents, for the staff, and it will actually help the company too.”
Joy Baker, Barn Manager at Ironwood, said in the release: “Throughout much of my working life, I’ve been part of professionals’ associations with union representation. The priority has always been to make improvements and ensure a quality environment for students, clients and employees. An organized workplace provides a high level of standards, and a core of stability and leadership for any workplace. My priority is building increased trust and a stronger voice for everyone at Ironwood, and I’m excited to see where we can go as a united team, working in collaboration with committed management.”