Last fall, the state arbitrarily decided that part-time workers were not public employees, stripping them of rights included in the Executive Branch contract. That decision, as you may know, was overturned recently when the Public Employee Labor Relations Board agreed with the SEA that the state had committed an unfair labor practice.
The decision, which affects all Executive Branch part-time workers, shows what’s possible when workers stand up for each other. For example, after the SEA filed its unfair labor practice complaint last year, full-time workers, some from other agencies, mobilized and demonstrated outside stores. Critically, several full-time workers from the Liquor Commission stood up and testified in support of the part-timers.
Joe Testa is now an assistant manager at the Peterborough liquor store but was a part-timer when the situation arose last year, giving him a unique perspective.
“I still see injustices as far as how part-timers are treated, so I was happy to see the decision,” he said. “Now I’m on the other side of the coin from where I was, and I heard from part-timers about not getting holiday pay. I was living it and now I’m hearing about it.”
Testa, who was a part-timer for two and a half years, said the decision should improve morale and help keep part-timers around.
“The level of pay is very good for part-time work, so you can’t complain about that, but the ability to earn time-and-a-half is more attractive and it helps keep good people around,” Testa said.
SEA member Bryan Plourde, a part-time worker at the Claremont liquor store, said he was happy to see the decision, but he hadn’t seen any movement to undo what the state had done.
“As a part-timer, I’m not privy to everything, but from my side of the fence, what I see is no movement whatsoever,” Plourde said.
“You’ve got a determination, what is the movement to follow that?” he asked. “As far as I’m concerned, it was taken away on a whim, it should be given back that quickly.”
Plourde said everyone benefited from the full-timers standing up for part-timers.
“I appreciate the fact that they went out on a limb, but it’s to their benefit, too,” he said. “A large portion of our workforce is part-timers, and everyone benefits when they’re happy and motivated.”
Cindy Sanborn is one of the Liquor Commission workers who testified before the PELRB, along with colleagues Rich Gulla and Tony Perras. Sanborn said that at this point, many part-timers aren’t aware of the decision.
“Most of them unfortunately don’t know what this means for them,” Sanborn said. “That’s what they’re waiting on — am I going to get holiday pay, are they going to have to pay me when it’s bad weather just like everybody else?”
“They need to know we won,” she said.
Perras said it was important to challenge the changes affecting part-timers.
“Sometimes you need to stand up in order to get somewhere,” Perras said.
Sanborn said she thought it is important that all part-timers know that someone is fighting for their rights and that might spur them to join the union.
“I put my job on the line to testify, Tony did, and so did Rich,” she said. “We stuck our necks out.”
Sanborn said she hoped workers at other agencies might do the same.
“We’re kind of hoping that maybe somebody will see what we did at the Liquor Commission and say ‘we should do the same,'” she said.