Orono government shuts down “union-busting” allegations for town employees

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 8:33 PM EST
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - Accusations of “union-busting” took over Monday night’s Orono Town Council meeting.

Councilor Sonja Birthisel says a few weeks ago, the Council received notice that town staff at the library and municipal office were organizing a union.

However, she says that the town manager submitted a challenge without the Council’s knowledge or consent.

Birthisel and some residents have since expressed transparency concerns.

The town read a statement Monday night before a lengthy discussion saying, legally, the Council has no input in this procedure.

The statement said the manager’s challenge was standard practice over discrepancies and opens up the negotiation process.

The statement offered this response to accusations of the town manager allegedly operating in bad faith.

”This is emphatically not true,” town officials read from a statement. “We have hired our town manager to follow the law. Deciding whether or not to follow the law should not be up to a Council vote.”

“People are very concerned about this,” said Orono resident Mark Haggerty. “I think they’re really concerned about the culture in the community, the transparency of town government. There’s been ongoing concerns about transparency of town government.”

“I was expecting that council would be kept abreast of the situation,” said Birthisel. “I believe that it is the role of council to set policy, for example, and this, to me, seems like a matter of policy rather than day to day operations.”

The town manager said there will be a meeting with union reps and the Labor Relations Board on Monday.