NEWS

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May 23, 2008

Quad Club employees look to unionize

[img id="80646" align="alignleft"] The University has said that it hopes to turn the Quadrangle Club around after years of mismanagement and unprofitability, though it remains unclear what role the Club's current employees will play in the Club's renewal. Employees are seeking union representation to address their concerns over working conditions as the administration works to select a new management company for the facility.

Although the Quadrangle Club is technically an independent entity, the University has played an increasingly large role in its maintenance and management over the last two years, said David Greene, vice president for Strategic Initiatives.

Unhappy with the club's decline, members voted the University a sustaining member, with a mandate to appoint the new board of directors and assume overall responsibility for club management. In November of last year, the University pledged $10 to $20 million for renovations and improvements to the building and facilities.

The Club's new board of directors, headed by Greene, will select the new management group. Four companies and the current management company have responded to a formal request for bids to assume responsibility for the club, and a decision will be made in the coming weeks, Greene said.

The prospect of new management was welcomed by Quadrangle Club employees, numbering approximately 30, who say they have had problems cashing paychecks and scheduling hours for special events. Moreover, they have had conflicts over benefits, sick days, profit sharing, and overtime.

"Unfairness pretty much sums it up," said one employee, who asked not to be named because she was concerned that the current management might remain in place.

However, employees were frustrated that they were not given any concrete information about their job security under new management.

"Nothing was being told to us. We were always told, 'I don't know,'" said another employee who asked not to be named. He added that employees could not be certain that their concerns were discussed during meetings between the University and the club's board of directors. The club's general manager, Chris Nogulich, was the only Quadrangle Club employee who met with University representatives. Nogulich declined to comment for this article.

Quadrangle Club employees first approached the Teamsters Local 743, the same union representing other campus workers, in 2007 to discuss the possibility of unionization. When the union reviewed their petition in March, employees had grown more eager for representation.

"We need someone to talk to, to air our grievances," an employee said. On Tuesday, employees will vote to determine whether the union will represent them.

Nearly all the Club employees have signed cards agreeing to union representation, said Bill Silver, a Teamsters representative. He anticipates that Tuesday's vote will pass easily. Many employees believe the union has already given them a voice in discussions with the University. Employees were encouraged by the University's response at a recent hearing organized by the union, during which the University agreed to negotiate with the employees as a collective bargaining unit should the vote pass.

According to employees, the University representatives promised to do all they could to ensure that all employees receive employment at the Quadrangle Club or the University or receive some sort of severance compensation.

"Before the union talks, we were told just to 'think positive,'" one employee said.

While Greene acknowledged that the transition may be "unsettling," he emphasized the University's commitment to the club employees. "Our intent all along has been to ensure that employees are treated very well, to make sure that people have opportunities and that there will be a great transition plan," Greene said. Although the University has not insisted that a new contractor rehire current employees, potential contractors will help employees navigate the change in management, he said.

"In interviews, all the potential management companies are very interested in working with the current employees," Greene said.

However, Silver has been frustrated by the University's inability to guarantee employees' positions. "Employees want an official, guaranteed agreement," he said.

The union's top priorities will be to encourage the new management company to rehire the employees and to negotiate with the University over solutions for employees who are not rehired, he said. "The University has big plans for the Club," he said. "Our message is, don't leave employees out of the mix."