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May 30, 2008

Quadrangle Club employees vote to join Teamsters union

Quadrangle Club employees unanimously voted to join Teamsters Local 743 Tuesday, the union that represents many University clerical and maintenance workers. The employees expect to receive official certification in the coming weeks.

Club employees first approached the union to discuss possible representation over growing frustration with the current Club's current management. At the time, Local 743 was undergoing a change in leadership, and an employees' petition was not approved until a new union administration reconsidered it in March.

Chris Nogulich, the Club's current general manager, declined to comment.

Some employees believe that union representation is especially important in light of the club's impending transfer to a new management company. The University, which last year assumed financial control of the Club, will select that firm, but it has been unable to guarantee the security of workers' jobs once the new management is in place.

"The union gave us a strong avenue for our concerns to be heard and called on the University to commit to something on paper," said one employee who requested anonymity because he was criticizing the current management. "[The University] agreed to address the effects of job loss for anyone who is not hired," he said.

Bill Silver, a union representative, said the union's top priority is to ensure job security for all current employees. The union will also bargain with the University on behalf of employees who are not rehired.

"Our second focus is anyone who is left behind, but we hope that we won't have to resort to that," Silver said.

Though employees have voted to join the union, the Quadrangle Club itself will only be unionized under the new management if the majority of the employees are rehired.

"If the new management hires the majority of employees, they will have to sit down with the union to talk about wages, hours, benefits, etc. If not, we will have to organize again with the contractor," Silver said.

In an interview with the MAROON last week, David Greene, University vice president for strategic initiatives and head of the committee selecting the new management, said that all of the bidders for the management position have expressed interest in negotiating with the employees and are open to working with a collective bargaining unit.

"We gave the University two weeks to investigate this with the bidders. They came back and told us that the contractors were okay with the union," Silver said.

Because union presence has become increasingly prevalent among restaurant and hotel employees, Silver does not anticipate that the employees' union activities will be an obstacle to their rehiring.

"It's probably not [the new management's] first choice, but it's a reality," Silver said.