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CWA wages battle to represent Suffolk workers

Suffolk’s largest county union, the Association of Municipal Employees, is under attack from another union, which wants to represent the county’s 5,700 white-collar and blue-collar workers.

AME president Cheryl Felice said that organizers from Communication Workers of America have been making efforts in the past week to sign up new members in a bid to force an election to determine who will represent them.

The competing union would need to get 30 percent of the members to force elections for the 1,200-member blue-collar unit or the 4,500-member white collar unit.

Tim Dubnau, coordinating organizer for CWA’s northeast district, acknowledged an effort is underway, but said it is largely home-grown. “We got complaints from union members that concessions were given and the membership was not allowed to vote on them,” he said. “The main problem is the members feel they no longer control the union and a handful of leaders are making the decisions.”

AME union rules require members. . .

Rick Brand. . . to vote on ratifying contracts, but leave other changes — like recent concessions for a two week lag payroll — in the hands of the union’s executive board.

AME president Felice blames the union-raiding effort on her opponents who lost the election. “It’s a shame the members who lost the last election are willing to destroy the entire union for the sake of personal agenda,” said Felice. “The ‘Members First’ team [is] putting our members dead last.”

Dubnau declined to identify local organizers for fear of retribution, noting the union sent out a letter labeling those involved as “traitors and treasonous,” which “reminded me of the McCarthy era.”

Insurgents are planning a July 1 organizing meeting at the Holiday Inn in Ronkonkoma, and set up a Web site. (Click here to connect.). If the 140,000 member CWA takes over, Dubnau said, “we will negotiate with the county from a position of power rather than collective begging.”

But Felice said divisiveness hurts the union cause. “In times of economic uncertainty, unions need to pull together, not attack one another,” she said.

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