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Communications Workers seeks Suffolk employees' vote

Communications Workers of America has filed a petition with the state to force a union election of Suffolk's 1,500 blue collar workers in a bid to oust the Association of Municipal Employees as their bargaining agent.

Tim Dubnau, CWA organizing coordinator, said the petition was filed with the Public Employment Relations Board in Smithtown Friday, along with signature cards from union members who want to switch. He said he expects an election will be held within a month or two.

"Despite AME saying our drive was dead, we have filed for an election and we wouldn't have filed unless we had a number sufficient to win," said Dubnau.

Dan Farrell, AME's executive vice president, said it is "ironic and suspicious" that CWA is looking to raid the county union "at the same time they are losing members left and right" across the nation. He said CWA failed to protect New Jersey state workers from furloughs and job losses while AME prevented layoffs by deferring pay and saved all union members from sharing in premium costs.

CWA needs at least 30 percent of members to sign cards to force an election, but Dubnau declined Tuesday to say what percentage did in the blue collar union. He had said earlier that CWA would not seek an election unless more than 60 percent signed up. He also said CWA expects to file signature cards to seek an election among AME's 5,200 white collar workers shortly, but it has taken more time because of its larger size.

Randi Delirod, an AME spokeswoman, said their union will challenge the petition, claiming many union members were misled into signing cards believing they were only seeking more information, not backing the union takeover. "CWA has been disingenuous and lazy," she said.

A competing union can challenge an existing bargaining unit when the latter has no contract. AME has been without one since January. CWA organizers say their union will provide more clout to fight county officials seeking concessions. "The union has agreed to concession after concession and doesn't know how to fight the boss," said Dubnau.

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