Nine Months after the Delay: The Future of the Union Vote and Perspectives from BESO 

Nine months after their vote was impounded, the Bates Employee and Staff Organization (BESO) waits for a response from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) about the formation of their union. 

The NLRB is reviewing the decision to include both staff and non-tenure track faculty in the same union. Members of BESO remain committed to making progress. 

“It’s just giving us more time to unionize. It’s impacting us in a positive way, but it’s still frustrating,” Communication and Employment Coordinator for Bates Dining and a member of the BESO organizing committee Darlene Zupancic said. “And I would say that the employees of the college who had the opportunity to vote, whether they’re pro-union or non-union are all frustrated.” 

Zupancic joined BESO over a year ago when the push to unionize was still in its early stages and has watched and helped the organization grow to where it is now. With the revocation of many COVID-19 policies alongside an influx of new staff and faculty hires, BESO experienced drastic changes going into the 2022-2023 academic year.

“So I think the interesting piece of that is the new hires coming on board,” Zupancic said. “I think that there are a lot of new hires that aren’t even aware that we’re waiting for […] the ballots to be counted. I think that they don’t even know that there’s a union happening at this point.”

Zupancic also emphasized a need for open dialogue between those who stand both for and against the union, no matter their role in the college. She wanted the perspectives of all to be heard and didn’t wish for any tension moving forward in the event of any news from the NLRB. 

If union formation fails, BESO intends to continue pursuing its goals. 

“We definitely still have, you know, all the same goals. And I think all of them are sort of feeling even more urgent now as well,” Web Designer and BESO organizing committee member Olivia Orr said.

The administration has now been made aware of their concerns and many among the staff now feel as if they have more power to voice themselves openly, according to Orr. 

“I mean, the truth is, we can get things done even if we’re not an official union. We will find our own ways to organize and I think, push ideas through as a group,” Orr said. “I don’t think we need to be formally recognized to have solidarity with each other and support each other and continue to build community.” 

Despite the progress that’s been made, Orr also recounted how tiring the entire process has been over the past year, especially the process of reaching a union vote. 

“I did not realize, first of all, what the kind of emotionally taxing process this was going to be,” Orr said. “But I also was naive to the fact that it could take a year to sort of figure out the results. And I did not anticipate that we would be still without answers after our vote.” 

The administration has not relayed any new communications to students or staff about the delay. 

“The matter is in the hands of the National Labor Relations Board,” College Spokesperson Mary Pols said.

“We do not know how long it will take for the Board to reach its final decision,” President Clayton Spencer said in her most recent statement on March 18, 2022. “In the meantime, the ballots from the January election will remain impounded. We will make sure to keep you posted on developments, and, as always, I appreciate your patience as this process moves forward.”

The leadership and representatives of “Bates Employees No Union,” an organization that stands against the formation of a union at the college, did not respond to The Student’s inquiries.