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Eskaton Village Grass Valley union votes to disband

An employee union for Eskaton Village Grass Valley, a sticking point between some employees and management, voted last month to disband.

The 53-to-4 decision occurred in a vote-by-mail ballot. Eighty-nine people were eligible to vote, with 59 of them casting ballots. One ballot was challenged and another found void, leaving 57, the National Labor Relations Board reports.

Pay raises have been implemented since the vote discarded a collective bargaining agreement, said Paige Ryan, the community’s executive director.

“What this means is that our employees believe that they did not, in fact, need a union,” said Betsy Donovan, Eskaton’s chief operating officer.

A spokesperson for the union couldn’t be reached for comment.

According to Donovan, employees initiated the vote to disband over the summer. The labor relations board states that ballots were mailed Aug. 20 and counted Sept. 12. Vote certification occurred about a week later.

Eskaton Village Grass Valley has operated under a two-year collective bargaining agreement, and was about to enter negotiations for another when the vote occurred. Without a union, further negotiations won’t happen, Donovan said.

“It’s back to a union-free community,” she added.

Donovan praised Ryan, the community’s executive director, and her leadership team.

Ryan said that Eskaton was prohibited from assisting its employees in their efforts to disband the union. Employees spent their off-hours to learn about the process and then implement the vote.

With the collective bargaining agreement null and void, Eskaton Village Grass Valley was allowed to change its workers pay rates. It’s since told 102 employees they’re getting raises. Additionally, employees can now receive a free meal every shift — something impossible under the old agreement, Ryan said.

“To me, I think these are real, certainly, improvements to the quality of life of our team,” Ryan said.

The dissolution of Eskaton’s union came two years after a similar effort failed.

An October 2016 vote ended in a 25-to-25 tie. A vote in April 2016 favored the union, 27 to 22, labor relations board records show.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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