MADISON, Wis. – The credit union employee who started the petition drive to decertify the Office and Professional Employees Union Local 39 from the institution learned what she needed to do from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), according to Kim Sponem, president of the $238 million, 42,000-member institution. "We can't influence the process in any way," Sponem said. "We did not prompt her to start the petition and did not tell her how to do it." The petition led to a formal vote in which the credit union employees decertified the union, 59-13. The union had represented the credit union's workers for over 60 years. John Peterson, business manager for the OPEU Local 39 had suggested that the procedures for starting the petition drive were complicated and little known and that the employee had been put up to it by management which, he said, had been wanting to decertify the union since the previous president, Mary Cunningham, arrived nine years before. "We will have to see if that employee is promoted," Peterson said. "They wouldn't do that right away because there is a window of time in which the union can file a complaint about it," he said. Sponem said the credit union had gotten feedback from employees in training sessions that the credit union could be improved by getting rid of the union. "Their comments kind of took us aback since of course it is not in our power to `get rid of the union,' " Sponem said. " We told them it's not our union, it's your union." Thirty of the credit union's 87 employees belonged to the union. Peterson alleged that one of the reasons the credit union lost the vote is because it had not had a chance to make a case for union membership to the 50-plus employees who did not belong. He suggested the credit union had declined to share the names of new employees with the union so the union could not contact them and explain why union membership was a benefit. But Sponem countered by observing that the union had a shop steward in the credit union, who was a full-time employee, and whose job it was to collect the signatures of new employees on a form through which they accepted or declined paying union dues. "If that person did not follow up with the employees that is not our responsibility," Sponem said. Sponem also declined knowledge of a meeting that Peterson alleged had taken place between then credit union president Mary Cunningham and himself when Cunningham had arrived at the institution. In the course of that meeting, Peterson said, Cunningham had expressed opposition to there being a union in the institution at all. But Sponem noted that Cunningham had been gone for a year and a half and that the credit union had negotiated two contracts since her departure. See related OPEIU Local 39 story on this page. [email protected]

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