Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs Housing Authority employees looking to unionize

Employees of the embattled Saratoga Springs Housing Authority want to unionize and establish their o

Employees of the embattled Saratoga Springs Housing Authority want to unionize and establish their own Civil Service Employees Association bargaining unit.

“They did approach me. They want to be part of the CSEA,” said Kathy Moran, president of one of two CSEA units in City Hall and president of the Saratoga County CSEA, which consists of 11 individual units.

Earlier this year, the Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners imposed a wage freeze on all employees for the 2012-13 budget year because of reductions in subsidies from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Renewal.

The authority was also the subject of criticism over its handling of bedbug infestations at the Stonequist Apartments on South Federal Street late last year. The pay increases given to Executive Director Edward Spychalski in recent years, as well as those given to authority accountant Cindy Gaugler, have been scrutinized by city officials in recent months.

Moran said the majority of about a dozen authority employees have signed cards expressing their desire to become CSEA members. The CSEA, in turn, has sent a letter to the authority’s Board of Commissioners asking them to voluntarily recognize the union.

Board Chairman Eric Weller said the board has received a letter that gives it 30 days to respond to the request. The request will be discussed at the board’s meeting at 11 a.m. Sept. 20 in the Stonequist Apartments.

“In my view of things, unions are not necessarily a complete negative. At one time, they were thought of as a positive force,” Weller said Wednesday.

He said the authority employees “have every right” to organize. Asked if he planned to fight the employees’ efforts to unionize, he said, “I’m not sure what good it would do.”

If commissioners were to vote against the employees’ request, the employees and the CSEA could take the matter to the state Public Employment Relations Board, according to Therese Assalian, a spokeswoman at CSEA regional headquarters in Latham. She said the union would have to show more than half of authority employees wanted to unionize. Once the majority interest was determined, PERB would set a hearing and seek a formal vote by the employees.

“We are hoping that it doesn’t go that far. We are optimistic” the board will recognize the union voluntarily, Assalian said.

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