More than 40 Gilbert employees rallied during Tuesday's Gilbert Town Council meeting, urging the town to make more clear what kind of vote is needed to form a union that would be able to meet and confer with town management over salaries and benefits.
The group largely wore Service Employees International Union T-shirts, and said that of the 42 percent of service employees who voted on whether to join or start a local union, 88 percent voted in favor, with 197 voting yes and 28 opposing the union.
"We're asking for the chance to have a union, so we can have voice and a seat at the table," said Albert Moreta, a mechanic for the town's fleet maintenance department. "I saved the town a lot of money. Fleet maintenance saved the town a lot of money."
However, it's unclear under a new town ordinance whether employees must receive a majority vote from only those who take part in the election, or from every employee past the probationary period, in order to form a union to meet and confer during budget talks.
The ordinance approved last year states that an "employee organization must receive a majority of votes from the eligible employees within the employee group," and the language has confused some.
If every service employee were required to vote, then the employees would not have gotten the majority needed, despite the strong approval from those who voted. But some read the code, or the intent of the Town Council, as meaning the union needs only majority votes from those who take part in the election.
"We're not trying to jerk you on anything," Mayor Steve Berman said. "We do appreciate everything you do."
The council agreed to discuss at a future meeting what their intent was, and to determine whether the employee group has enough votes to form a union.
Councilman Dave Crozier said his intent was to allow interested employees to form a union, to be able to meet with town officials and have a voice. Town code previously restricted employees from designating a union or a representative to speak on their behalf during budget negotiations.
If a union is formed, employees would not be required to join it under state law, but employees who aren't in the union could be affected by any of its negotiations with the town.