Efforts to Unionize at Stanley Associates (WCAX-TV)

Several Vermont lawmakers are supporting St. Albans immigration workers who want to join a union. It's a message they are now sending to the head of the company, Stanley Associates.

"We come in every day. We do our job and we don't get any recognition. We don't get any dignity," says employee Jeanette Weiland.

Employees say it's a working environment that deteriorates every day.

Virginia-based Stanley Incorporated took over operations at the U.S. Agency of Citizenship and Immigration Services Center in St. Albans last month, and quickly cut the wages of 100 of the center's 400+ employees by about $60 a week.

"We are still doing the exact same job... and now we're getting less money for it and we're actually doing more," explains worker Sharon Bigelow.

Now many of those employees are petitioning to join a union. They expect opposition from Stanley. The company has already hired a well-known law firm with a history of union avoidance, and is distributing literature to employees urging them to not to pursue union membership.

But the union advocates are staying the course and are calling upon Vermont lawmakers to back them up.

"I sometimes get the feeling that some of these out-of-state companies think we're a bunch of bazoons [sic] here and apparently these employees are not going to put up with that and I support that," says Rep. Jim Fitzgerald, D-St. Albans.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and more than a dozen state legislators have signed the letter that's being sent to the CEO of Stanley Associates, asking the company to respect the employees right to form a union.

"We've tried to talk to them ourselves and we now need the union or someone to help us because we've lost good workers," says Bigelow.

But lost workers and wage cuts aren't the only issue motivating Stanley employees. They say they're also upset because workers in the company aren't being treated equally, due to the way the company is structured. Several different contractors work under the Stanley contract, which means there are people who work in this building that sit right next to each other, have worked the same amount of time, the same job, but get paid different wages.

"So the gal sitting next to me who started the very same day I did, she has a 401K. I don't. She has health insurance. I can't use mine," says worker Francine Hayes.

Stanley employees voted overwhelming against joining a union in 2003. Two-thirds of the center's employees have signed a petition this time around calling for a vote on the matter.

"It unites us. It gives us a representative," says Weiland.

Union representatives hope to hold an election by the end of January.

We reached the vice president of Stanley, Incorporated this afternoon, but he declined to comment.