BLM union comes to Moab
MOAB, Utah - Citing frustration with their
agency's treatment of natural resources and employees, Bureau of
Land Management staffers in two agency offices here voted to
unionize. In response, Moab District BLM managers filed an
objection to the Dec. 20 election with the Federal Labor Relations
The labor tension is the latest
controversy for the Moab District, home to one of Utah's most
popular sections of public lands. BLM officials in Moab have
endured criticism from ranchers, environmentalists, mountain
bikers, county commissioners and even Hollywood movie producers
over land-use decisions in southeast Utah's redrock canyon
Several employees say they grew tired
of management's "fiefdom" attitude in the Moab District and filed a
petition seeking a unionization vote with the Federal Labor
Relations Authority on Oct. 8,
"Management in Moab
District doesn't listen to anyone - the public, the state director,
even judges," said one district employee who asked for anonymity.
"They think they are lord over their subjects, so we tried to find
a bigger stick to hit them upside the head with."
Mail-in ballots distributed in December asked
51 eligible non-management employees if they wanted the National
Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) to act as their bargaining
agent with Moab District management. Uncertified results showed 27
voting yes, nine no and 15 ballots not returned.
NFFE representative Rick Snow said his union is preparing several
charges of unfair labor
"The morning after
the ballots were counted, managers announced several new policies,"
Snow said. Work breaks were trimmed to 15 minutes and employees
could no longer leave the building during their breaks. "It's
gotten to the point where employees have been told they are not
allowed to say anything but "Good morning" to other employees while
they are at work," Snow added.
Manager Roger Zortman would only say that "there's a lot more to
this than I can talk about."
Two other BLM
districts in Utah have unions - Cedar City and Richfield - and some
employees in those districts have benefits such as exercise periods
that Moab District staffers do not get.
representative Snow said Moab District managers have only
themselves to blame for the strained relationship with
"To get so many
people to petition on their own for a union vote in a small
southern Utah town, and to have such an overwhelming majority vote
in support of the union - that tells you there are big problems
with management," he said.