Members of the Scarborough Public Works Department, who unionized a year ago, picket on Route 1 outside Town Hall May 28. The union has met with town officials 11 times, and still has not arrived at a contract. Sean Murphy / The Forecaster

This story was updated June 2, 2021.

An informational picket outside Scarborough Town Hall last Friday had not, as of Wednesday afternoon, led to any new contract negotiations between town officials and unionized public works employees, but the newly minted union is getting the word out about their dispute, according to Teamsters Local 350 business agent Ed Marzano.

“We got a lot of good support,” Marzano said this week.

Scarborough Public Works employee and union member Scott Griffin pickets on Route 1 May 28, along with his son, Blake, 4 months. Sean Murphy / The Forecaster

The union, which comprises 15 of the public works department’s 29 workers, has been negotiating a new contract since it formed in May 2020. The parties have met 11 times, once with a mediator, and still have not settled on a contract.

At midday Friday, close to a dozen workers gathered along Route 1 in front of the parking lot outside Town Hall. The union is associated with Teamsters Local 340, and its business agent, Ed Marzano, said the Teamsters arranged for an 18-wheel trailer from Massachusetts to park in the lot as a visual show of support.

“It rallies our troops and it draws attention,” Marzano said, noting that the union held similar actions in Lisbon and Auburn within the past month.

Both the union members and town officials said this was the first time in memory that municipal employees had ever picketed. All picketers, Pallotta said, were officially off the clock. As municipal workers, they are forbidden by law to go on strike.

Marzano said union members picketed from noontime until about 4 p.m., and some local residents came to ask questions. The picket was peaceful, he said, which was the intent.

Marzano said so far, there’s been no formal response from the town as far as negotiations are concerned.

“I have not contacted them, and I have not received any contact from the town,” he said.

But, Marzano added, none of the picketing workers faced any reprisals once they went back to work as scheduled this week.

On Friday, Union members cheered as cars and trucks blew their horns driving by. The members responded by blasting small air horns. They waved signs emblazoned with slogans such as, “Stop the War on Workers,” “We want what we deserve,” and “Where is our support Tom?” the latter a reference to Town Manager Tom Hall.

Union member Scott Moulton said he wants the picket to draw attention to the union’s cause. Public works employees have had to contend with cutbacks other town departments haven’t had to endure, such as the loss of town-issued pagers, cutbacks to insurance and inadequate pay.

“Other departments are gaining what we’re losing, and I think that’s wrong,” he said.

A Teamsters trailer, parked in the parking lot outside Scarborough Town Hall, provides visible support to members of the Scarborough Public Works Department, who were picketing May 28 over a contract dispute with town officials. Sean Murphy / The Forecaster

Fellow union member Spencer Rice agreed with other members that Friday’s picket represents long-term disputes finally coming to a head.

“We knew that at some point in time this was going to happen,” he said.

Hall told The Forecaster earlier this week that he and other town officials want to come to an agreement with the union. On Friday, he praised the union for protesting in a civil, organized manner. They secured permission before picketing, he said, and were not disrupting town business.

“We certainly respect their rights,” Hall said. “We’re not standing in their way.”

Union members said they did not know what impact the picket will have, but they hoped it would underscore the need for both parties to get back to the bargaining table.

“If it helps our future, improves our wages, we’re all for it,” Moulton said.

Now, Marzano said, his next move is to draft and send a letter to Hall and the town council outlining the union’s grievances in detail. From there, he said, union members plan to hand out informational flyers at public events. He stressed that union members will not be aggressive, that they only want the public to hear their concerns.

“We think that there’s a story to be told,” he said.

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