Asplundh tree-trimmers in Indiana recently voted 67 to 6 to join the IBEW, the 22nd successful organizing election at the company in less than two years.
The 111 Fort Wayne-Muncie tree-trimmers will become members of Indianapolis Local 1393 after their first contract is signed. The IBEW is now negotiating contracts for more than 1,000 Asplundh employees and additional elections are in the coming weeks around the country.
“I was really hoping for a vote this strong that would show the company that they would stand up for themselves and each other,” said Sixth District Lead Organizer Mike Green of the Feb. 12 vote.
Green said the victory built on an earlier win in Michigan (see Asplundh’s Mich. Workers Win Voice for the original coverage.) Tree trimmers there voted 69 to 11 for representation by Grand Rapids Local 876 on Oct. 2.
An inherently dangerous profession, tree-trimmers are noting the safety protections as well as other benefits of collective bargaining.
“Many of the tree trimmers in Indiana have worked in Michigan and vice versa, so there is a real connection,” Green said. “We began an all-out organizing push just after their vote win and had an election petition filed within a few weeks.”
Membership Development International Representative Alan Freeman said the organizing drive at Asplundh is gaining strength and speed.
“Workers in one place are talking, and workers everywhere else are listening. Social media has been a huge part of our success at Asplundh,” Freeman said.
Brian Groom, Sixth District lead organizer in Michigan, said the win is part of a regional wave of organizing fervor that grew out of a vicious series of November 2013 wind and ice storms.
“It was a real storm with terrible damage and a lot of Asplundh guys ended up working beside IBEW utility workers,” Groom said. “They figured out they were kind of getting the shaft.”
Green said that every election is unique, but there is a common thread through all of the yes votes. .
“During the recession, the mind set was ‘I have a job and I need to keep it,’” Green said. “Now that the work is starting to come back, they have choices to go somewhere else and get better pay and better conditions, or they can stay here and improve their conditions and go home at night. They got the picture. They get it.”
Freeman says Asplundh organizing is accelerating across the country in North Carolina, Connecticut, Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia and Ohio.