LINCOLN, Maine — Two town employees have filed a complaint alleging that Town Manager John Sutherland tried to stop them from joining a union.
Two transfer station workers were at work on March 17 when Sutherland questioned their plans to join Teamsters Local No. 340 of Portland, according to a complaint filed March 31 with the Maine Labor Relations Board by Traci Place, the union’s business agent.
The workers had recently applied to join Local 340. When the workers told Sutherland of their plans, he “then said that this was not going to happen,” and told the workers to negotiate with the Town Council rather than join a union, according to the complaint. Sutherland denies the allegation, officials said Friday.
State law prohibits anyone from interfering with public workers’ right to join a union. The board will hold a prehearing conference on the complaint in Augusta on June 14, according to board Executive Director Mark Ayotte.
The complaint is the second allegation of misdeeds against Sutherland this year. Hired in December, Sutherland, 50, was issued a summons on Feb. 14 for Class E criminal trespass and Class D criminal mischief for allegedly breaking into a garage in Castle Hill on Nov. 5. The charges are pending. Sutherland was Lubec’s town administrator at the time of the alleged crime.
According to a counterclaim filed by attorney Sarah Newell, Sutherland admitted to having the conversation but denied any wrongdoing. He only explained that if the workers joined the union, it would negotiate wages and if they didn’t, they could approach the council directly, Newell said.
The two workers joined the union on May 11. Local 340 the town’s Water District, Public Works, police and school department employees, Place said.
Council Chairman George Edwards defended Sutherland, saying that the workers’ claim is baseless, based on his conversation with the town manager.
Hired in December with a three-year contract at a salary of $60,000, Sutherland’s six-month probationary period ends next month, Edwards said.