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Union rep says Yellowstone workers contract could take a year

Yellowstone National Park's west entrance on Wednesday.
Olivia Weitz/Yellowstone Public Radio
Yellowstone National Park's west entrance on Wednesday.

Full-and-part time workers at Yellowstone National Park voted to join the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Yellowstone Public Radio’s Orlinda Worthington explores the next steps to implementing the first employee union contract in a national park.

Employees voted by over 80% in favor of joining the union.

Rob Arnold is a Business Representative for the National Federation of Federal Employees. He says the goal is to have a contract in place by the next season, but it could take longer.

“The union will put together a negotiating team. They’ll need to have elections to get officers for the local and for a massive park that has very limited cell coverage, they'll have to figure out the logistics of how they're going to communicate with the membership on the latest news and, and goings on in the union,” according to Arnold.

Arnold says several grievances over the years led to the call for a union, including high employee turnover with those remaining getting bigger and bigger workloads, limited telework positions, housing costs, concern over arsenic in the drinking water and of course wages.

“The government benefits from the enthusiasm that these people to go out and seek out these jobs. The agency just kind of knows that they can pay them less. And in addition to that the temporary seasonal workers do not accrue any benefit for their federal retirement,” Arnold said.

Arnold says many of these grievances are also true for other federal land management agencies.

Workers who fall under the union include Interpretive Park Rangers, educators, researchers, fee collectors, first responders, firefighters, and other staff working for the Department of Interior’s National Park Service.

NFFE also represents employees at several national forests in Montana.

Orlinda Worthington hosts “Morning Edition” weekdays on YPR. She brings 20 years of experience as Montana television news anchor, producer, and reporter.