Published: Apr 08, 2011 11:34 PM EDT
Updated: Apr 08, 2011 4:52 PM EDT

The fight for union rights could be coming to Lee county government.   Organizers have worked quietly for months to build support for unionizing some of the workers under the control of commissioners and the county manager.    The group now has a website and is sending a letter to employees, urging them to:   Be wise and organize.

"A lot of workers in Florida are getting tired of employers writing checks off their backs.   Lee county has been doing that," said Bernie LaBelle, a national organizer for the Utility Workers Union.   "The workers in Lee  have not had a raise in 4 years.  They must take 10 furlough or un-paid days off a year.  They must give more to get their health benefits.  These people have lost a lot of money in four years, while the cost of living has gone up in that time.  Fiscal responsibility seems to be a problem for the county."

Organizers have a website at:

Commission chairman Frank Mann told WINK:   "They have a right to organize, under federal law.   No problem there.  But the strongest union in the world, unless they can print money, is not going to get more wages or benefits for the workers.  We have a 50-million dollar shortfall in the budget this year, and expect a 50-million dollar shortage next year as well.   Everyone should expect more cut-backs, union or no."

The organizers are trying to get members of the Public Works Department to authorize a union vote.  Public Works includes transportation and utility workers.    Several hundred would  be targeted for joining the union.     If the issue comes to an organizing vote, it would take 50 percent plus one to form a collective bargaining unit.    There is no estimate on when a vote might take place.