Goats vs. Union at Western Michigan

July 10, 2017

Goats. They’re cute, they’re used in yoga classes, they’re … taking union jobs?

That last charge is being leveled by a labor union against Western Michigan University. The institution recently brought in goats to clear overgrown brush and weeds from a wooded 16-acre lot, according to local media. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1668, however, says that the university’s use of goats violates the union’s labor agreement with Western Michigan.

The union has a contract to cut the grass at Western Michigan. While the goats aren’t being used to trim the grass, their use wasn’t discussed with the union ahead of time, and the union says they’re taking jobs that could have gone to Local’1668.

"AFSCME takes protecting the jobs of its members very seriously and we have an agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement with Western Michigan," Union President Dennis Moore told The Battle Creek Enquirer. "We expect the contract to be followed, and in circumstances where we feel it's needed, we file a grievance."

A spokeswoman for Western Michigan, Cheryl Roland, told the Enquirer that the nature of the work called for goats.

"For the second summer in a row, we've brought in a goat crew to clear undergrowth in a woodlot, much of it poison ivy and other vegetation that is a problem for humans to remove," Roland said. "Not wanting to use chemicals, either, we chose the goat solution to stay environmentally friendly."

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