UTICA, NY (10/05/2022) (readMedia)-- Workers employed with Utica Zoo recently began organizing to form a union with CSEA. The group of 26 Zookeepers, Veterinary Technicians, Education and Ambassador Animal Specialists, Buildings and Groundkeepers, Administrative Specialist and Gift shop employees are seeking better working conditions and a stronger voice on the job. Recent dissatisfaction over staffing and high turnover challenges have led to the group to come together and seek bargaining with their employer as a group.

Inspired by the recent Starbucks and Amazon grassroots organizing campaigns, the team is hopeful that through union negotiations, they can work with management to ensure the best use of taxpayer dollars, staff and capital resources to solve the issues they face and help make the Zoo a better place to visit, work and live for the residents.

Caleb LaRocca, Zookeeper, B.A. Biology, Keene State College, NH, has worked at the zoo for more than 2 years. LaRocca said, "A union is the best way for employees to stand together, to make our voices heard by administration and to ensure that our labor, experience, and health are valued appropriately. The staff here are fantastic and deserve to be treated

fairly, and when the workplace fails at that, great people end up choosing to leave the zoo and the zoo suffers." LaRocca has experience with the power of a union through his mother, an elementary school teacher, which had a profound impact on Caleb's upbringing and available opportunities. LaRocca knew that the Buffalo and Syracuse Zoos are both CSEA represented and thought, "Why not Utica Zoo, too?"

Kallen Muste, an Educator, at the Utica Zoo, B.S. in Marine Vertebrate Biology from Stony Brook University. Muste said, "I understand the benefit of being in a union. We seek a place at the table to deal with staffing issues, poor pay and discuss the need for better benefits. High turnover rates waste time and money. The pathways for negotiation and complaint management that a union would provide would help us to achieve better conditions for the people who work here and by extension the animals who we care for and support. I love this zoo and want to see it be better, and I think that as employees, being able to stand up for ourselves together will help us do just that."

Garrett Buck, Zookeeper, B.S. in Animal Science from Cal. Polytech with minors in Wildlife Biology and Spanish is originally from the state of Washington, graduated at and worked in San Jose California for several years before coming to the Utica Zoo in February. Buck is also a Zookeeper and said. "Since I have been here, I have seen issues that require us to work closely with management to solve. We are not being heard through traditional channels, so we are building our union to make our voice stronger. I believe having a union will lead to greater worker retention and improved animal care in the long run."

The Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) is one of the largest and most influential unions in New York and the United States. CSEA has about 300,000 members and represents state, county, municipal, school district, child care, and private sector employees. Formed in 1910, CSEA has improved the lives of hardworking New Yorkers for more than 100 years,

and is the largest affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). For more information, go to CSEANY.org.