Union files grievance over 'goat crews' clearing brush on university campus

I love this story. Last year Western Michigan University contracted with a company called Munchers on Hooves to bring a group of goats on campus to clear half an acre of brush. The trial was such a success that this year the goats are back, this time to clear 15 acres filled with poison ivy. But the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has filed a grievance against the school, claiming the “goat crews” are unauthorized workers. From the Battle Creek Enquirer:

The 400-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has filed a grievance contending that the work the goats are doing in a wooded lot is taking away jobs from laid-off union workers.

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

The grievance alleges that the university did not notify the union that it was planning to use goat crews on campus, according to a chief steward report supplied to the Battle Creek Enquirer.

The university is reviewing the grievance in accordance with its regular procedures but confirms no human workers were laid off because of the goats. The co-owner of Munchers on Hooves tells the Associated Press there’s enough work to go around:

“This stuff is so thick,” said Munchers co-owner Gina Fickle of the woodland. She said that human laborers can always come in to finish the work after the goats clear up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) above the ground.

“Goats aren’t there taking work away from anybody, they’re making it safer for people,” Fickle said.

I suspect the real reason the university hired the goats is that they do more work for a lot less money. If so, it raises the question of whether the school should have a union contract for this work in the first place.