Utica Zoo workers to vote on forming a union: What you need to know

Kallen Muste, 24, has a great co-worker who makes her job easier, a co-worker with a big personality who is easy to work with and whose bright orange scales brighten up the workplace.

Muste, an educator and animal ambassador at the Utica Zoo, talks about Mango, an Everglades ratsnake who helps him teach people about animals and conservation. Part of Muste’s job is also to ensure that Mango and the zoo’s more than 70 other animal ambassadors receive the proper care – nutrition, habitat, exercise, enrichment – to keep them as healthy and happy as possible, he said. -he declares.

But Muste and some other zoo workers don’t think the zoo administration pays the same attention to the treatment of staff.

The 28 staff members – zookeepers, educators, veterinary technicians, building and gardeners, administrative specialists and gift shop employees – will vote by secret ballot on Thursday to join the Civil Service Employees Association, or CSEA, which already represents workers from the Rosamund Gifford Zoo in Syracuse and the Buffalo Zoo.

A worker gives treats to Mexican spider monkeys Manuel and Negra at the Utica Zoo in this file photo.

“I’ve seen way too many team members leave because of general stress, exhaustion,” zookeeper Caleb LaRocca told members of the Utica Common Council at a meeting earlier this year. this month. “And they just get fed up and they have too much and they have to leave for their health or for other reasons.”

And by improving working conditions for zoo staff, including listening more to their ideas and observations, the zoo will become a better place for everyone, including the animals, he argued.

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