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Winter 2013-14

Why planner fled right-to-work state

by County and City Employee staff on February 24, 2014

URBAN PLANNER Colin Maycock was working at a regional development center in Georgia when it hit him.

“I came to realize what working in a right-to-work state does to people,” he says. “You work for barely above-minimum wages and receive few benefits.

“I saw what it did to the community. Everybody’s expectations are lowered. The result is that the standards of acceptable working conditions drop and you get treated progressively worse.”

As a result, he wanted out of Georgia. And he did not want to move to any right-to-work state.

So, in 2006, when Canadian-born Maycock saw the position of long-range planner advertised by San Juan County, he applied for it. Having lived in Vancouver, B.C. for a few years — where he earned a Master of Arts degree in urban geography at the University of British Columbia — he knew something about the San Juan Islands. And, most important, he knew that Washington was not a right-to-work state and that he could join a union.

He knew something about urban planning, too, having obtained a master’s degree in the subject from the University of Texas and having worked in the field in Georgia.

Today, as regional planner for San Juan County, Maycock finds himself balancing property rights, zoning and environmental standards. Among his duties is to handle zoning for towns as well as the county’s shoreline master program.

“It’s balancing a community’s expectations with the requirements of the law,” he says. “We try to develop plans that will make people’s lives better.”

Maycock, who grew up in England before returning to his birth country in the 1980s, first became involved in union activities when he joined the Canadian Union of Public Employees while working in the library at the University of British Columbia.

After attending a few Council 2 meetings, he was asked to serve on a union negotiations team. Before long he was appointed to a vacant position on Local 1849’s executive board. He became president of the union in 2010.

“One of the things I hear people ask is: What do I get for my dues?” he says. “I reply that the union pays you every day. You get decent wages, health care and good working conditions. Management is more accountable.”

After all, Maycock should know. “Sometimes it is not easy to see that, but once you have worked in places where unions are almost non-existent, you appreciate it so much more.”

Staff Representative Vinnie O’Connor says Maycock is analytical in his thinking, is quick to grasp issues and always has clear insightful questions when he is at the negotiating table.

“He thinks in terms of the members’ best interests even though they may differ from those he personally supports,” O’Connor adds.