AUBURN — Dozens of Androscoggin County workers — dispatchers, jail guards and a few patrol officers — are growing beards to protest their lack of a labor contract.
"We've got 100 percent involvement," said David Trafford, who leads the 75-member union local 1828 of AFSCME Council 93. Those unable to grow beards are wearing polo shirts and jeans or alternative uniforms.
Since public safety workers are unable to strike, the job action was called to vent some frustration. Its details were negotiated with Sheriff Guy Desjardins, to ensure that no one would be disciplined, Trafford said.
The workers have been without a contract since the start of 2009. The negotiation between county commissioners has gone on and on, with marathon meetings during the summer and both sides headed to mediation.
They tossed out the razors about two weeks ago.
"Some of us are looking pretty scruffy," Trafford said. Among them are the officers who transport inmates from the county jail. Most patrol deputies are unable to grow their beards because they could be called to situations where they must wear gas masks or other headgear.
The Sun Journal was unable to reach Sheriff Guy Desjardins for comment. Randall Greenwood, the chairman of the county commission, declined to make a statement.
For himself, Trafford seemed to think the new look — sporting a goatee, polo shirt and jeans — was working.
"I'm doing it all," he said.