Get in the Spring Spirit with UAW Members at Cornell Botanic Gardens


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Springtime is here and as we prep our gardens and landscapes for the new season, we’re reminded that some of our UAW members have quite unique jobs. So today, we highlight our members at the Cornell Botanic Gardens at the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in Ithaca, New York, representing UAW Region 9, Local 2300.

Cornell Botanic GardenWithin the 3,500 acres that make up the Cornell Botanic Gardens and the 40 different nature areas around Tomkins County, our members are tasked with numerous areas of specialties including gardeners, arborists, landscapers and facilities.

Jules Ginenthal is the Natural Areas Stewardship Coordinator and one of 23 UAW members at the gardens.

“The Cornell Botanic Gardens is vast. We have the Botanic Gardens, the F.R. Newman Arboretum containing many collections of trees and the Natural Areas where I work,” said Ginenthal.

Though people are always surprised to learn that he and his co-workers are UAW members, he says like the rest of his union brothers and sisters, the wants and needs of workers are universal.

“We are part of a union because we wanted to have standardized rules, the right to collectively bargain, to make fair wages, a safe work environment, protections and job security. Thanks to the UAW contract, we were able to get a clothing allowance increase which is important for what we do out here,” said Ginenthal. UAW members at Cornell Botanic Gardens use the clothing allowance to purchase apparel required for their job.

Spring is the perfect time to visit the Cornell Botanic Gardens or find a nature preserve in your own area to witness the most beautiful wildflowers that appear in the woods.

“I want people to get out and explore nature and see the trillium, bloodroot, hepatica and toothwart growing around them.

“When visitors come to the Natural Areas here, I don’t think they realize who preserves it and what it takes to maintain the wild area,” Ginenthal added. “There are nature and hiking trails in the Nature Area and those trails have to be maintained and serviced starting in the spring when we look for issues with wet spots, slides, erosion and broken stairs.  We have creeks, waterfalls, and cliffs here and sometimes we have to put on harnesses to climb or repel to service those areas,” said Ginenthal.

Recently, the university decided to change the name from Cornell Plantations to Cornell Botanic Gardens. The change means replacing thousands of signs posted along the boundary of the property. But for Ginenthal, changing the signs is an opportunity to get out of the office to deep reaches of the gardens.

“That’s my favorite part – exploring the back corners of the property. We don’t always get to see those parts and this gives me a chance to explore and wander to the edges and see things off the beaten path,” he said.

Emily Detrick is a gardener and takes care of the Pounder Vegetable Garden and the Ground Cover Collection at the Cornell Botanic Gardens. Her job includes planning, planting and general upkeep of these areas, as well as educational programming such as tours, classes and interpretive signage.

“People are envious I get to work outside!,” said Detrick. “They ask lots of questions about what it’s like to work at a botanic garden, and are often surprised that we are members of the UAW.  It’s nice to explain the relationship between the union and university and how the UAW supports us. I like the sense of community and common goals. We are all stronger together, and it connects us across the university even if our jobs seem very different.

“There are intangible benefits, like working outside and working with students from the university, as well as the tangible benefits offered by the university and union. I appreciate that the UAW has my health and safety concerns covered, as there are some risks involved in my day to day work,” she said.

With springtime here, our experts at the Cornell Botanic Gardens want to remind us to plan early. Have an irrigation plan in place because it’s easier to lay out drip irrigation and soaker hoses before plants get big. 

“We learned a tough lesson in last year’s drought:  We all need to be more water-wise,” said Detrick.

As we sit at our desks, in our offices, as we work on the line, in our plants – think spring and remember that in Ithaca, New York, UAW members are working in some of this country’s most beautiful landscape. No matter how unique our jobs or offices, we are all one. We are the UAW.

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