11/30/07

SEIU members in revolt over compulsory dues

On November 26th, SEIU Local 1000 President Dave Hart made a visit to the Inland Empire's Caltrans Headquarters in downtown San Bernardino to persuade State and Caltrans employees to disapprove a measure that would not allow employees to pay the fair share measure regarding union dues.

The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has set an election to decide if employees who are not union members should continue to pay fair share fees in Unit 1. According to union officials, if fair share fees are rescinded, it will seriously hamper the Local 1000's ability to protect the gains on behalf of employees, fight the pending initiative to cut public employee pensions, stop contracting out and mount a strong and successful 2008 contract campaign.

According to Hart, "this election is about fairness, it's about security and it's about investment. State law requires Local 1000 to represent all employees regardless of whether or not they are union members. That means non-members get the raises, pensions, health care benefits and other rights that members have fought so hard to win. That's not fair. We believe everyone needs to share the cost of winning. It's an investment in economic security, job security, and retirement security."

But the majority of the employees that attended the event disagreed.

Employees pointed the finger at the Union's non responsiveness to union members' complaints about the management at Caltrans abuse of the hiring and promotion process.

Also, employees were not happy that although state employees recently received a three percent pay raise, the Union countered with a 1.5 union fee increase taking away almost fifty percent of the wage increase. Many employees made reference to the union that represents the engineers which received a 7 percent increase pay half the union dues of SEIU. Still others wanted to understand why there is not enough union staff to address issues based the recent union fee increases and in an example were told union staff had been directed to Los Angeles to support illegal immigration marches and could not attend an employee's hearing.

Many Black employees, and female employees at the event complained about the hiring and promotion practices being implemented by management and discussed the negative history of Caltrans management in the San Bernardino office toward Black employees. Some employees argued that many minorities and women have to leave this District and transfer to other Districts within Caltrans to receive promotion. Other discussed how an interim acting Director promoted her boyfriend to management although this Director was married and her husband worked at the District.

Employees demanded the Union investigate these claims, provide more representation and increase legal actions against management to ensure fairness in the workplace before they would continue the current process of fair share. Mr. Hart promised the employees they would have implement immediate actions on the issues brought forth. He stated that the Union has over 600,000 active and retired members and they can best represent the employees. Employees countered that although GM is the largest automobile company they are not building the best product, Honda and Toyota are, and maybe the other unions should have the opportunity to represent the employees.

Hart stated his job was made hard in getting employee raises because unions such as the prison guards gave Governor Gray Davis funds during his recall elections and received a huge pay raise in return. This hampers the bargaining process. Many employees stated they will vote "yes" which would allow the employees to not pay dues unless the Union starts representing the employees better, provide larger pay raises and address issues with Caltrans management in San Bernardino.

Employees say they are constantly given the black eye of waste in the government when it is really management that should be held accountable and all the conservative republican lawmakers should investigate. One Black female employee stated she would be contacting local Black elected officials such as Assemblymember Wilmer Carter to investigate the promotion process at Caltrans and why management has not renamed the building in memory of Rosa Parks.

One employee stated she overheard one of the director's complain it would cost too much and what did Rosa Parks do anyway. Another employee stated this just shows the view management at this District has of the Black community and gives a clear view of why Blacks are not being promoted to senior positions at this Caltrans location.

(blackvoicenews.com)

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