Auditor ordered to pay workers by March 1, with penalties
If you were short-changed on overtime wages between August 28, 2010 and September 18, 2011, your back pay is finally on the horizon.
For more than two years, SEIU 521 members demanded that County Auditor Mike Miller pay employees what they are owed after his $22 million payroll system miscalculated overtime wages during those 13 months.
Now an arbitrator has determined the County violated our MOUs and ordered that Miller pay all SEIU members what they are owed by March 1, 2013. The arbitrator also ordered that all SEIU members receive an additional 10% of their back wages owed. If Miller fails to comply with the deadline, the penalty will increase to 20%.
This is a huge win for SEIU 521 members. Workers and their SEIU Contract Enforcement Department filed four grievances on behalf of 2,700 county employees, and SEIU member leaders have gone back and forth with County management to determine why employee paychecks were botched up and how to fix it. After two years of empty promises from the County, we took our grievances to a neutral arbitrator.
Although the County claimed our MOUs were not violated, and that our MOUs were “vague and ambiguous,” the arbitrator determined otherwise.
“The arbitrator confirmed what we already knew: the payroll system conversion has been a catastrophe that cheated many of us out of our pay. After two years of patiently waiting for a paycheck, giving the Auditor more time is not acceptable. I want to thank our SEIU overtime grievance members for their continued support to see this through and right the wrong by the Auditor’s payroll system.”
— Max Stone, DSES
“As SEIU members, I think we have more perseverance and tenacity than the Auditor ever expected. We proved that he’s been dragging his feet in paying us what we are rightfully owed. Now, there should be no more excuses, or we will hold the Auditor accountable to the Board of Supervisors, the CAO, and, as a last resort, the voters who elected him – us.”
— Nick Diaz, Natividad Medical Center
Who is affected?
At this time there is no official list of who is affected by this and what they are owed. The arbitrator’s decision forces the auditor to compile this information. Stay tuned for more updates on this issue.
Binding arbitration: the next big fight
What is binding arbitration? It’s arguably the most important part of our contract. It’s the leverage we use to protect employees from abuse and ensure managers follow rules. When our union files a grievance over a contract violation or to protest a wrongful discharge, the dispute often leads to a hearing before a neutral judge, or arbitrator, whose decision is final and binding. Hence, “binding arbitration.”
Some contracts do not have binding arbitration, and the final decider of a grievance is often a top-level administrator. In Monterey County, we have enjoyed binding arbitration for many years, and the County has never challenged the binding effect of arbitration decisions… until now. After losing a number of disciplinary appeals in recent years, the County has suddenly taken a position that disciplinary arbitration is not final and binding. Therefore, if an arbitrator orders management to reinstate an employee, certain county attorneys believe the order can be ignored. They are wrong. Eliminating binding arbitration is a huge change to our contract. SEIU recently filed an unfair practice charge against County attorneys in response to their unilateral change. In the months ahead, stay tuned for more information as we fight to preserve this very important contract protection: Binding arbitration.
The Payroll Action Team included: