Posted Oct. 2, 2012. Updated Oct. 23, 2012.
SEIU 521 San Benito County members will not be silenced.
When the county infringed on workers’ free speech rights, members challenged the county all the way to the court and won a civil rights lawsuit Sept. 28. Shortly after the workers’ victory, County Administrative Officer Rich Inman filed his resignation.
“This is a win for civil rights and freedom of speech. We are pleased with the outcome of the settlement and happy that we won back our right to free speech. It’s unfortunate we had to file a lawsuit to have the county respect our civil rights.”
– Martha Booker, SEIU 521 San Benito County chapter president
The lawsuit was over the county’s policy on political activity, which violated members’ free speech rights by illegally prohibiting them from:
- Displaying bumper stickers, pictures or posters at their homes and/or personal vehicles during working hours
- Engaging in political activities, including union-related activities on personal time in break rooms, parking lots, and other areas
- Wearing campaign badges in non-public work areas within county facilities
The county had threatened to discipline workers for not following the policy. However, members maintained that the county’s policy and actions violated both State and Federal constitutions and rights. When members’ attempts at resolving the issue were not met by the county, members took the next step and filed suit.
The county will update the political activity policy and pay SEIU Local 521 $10,000 for legal fees.
In the press:
County retreats on policy banning political activities
Printed in the San Benito County Today – Oct. 12, 2012.