CED on your side: Stewards protect our union rights at PERB

CED On Your Side
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State issues two complaints against County Emergency Communications Department

SEIU 521 stewards challenged management decisions that adversely affected employees and resolved two complaints issued by the State of California against the Monterey County Emergency Communications Department.

Tre Law and Don Clark“Throughout my career as a public safety dispatcher, I have tried to better our working conditions, improve morale, close loopholes in policies, and offer ideas to increase productivity. I also have a duty, as a union steward, to enforce our contract. I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I hope management will continue to respect our rights and work with us as partners toward achieving our common goals.”
— Tre Law (on left) with Don Clark.

Earlier this year, our Local 521 Contract Enforcement Department (CED) filed two unfair practice charges against Monterey County with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the agency that oversees and enforces collective bargaining laws in California.

We filed these charges against the county for two reasons. First, the county unilaterally imposed significant and far-reaching changes to the working conditions of Don Clark, a long-time Local 521 steward at the 911 center. Also, around the same time, 911 managers retaliated against another steward, Tre Law, after he solicited feedback from his co-workers on ways to improve working conditions.

Tre received a written reprimand alleging he was insubordinate and challenged management’s authority. Management even had the audacity to insist that he seek their authorization before discussing union issues!  “They were violating my protected rights and abusing their authority,” Tre recalled.

No-solicitation rules are against the law under PERB statutes. Union members can communicate with each other concerning their employment conditions, and employers are generally not allowed to interfere in such communications. Union members also cannot be retaliated against for engaging in union activity. So we were very confident in our position that not only had Tre been retaliated against for his activities as a steward, but 911 managers were also attempting to restrain employees from talking about union issues by imposing an unlawful “no-solicitation” rule.

PERB agreed there was enough evidence to warrant further examination of the county’s unlawful actions. But, before a hearing could be set, the county finally backed down. Without admitting any wrongdoing, the county withdrew its reprimand against Tre. The county also agreed to put a process in place that would eventually restore Don’s working conditions as they were before the county imposed its new terms and conditions of employment without meeting and conferring with our union, which was also a violation of PERB statutes.

Rarely are two PERB complaints simultaneously issued against the same employer. But here, the violations actually arose out of the same department! Tre and Don are to be commended for stepping up to protect our union rights.

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