The end of 2016 was a turbulent time for Public Safety Dispatchers in the City of Palo Alto. Citing holiday staffing concerns, management unilaterally decided to change the vacation bidding practice even though it was negotiated in 2015 and memorialized in a side letter agreement. Management claimed the side letter had expired four months after it was signed and was no longer in effect.
This greatly strained the labor-management relationship and Lead Dispatcher Sheavounda Walker, Steward Joseph Luttrell, and their fellow dispatchers decided to fight back. The workers filed a total of four grievances and threatened to file unfair practice charges with the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).
In October 2016, when the city claimed impasse, it was the dispatchers who found a solution and worked together to cover all the vacant holiday shifts without the need to change existing practices. Much of 2017 was spent meeting with management and preparing for the arbitration scheduled in August. Right before the arbitration, the city finally agreed to honor the side letter until such time as it could be renegotiated.
By December 2017, and after the mysterious resignation of a problematic manager, the relationship between labor and management had greatly improved. Workers were able to negotiate with management over the final few issues. A settlement agreement was signed which promised an “open and transparent” process. This spirit of cooperation was in stark contrast to the contentious relationship that existed only one year earlier.
Congratulations to all the dispatchers who came together and fought for their rights – Together We Rise!