Santa Cruz County’s Second Failed Attempt to Restrict Release Time


Jim Heaney, Chief Steward and Building Plans Checker for Santa Cruz County, leads a rally for better working conditions during the 2016 County contract campaign.

In August 2017, we reported on a victory for stewards after an arbitrator concluded that Santa Cruz County Acting Personnel Director Ajita Patel violated our contract by denying our stewards’ right to paid release time to represent workers facing discipline. Although our contract gives stewards the right to represent their co-workers without loss of pay, Patel forced Chief Steward Jim Heaney to use vacation accruals to attend an arbitration hearing. So, SEIU filed a grievance. An arbitrator upheld our grievance and ordered back pay, but despite this ruling Patel denied Jim’s right to release time again two days later, forcing SEIU to arbitrate a second grievance.

The second arbitrator recently concluded the following: “The Union is understandably indignant about the County’s attempt to decide what types of arbitrations justify the designation of a Union representative, and who Local 521 may reasonably designate for that role. The MOU language is clear. A Local 521 designated representative, who will represent the Union at a meeting or hearing involving wages, hours, and working conditions, is entitled to paid release time.”

The arbitrator added, “Armed now with two arbitrators’ decisions, it should be clear to both parties that the MOU…gives Local 521 authority to designate its representative for hearings involving wages, hours or working conditions of bargaining unit employees. These decisions are final and binding…and should serve as a compelling precedent for any future, comparable circumstances.”

Read the full decision here.

“With the Janus Supreme Court decision now impacting our union, the last thing we need is another barrier to effectively representing our workers. We are very happy to have successfully defended our stewards’ right to paid release time.”

– Jim Heaney, Chief Steward, Santa Cruz County Chapter


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