It’s been about six months since the first of three groups of city employees associated with the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM) filed paperwork for a vote to leave their union. Following a lengthy procedure that involved state and city officials, employees will be allowed to vote beginning April 12.
With about 3,600 members, the IAM is the largest of nine unions representing city employees. The three groups that petitioned for a vote to decertify the union consist of nearly 800 of those members. These groups are the refuse workers (known as the refuse basic unit), the skilled and general services basics units, and the skilled and general supervisors unit.
One flyer delivered to the Business Journal explained that the petitioning employees “want the IAM out because they have not been responsive, truthful and overall have not taken care of business for the members. We demand annual wage increases on our base that can help us keep up with the cost of living and the high costs of medical insurance.”
According to Ken Walker, the city’s labor relations manager, an outside vendor has been hired to oversee the vote. The vendor is mailing a ballot to each employee’s home this Friday, April 12. Employees will have until April 30 to return their ballot. The ballot count for each of the three groups occurs on May 5 at city hall. It takes of a majority of voting members from each group for decertification to be successful. For example, there are about 90 refuse basic employees. If 60 of the 90 members return a ballot, it would require that 31 of the 60 vote in favor of decertification for it to occur. The process is the same for the other two groups.
Walker said that the vendor is responsible for counting the ballots, and that each group and the IAM are allowed to have observers present during the count.
If one, two or all three of the groups vote to decertify, they will be able to form their own bargaining group or join an existing group.
The petition action by the employees and the subsequent involvement of city and state officials is governed under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act.
The action by the disgruntled employees comes at a critical time for the city as seven of its nine unions are negotiating for new contracts. The contracts of the two remaining unions – police and fire – expire September 30, the last day of the city’s budget year.
Last month, city staff reported that it expects a $5.9 million deficit for the new fiscal year beginning October 1. However, that estimate does not include pay increases that may occur from new employee contracts.