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Latest News - December 2014

December 13, 2014
Some SEIU members want to leave 4,500-member Fresno County union

A large chunk of members from the law enforcement unit of Fresno County’s Local 521 of the Service Employees International Union are seeking for the second time in two years to decertify SEIU as their representative.

This time, Eulalio Gomez, a Fresno County Jail corrections officer for the past 24 years, thinks his group will achieve its goal. It’s Gomez’s third attempt at separating from SEIU. Last year, his effort fell 44 votes short.

The Fresno County Public Safety Association, which totals about 840 members, nearly 20% of SEIU’s 4,500 Fresno County employees, would represent juvenile and adult corrections officers, child support officers and program technicians.

The election application was completed Monday, he said, and an election could occur early next year.

“We believe we can win and we believe we have the majority right now,” Gomez said.

The group’s focus would be solely on wages and benefits, not political, cultural or social agenda-oriented issues. Gomez said political and social agendas have become too much a part of SEIU.

“If it involves wages and benefits we will get involved,” he said. “It won’t be based on Democratic or Republican affiliations, it will be about whether employees get support.”

He said many of those within his group also were upset about the county’s “last, best and final offer” to SEIU, which was rejected in October by SEIU, nearly two-thirds of the county’s workers. The offer was a salary raise of 2% in November and another 3% in August.

Three years ago SEIU’s six bargaining units and other county workers took a 9% pay cut — some took larger cuts — as the county was dealing with large budget deficits caused by the recession. The union filed a complaint with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board. Fresno County Prosecutors’ Association also filed a PERB complaint and won about $2 million in back pay and 7% interest. The county is appealing that decision.

Supervisors and union officials estimate that the cost of a similar ruling in favor of SEIU would cost $100 million. Much of that money the state and federal governments, which pay for services county workers provide, but the county would still be on the hook for an estimated $30 million.

Under the terms of the rejected proposal, SEIU would have had to withdraw its state employment board complaints. Gomez said many members were upset that union leadership would have considered giving up the potential proceeds if PERB ruled in its favor.

If Gomez gets more than 50% of his unit to sign up to decertify SEIU, then no election is required, but he wants to get 30% support for decertification to trigger an election. His goal is to give every member the chance to vote.

An SEIU member said the union continues to concentrate on contract talks with the county.

“We’re staying focused on getting a good contract that respects the value of public services,” said Sandra Shillaci, a county child support officer and union leader. “We’re going to focus on our community and restoring the damage done to our county by the last board of supervisors.”



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