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Longboat Key Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2013 4 years ago

General employees reject union label with vote

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The state of the union proposed for the town’ general employees: It’s a no.

The town’s general employees will not form a union, after eligible employees rejected forming a collective-bargaining unit by a large margin.

Human Resources Manager Lisa Silvertooth informed Town Manager Dave Bullock in an email Thursday, March 7 that employees voted 21-6 against a union.

Out of the 31 eligible voters, 27 votes were cast.

The mail vote began Feb. 15 and closed March 6.

The Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) tallied the votes March 7 and informed the town of the results.

Unionization would have frozen benefits and pensions for general employees, forcing town staff to negotiate changes with them.

In September, some general employees began the process of forming a union.

Town Manager Dave Bullock received a letter from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Sept. 21, notifying him “the majority of your (general) employees have exercised their right to form a union for the purposes of negotiating their working condition.”

The full-time employees who were eligible for the proposed general employees union last year were the deputy town clerk; chief accountant 3 position; accountant 2 position; accountant 1 position; finance specialist; systems and net administrator; computer-operations specialist; administrative assistant; police-service technician, dispatcher; emergency-services specialist; code-enforcement officer; permit technician; building inspector 1 and 2; plans examiner; licensing/permit specialist; electrical/mechanical inspector-plans reviewer; building official; administrative aide; planners; utility service worker 1 through 4; equipment operator 1 and 2; plumbing inspector; service worker 1 and 2; receptionist 1 and 2; and HARV/electrical inspector.

That list, however, changed during the unionization process.

Several general employees, though, disagreed a union was the right course of action. Some were surprised they were never consulted about joining a union, too.

Employee trustee Steve Schield pointed out at an employee pension board meeting last summer that freezing the plan would have cost more in the short term. The plan would have lost the current 6% that employees contribute from their salaries, and amortization rates for the pension plan would have likely gone down, too.

Employee pension plan trustees also discussed figures that suggested their plan is in better shape than the other plans, with an average unfunded liability of $77,000 per member, compared to the firefighters’ $343,000 per member.

It’s anticipated Bullock will now propose to the Longboat Key Town Commission a 3% wage increase to the employees who were eligible for the union; that wage increase has been offered to other non-represented employees.

Commissioner Lynn Larson was surprised when she discovered the general employees were contemplating unionization.

“I’m pleased with the vote,” Larson said. “I think the town has treated its employees well over the years, and this was not the right move for them. The vote reflected my sentiment.”

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