Labor relations in San Bernardino County

San Bernardino County

I have to admit I am enjoying the lack of results so far with labor relations in San Bernardino County.  We have two new unions, both of which thought they were going to come in and get exactly what they wanted just because.

So far, that is not exactly how it has happened.  Bob Windle may come across as very timid and mild-mannered.  But he is going to do exactly what the boss tells him to do, and in this case, ultimately that boss is Greg Devereaux.  Devereaux is not going to give employees one extra dime until he is forced into it.  And I doubt this board of supervisors has the backbone to force Devereux to do anything.  Rumor has it that negotiations are not going so well for any of the unions, but especially SEIU.  Of course, it is all confidential at this point so we really don’t know for sure.  But we certainly have not heard of any new great contracts being announced or that the county is giving in on anything.

I support the employees so it is not that I’m happy that they are not getting something.  What I’m enjoying is the fact that the unions are likely going to be forced to put their money where there mouths were at when they were busy convincing employees to make a change.  Until we have real political action in this county, we are going to have wimpy supervisors and an out-of-control Chief Executive Officer.  Yep, I long for the days of strong board members who had backbone rather than constantly running for political cover and hiding behind Devereaux’s skirt.

I guess we will know in a few months just how strong SEIU and Teamsters really are.  Either there will be great new contracts, a serious political campaign, or business as usual where the employees get little.  Until I see some real action by the unions, I’m betting on the latter.  I’m just hoping they wise up and realize that Devereaux is not going to roll over for them until they start replacing board members with those that can see the big picture and not just worry about their own business interests.

They only have a couple of months before they have to be involved in the next election or wait two more years.  I guess I’m just not feeling it at this point.

6 thoughts on “Labor relations in San Bernardino County

  1. Well that’s too bad you feel that way, the employees that stayed are working against a longstanding system full of corruption, punitive treatment of employees and shameless pay for leaders. If you expect our being union members with a union that actually can advocate for us with more resources to resolve 20-30 years of this behavior in 6 months, you are unrealistic. This is a war, only some battles have been won. We will change this County and hold BOS accountable, but it could take another three to five years.

    • Craig, I don’t think we necessarily disagree, except perhaps on timing. Over the years I have had long conversations with leaders in each of the four major unions who artempted or wanted to attempt a decert campaign against SBPEA. In every case they really thought they were going to just come in and bowl over the CAO and BOS because, after all, they were SEIU, IBEW, the Teamsters, or whatever. It didn’t happen and it won’t happen.

      You do realize who Devereaux has as his assistant? If not, ask around. The old timers know the sugnificance. But that is just one tiny piece.

      The BOS and the CAO have no reason to give employees any more than what the county chooses. This battle is not going to be won at the bargaining table. It will be won at the voting booth and, possibly, in a court of law.

      Both political action and legal action are avenues of change that take a long-term commitment as well as a serious financial commitment.

      If the unions do not act quickly with the election at hand, they will have to wait four more years. If four years go by with little success, do you really think employee interest will not wane?

      You have the most employee participation that I’ve seen in forty years of watching this county. (My mom started working for the county in 1975 while I was still on high school. I heard her stories then. I started working for the county in 1980.)

      Right now you have one supervisor up for re-election that despises all govt workers and believes they are overpaid. He would like nothing better than to see the county hire more temps. You’ve got two others with no backbone whatsoever who are going to do what Devereaux tells them to do.

      In two years, of the two supes up for re-election, you have one who also despises county employees.

      Last election cycle SEIU spent $1million trying to influence a BOS race. Its candidate lost. Although SBPEA supported that same candidate, they did not spend nearly that kind of money. But what did they get for their $1 million+ ? Nothing but a supe who is not likely to vote their way.

      If the unions–all of them–don’t wake up very quickly and get involved in more than just sitting at the bargaining table, attending a few rallies, and voicing concerns at BOS meetings, you are going to get not one more thing than Dev wants to give you. The county has zero incentive. You must give them incentive and you (meaning the unions collectively) are not doing so. Your window of opportunity is coming up and it is very short.

  2. I agree with your first sentence – these negotiations are to remain secret until agreement reached by both parties. I am relieved to hear that the rules are being followed. I agree with Craig – I don’t believe any of the new unions that stepped in truly ever believed they were going to get exactly what they wanted the first time out, but I do believe that their goal is to affect the change needed so that eventually everybody thrives. The ultimate goal is to get people on at the Board of Supervisors that are going to do their job, do it diligently for the good of the County and without their own personal interests driving their decisions. Division hurts all of us, and until we can all start working together for the good of the County we will impede further progression. Let’s give these new Unions a chance before we start throwing stones.

  3. It’s not taking a jab at the unions; it’s the reality of effective political action.

    Here is the bottom line to all of this. As it currently stands, Greg Devereaux holds all the power, especially with the Teamster. If employees get a raise or benefit increase, it will be because Devereaux decided it is the right thing to do and no other reason.

    I’m saying that on the assumption that if things do not go as employees want with this economic reopener, they cannot strike, which I believe is still an option with the professional unit since they don’t have a contract. Correct me if I am wrong on that assumption.

    The ability to strike is only a bit of a game changer unless you are nurse, cop or firefighters. For non-public safety units, it is not much. First, the county knows that employees will cross a picket line, if not the first day, the second, third or fourth. Employees cannot afford to strike. And few have the backbone to do it. Second, the county really doesn’t care if welfare workers strike. They really don’t. And the same goes for a vast majority of other positions.

    So, what else do the unions have to get their way? Really, not much. It is different in the private sector where a shutdown or slowdown affects bottom line. In the public sector, it may affect bottom line–in a positive way for the county for many positions.

    So, what is left? Basically, political action, meaning replacing those members of the BOS who are not employee-friendly with those who are. That is a tall, almost impossible task in a county as large as San Bernardino.

    Let’s look at the last election. There were two supervisor seats up for election. The unions did not even attempt to go after Rutherford even though is the single most anti-employee supervisor up there (well maybe tied for first place with Lovingood.)

    SEIU put $1 million into a campaign to seat Gloria Negrete-McLeod. SBPEA and SEBA also contributed to her campaign. She was running in a Dem-leaning district against a conservative Rep. All bets were on her. Even with over $1 million (2 or 3 to 1), she lost. SEIU, SBPEA and SEBA proved right then and there they do not know how to do political action. Heck, SEIU even sent out a flyer advising everyone to vote for Gloria for District Three Supervisor. That’s just how bad they are at it and the other two unions are only steps behind.

    What Hagman had going for him this past election was that it was an off-season election, meaning there was no presidential race. That is how it will be for the next two elections.

    Why is that important? It is important because the dems stay home. And it is dems who support unions, not Republicans, generally speaking. Having a union endorsement in that race was like having an albatross around your neck.

    That takes us to today. We are 7.5 months away from the presidential primary. That is a blink of an eye in campaign time.

    There are three supervisors up for re-election. Two of those supervisors are shoe-ins, or close to it. Either one of them can spend $1 million on a campaign.

    Only the third seat is vulnerable, and that is Lovingood. We are still years away from a dem winning the first district. But that doesn’t mean the unions can’t support a middle of the road Rep. who is employee friendly. But they are running out of time. They don’t have 3-5 years to wait. They don’t have 3-5 months to wait. Leaving Lovingood on the BOS all but guarantees your next contract is crapola.

    You have to remember, San Bernardino County employees are not union employees. Sure some of them support the union. But even in the vote to go to Teamsters, how many of the total employees (not just those who voted) voted to go with Teamsters? Whatever the number was, it was not an overwhelming majority.

    Right now everyone is jazzed about the new affiliation. Those who are union people will stay that way. But for the others, their interest will wane quickly if they don’t see results. It will quickly be back to moaning and groaning but doing nothing.

    It’s important that the Teamsters build on the momentum they have now. It’s not going to last if they do not.

    And, there are other reasons that now is best. First, this is a presidential election year. Dems will be out to vote. You have a much better chance now to replace a supervisor in 2016, than in 2018.

    If the Reps win the White House, likely you are not going to see a very good window of opportunity for the next eight years. This is probably the best chance you have in that 3-5 year period.

    All we are talking about is replacing one supervisor. The reality is that there will still be a board majority who supports Devereaux unless a real leader is elected. My personal feeling is that Devereaux can be gotten rid of if we get rid of Lovingood. I’m not at liberty to go into the reasons, but I do believe that to be true.

    Of course, for political reasons, it is entirely possible Devereaux will do the right thing by employees. But since we have yet to see that happen, I sure wouldn’t bank on it. The only incentive he has is to keep the current board intact. How do you think you will do next contract when that incentive is no longer there with this current board?

    I spent some time interviewing Randy Korgan. He is very sure of himself. But I can tell you, based on the things he said to me, he does not know squat about political action in this county. Maybe he really does have a plan that is going to get you guys a great new raise with this economic opener. I seriously doubt it. I hope I’m wrong.

    I have not been wrong very often when it comes to SBPEA. And I don’t think I’m wrong now. But time will tell.

  4. I should add one more thing. There is a lot of scuttlebutt about recruiting Tim Donnelly to run against Janice. I do not know if he is interested. I do know he could raise some money. Whether he’d appeal to the Rancho folks, I do not know but he will have the mountain vote. If you think Rutherford is anti-union, just wait until you have to deal with Supervisor Donnelly.

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