Labor issues back on table

Citing a blatant disregard for a negotiated agreement, a union representative told the South Whidbey Board of Education that at least 14 grievances against the district will be reinstated.

During the Board of Education meeting Monday, Patty Silveira, union representative from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 925 read a two page letter in which she said “the district has failed to honor a mutually and legally binding agreement that was signed on April 27, 2004.”

Surprised board members listened while Silveira read, “I did not imagine I would be standing here today choking down the bile brought on by the district’s failure to once again honor the agreement.”

About 60 maintenance employees, bus drivers, food service workers and custodians are represented by SEIU.

Board President Helen Price Johnson said in an interview on Friday that board members were surprised by the letter.

“Superintendent Bob Brown is working to identify the cause for the concerns,” she said. “We will work with the union.”

Price Johnson said she is confident that the district and union will be able to work it out.

During Monday night’s meeting, Silveira said because of the district’s disregard for this agreement, all previous and any possible new grievances will go to arbitration.

The only exception is a resolved case related to a bus driver.

Two of the previous grievances were related to former bus drivers and 14 are related to Dan Carter, SEIU president and carpenter for the district. On behalf of Carter, the union filed unfair labor practice grievances related to his re-assignment to the Langley Middle School as a custodian to fill a position vacated by retirement.

New charges say that Carter is being targeted for his union involvement.

The April agreement was finalized by Jerry Jenkins, superintendent from the Northwest Educational Service District (ESD) and union representatives. Previous district administrators had been negotiating a final agreement when they left the district in March. The agreement was approved by the Board of Education.

As a result, Silveira said the union agreed to the settlement and withdrew grievances based on trust and “withdrew our charges of labor law violations.”

But according to her, ongoing employee harassment and failure to abide by the agreement has put everything back on the table.

Silveira read the stinging letter during the comment portion of the meeting when the public can comment on any school district related subject. The board listens but, rarely comments or answer questions that are posed at that time.

While not naming specific supervisors, Silveira read that the union never asked for, requested or demanded the removal of any supervisory staff of the district. While the supervisors are not named, former transportation director Margaret Evans and maintenance supervisor Rick Pitt are inferred to. Both Pitt and Evans were laid off in June to create a new position over both departments.

District administrators have not yet announced who will fill the new combination supervisory position.

One of the new complaints relates to the interview process for the new transportation/maintenance supervisor.

According to Silveira, Carter and another maintenance employee were banned from the interview committee.

In the letter, she said the district is “engaging in direct dealing with at least two its classified SEIU employees.”

In another document given to The South Whidbey Record, Silveira highlighted what she calls are ongoing violations to the agreement, including lack of respect, verbal abuse, putting tacks on chair seat, theft of personal property and refusal to enter and use a break room if a certain individual is present.

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