Date: January 22, 2004
Board Members Present:
Shelley Smith (President), Jule Bishop (Treasurer), Judith Reel
(Secretary), Rosemary Chavez (Criminal Director), Christine McCall
(Civil Director), Marsha Berkowitz (Civil Director), Lisa Berger
(Proprietary Director), Mary Dennis (Vice-President), Liz Greenwood
SEIU Local 347 Representative
Present: Robert Hunt (General Counsel)
I. Old Business
A. Retirement Pension
Shelley Smith updated the
Board on efforts to reform the retirement pension formula. The
efforts to reform the system by installation of a graduated system
(whereby persons who stay longer receive a greater multiplier
in the pension formula, e.g., 2.3% at age 55, and 2.5% at age
60) may be temporarily hampered by the Citys desire to reduce
costs. Traditionally, the City has sought to reduce its payroll
costs by encouraging early retirement; such a reduction is at
odds with a pension formula which encourages employees not to
The uncertainty of the
Citys budget may give rise to an effort to encourage retirement
by offering incentives through the pension system; some of the
suggestions include the right to purchase credit for additional
service that is not based on actual prior employment (known as
"Air Time"), and consideration of the options offered
to DWP employees when DWP down-sized. The Board will remain open
to the possibility of pension reform in the upcoming MOU negotiations,
and will encourage other city unions to do so as well.
of Criminal Director
Following Board elections
at the end of last year, there were two unfilled criminal director
positions. The Board voted unanimously to appoint Terri Seigel,
a former Board member assigned to the Van Nuys Criminal Division,
to one of the vacant criminal director positions. We are happy
to have her services again, and pleased to have a representative
from a Valley work site.
C. Office Promotion
and Hiring Practices
Judith Reel has the Offices
quarterly report showing all attorneys hired and promoted during
the last quarter of 2003; anyone desiring a copy may obtain one
from any Board member.
There was a general discussion
about this administrations promotion and hiring practices.
The surveys submitted by members with suggestions about the upcoming
MOU negotiations show a growing concern on this issue; the responses
run the gamut from decrying the lack of any standard on what constitutes
"merit" all the way to a perception that the Office
has abandoned the concept of career service and professional development.
Board members spoke of
the consensus of many members that management appears to have
abandoned any notion of a merit and promotion process, and that
in the area of promotions and salary advancement, management will
do what it wants for whomever it wants, and intends to continue
to do so.
There was a discussion
about the decades-long career expectations of city attorneys;
in the past, except in exigent circumstances, attorneys were hired
at the lower end of the pay scale, and as they developed their
skills and gained experience they gradually assumed more complex
and important responsibilities, with corresponding salary advancement.
There was also an understanding that the bulk of promotions and
salary advancement would be awarded pursuant to a merit and promotion
process, and management used to work in good faith with the union
with regards to the timing and procedures governing the process.
It appears to many members that this administration has removed
any semblance of a career arc as a deputy city attorney; that
career development and advancement has come to a halt, particularly
for those who do not work on matters which result in direct and
prolonged contact with the eighth floor of City Hall East. Managements
apparent abandonment of a process which considers the merits of
all attorneys is counterproductive towards any efforts to build
The Board reaffirmed its
commitment to the fundamental value of career service in the public
law context, and to the value of all of the Citys attorneys
having an opportunity to demonstrate their value to management.
The Board also resolved to formulate proposals to address this
issue for the upcoming MOU negotiations.
II. New Business
A. Family Medical
Leave Act (FMLA) and the Use of Comp Time
In early December, Board
members learned that management sent to all supervisors a memo
saying that any absence from work of three days or more for purposes
covered by the FMLA must be treated as an FMLA leave and that
comp time could not be used unless sick leave at 100% is exhausted.
The Board, through SEIU, demanded to meet and confer on this issue.
On December 16, Terree
Bowers and a Labor Division attorney met with Bob Hunt [SEIU General
Counsel] and Board members in response to the demand. The union
representatives explained that the FMLA MOU provisions can be
reconciled with our members right to use either comp or
vacation time, and that the FMLA provision was not intended to
change the long-standing practice of allowing attorneys to use
vacation and comp time for any reason whatsoever. The Association
further stated the Offices interpretation was a potential
unfair labor practice as well as breach of the MOU. Management
promised to review the issue and respond. The Board authorized
SEIU to file any necessary legal claims in the event the issue
is not resolved.
Attorneys not allowed to
use comp time or vacation time because of managements unilateral
implementation of this policy may contact a Board member and file
a grievance to preserve their right to have their time off credited
against comp or vacation time, and to restore the sick time for
which they were improperly docked.
As most are aware, all
civilian City employees receive as a day off Cesar Chavezs
birthday, which the City celebrates on the last Monday in March.
The County, however, celebrates this day on Cesar Chavezs
actual birthday, which means that County courts are open on the
last Monday in March. The issue therefore arises about the obligations
of Office attorneys to appear in court on the last Monday in March,
and management asked the Board to make a recommendation about
The Board unanimously voted
to recommend that attorneys scheduled to appear in Court on the
Citys scheduled day off may request that their supervisor
schedule another attorney to appear instead, and the supervisor
should attempt to accommodate the request. If the supervisor cannot
reasonably accommodate the request, then the attorney must appear
in court. Attorneys who must work on the Citys holiday will
receive comp time, which they may use to take a different day
off. We understand that this decision operates to the detriment
of those who regularly appear in court, but we believe that the
duty to our clients take precedence.
C. City Attorneys
As was reported in previous
minutes, the Board is undertaking a review of the City Attorneys
budget and expenditures in response to members concerns
about possible fund diversion and in order to determine why there
is no money available for merit and promotion. As stated in the
minutes of the last meeting, as a starting point the Board asked
management to provide a list of all personnel, their assignments,
and salaries, and management agreed to provide the information.
There was a dispute between the Office and Association, after
which the Office did agree to provide a list of all City Attorney
employees and their area of assignment.
On January 22, 2004, Bob
Hunt, Judith Reel and Jule Bishop met with management representatives
to obtain more information about the Citys budget. At that
meeting management confirmed that the City Attorneys Office
is now subject to a hard-hiring freeze, preventing the hiring
of any additional personnel without City Council approval. A few
more people will still be arriving to work at the Office, but
those people accepted offers before the imposition of the hard-hiring
The Board discussed the
possibility of lay-offs and the preparation of a seniority list.
During the meeting to discuss the budget, management stated that
the Mayor asked all City departments to send letters to its employees
verifying the employees city work histories in order to
prepare a seniority list in case of lay-offs. Initially, our Office
did not send out the letters in order to avoid unnecessarily alarming
people, but we have been told that in response to a directive
by the Personnel Department, the Office will be sending them.
If lay-offs are ordered,
management cannot unilaterally prepare the list; management must
negotiate with unions the rules and procedures governing lay-offs.
Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission v. Superior Court
(1978) 23 Cal.3d 55. Accordingly the Board voted unanimously to
authorize SEIU to send a letter to City Attorney management informing
it of our demand to meet and confer regarding the preparation
of any lay-off list. Furthermore, the Los Angeles City Charter,
at Section 1050(c), mandates that layoffs in the City Attorneys
Office must be done "in a manner consistent with the principles
contained" in the provisions governing layoffs of civil service
personnel, i.e., by seniority.
C. Grocery Workers
Julie Butcher [General
Manager, SEIU Local 347] presented an update on the current strike
involving the Grocery Workers and several supermarket chains [Albertsons,
Vons and Ralphs]. She stated that the effort to reduce these
workers health insurance benefits could create pressure
on the public sector to make similar efforts. She urged the Association
Board and all of its members to support these workers in any way
possible. SEIU Local 347 will forward any monetary donations contributed
by Association members. For any member wishing to donate, checks
may be made payable to UFCW Strike Fund.