Meeting Date: May 20, 2009
Board Members Present: Shelley Smith (President); Renee Braeunig (Vice-President), Jule Bishop (Treasurer), Judith Reel (Secretary), Nick Karno (Criminal Director), Felton Newell (Criminal Director), Rebecca Gardner (Criminal Director), Garcelle Embry (Civil Director), Christopher Bobo (Proprietary Director)
SEIU Local 721 Representative Present: Bob Hunt (General Counsel)
I. Old Business
A. City Budget Update
After months of discussion between City management (representatives of the Mayor and the CAO) and the Coalition of City Unions representing approximately 22,000 civilian city employees, including our members, regarding plans to reduce the City payroll by encouraging early retirement, approximately two weeks ago the Mayor unilaterally abandoned all attempts to resolve or alleviate the budget crisis by offering an incentive for employees to retire. Instead, the Mayor proposed that the City Council declare a fiscal emergency and adopt a budget requiring civilian employees to take 26 furlough days in the next fiscal year. Taking 26 days off without pay in one year is tantamount to a 10 percent salary reduction. The Council then adopted a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2009, that imposes the expectation that civilian employees will take 26 furlough days.
City unions, including SEIU Local 721, believe that management cannot lawfully unilaterally impose mandatory furloughs, but instead must first meet and confer with the unions, and accordingly the Coalition of City Unions filed an Unfair Employee Relations Practice Claim with the City’s Employee Relations Board. The Claim contends that the unilateral imposition of furloughs violates the City’s obligation to meet and confer regarding the wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. It is expected that the Board will consider the matter at its June meeting, on the fourth Monday of June, and refer the Claim to a hearing before an arbitrator. The matter could take many months to resolve. If, as the unions expect, they prevail and the Board determines that management’s unilateral action constitutes an Unfair Labor Practice, it has the authority to order a “make whole” remedy, that is, to require the City to pay employees for the salary lost through furloughs. The Coalition of City Unions did not file suit seeking an injunction, but will consider doing so in the future.
After discussing the events of the past few weeks, the Board discussed the options facing the City and employees. Ways to reduce employee costs include lay-offs, furloughs, deferral or elimination of scheduled salary increases, increased employee contributions to the pension system, and encouraging employees to retire. The only options that can be imposed without membership ratification are lay-offs.
If management decides to lay-off city employees, management would be required to meet and confer with unions regarding the rules and procedures with respect to any lay-offs. The City Charter states that lay-offs from the City Attorney’s Office shall be done “in a manner consistent” with lay-offs in the civil service system, in which seniority determines the order of a lay-off (the most recently hired would be laid-off before more senior personnel). City Attorney management recognizes the obligation to meet and confer with the union regarding lay-off procedures should lay-offs occur.
Employees will have to obey an order to take furloughs until the Employee Relations Board or a court orders the practice stopped. The earliest that furloughs would have to be taken is July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year. The Union does not have any information regarding the details of the furlough plan, e.g., what flexibility employees will have in selecting the furlough days, effect of reduced salary on determination of pension payment, etc. . . . Management did not negotiate with the unions with respect to the furloughs, and so unions were not involved in negotiating applicable rules and procedures.
B. Information regarding City Budget
Information regarding City budget developments can be found on the SEIU Local 721 website at: SEIU721.org, and on the Coalition of City Unions website at: lacitycoalition.com.
People can contribute suggestions for reducing City expenditures or increasing revenue by submitting the suggestions to SEIU Local 721 through its website, and any one wanting to provide suggestions regarding legal challenges to the City’s actions can e-mail Bob Hunt, SEIU 721’s General Counsel at: email@example.com, or by e-mailing a Board member, and we will forward the e-mail to Mr. Hunt.
II. New Business
A. Volunteer Attorneys and Personal Services Contracts
The Office occasionally allows attorneys to volunteer to work in the office and perform city attorney duties. The Board discussed whether it would be appropriate to continue to utilize the services of volunteer attorneys if city attorneys were laid off, given that unions would oppose using volunteers to perform the work of laid-off employees. Because there are no present plans to lay off attorneys, however, the Board decided to revisit the issue if appropriate.
The Board also discussed whether non-employees should continue to perform work for the City pursuant to a personal services contract if that work can be performed by City employees. When, as now, the City has a fiscal crisis, it seems wrong for the City to pay non-employees to perform work that can be done by City employees. We have raised the issue with SEIU, Local 721, and asked them to help advocate ending the use of personal services contracts until all employees are ensured of continued full-time employment.
B. Election of Carmen Trutanich as City Attorney
The Board congratulates Mr. Trutanich on his election as City Attorney, and we look forward to working with him. The Board voted to join with other Office attorney organizations in sponsoring a welcome reception.
The Board earlier voted to join other Office attorney organizations in sponsoring a reception in honor of outgoing City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.
C. Promotions and Salary Advancements
Board members have heard rumors that management recently awarded promotions and merit step increases to attorneys. Bob Hunt reported that he asked if management had awarded promotions or merit pay increases since issuance of the last quarterly report in April of 2009, and management told Mr. Hunt that there have not been promotions or merit pay increases awarded.