Service an issue for city workers
Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/18/2010 06:12:21 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – City employees may soon have to choose between a new union or remaining with the San Bernardino Public Employees Association.

The San Bernardino Public Employees Association represents the city’s general employees and middle managers. If union members decide to make a switch, the Pasadena-based chapter of the International Union of Operating Engineers would become the new bargaining unit for San Bernardino’s general employees.

An employee vote on the potential switch has yet to take place, although city employees will have an opportunity to attend a meeting on the question today. The general manager for the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, however, said he expects his union will continue to represent San Bernardino employees.

Two city workers – Integrated Waste Division employee Charles Greenwood and parks maintenance employee Carla Velarde – said they are seeking new representation because they are dissatisfied with the level of attention they have received from their current union.

“It doesn’t really have anything to do with the situation in the city, it’s our representation in the past few years,” Velarde said.

Velarde and Greenwood said they and their coworkers have become frustrated by an inability to get phone calls returned or other attention from Public Employees Association leadership.

“For the employees it would be a better union because they would be accountable,” Greenwood said.

San Bernardino Public Employees Association general manager Bob Blough, however, pegged the dispute as the outcome in a disagreement between refuse workers and union leadership over furloughs.

The city imposed furloughs of 10 percent of employees’ work time and pay as of Aug. 1.

The dispute arose, Blough said, after Integrated Waste employees objected on the grounds that the city’s trash operation brings in money, whereas the other city business has been subject to deep budget cuts because of declining tax revenues.

It’s only fair for all San Bernardino employees to take furloughs together, Blough said.

“We’re communicating with our members and trying to convince them that the right thing to do is for all employees to stand together in these economically difficult times,” he said.

Greenwood said the furlough issue was only a part of the issue and personnel for other departments are likewise frustrated with their current representation.

He also emphasized that he and other San Bernardino employees reached out to the Operators Engineers union, not the other way around.

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