By Joe Nelson, The Sun
and Ryan Carter, San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 07/29/14, 7:38 PM PDT | Updated: 24 secs ago

Members of the county’s largest union say they are being threatened with expulsion for pushing for new representation.

On Aug. 5, San Bernardino Public Employees Association’s board of directors will hold a hearing to determine if 30 union members should be expelled for violating union bylaws when they publicly denounced the union and sought new representation.

“It was really scary to a lot of people,” said Craig Altmire, a county employee for 13 years, who said he and about 30 other union members were sent a letter, citing them and charging them to appear for a “trial” in front of the union’s board of directors to show why they shouldn’t be expelled.

Union officials didn’t talk much Tuesday about the hearings coming in early August.

“We will confirm that there is, in fact, a special meeting of the SBPEA Board of Directors scheduled on Tuesday,” SBPEA President Paula Ready said. “This is a wholly internal union process and it would not be appropriate to make comment for a news article.”

Members who received the letters said they were charged with engaging in conduct that violates the “responsibility of members toward the Association as an institution,” and another allegation is that they engaged in conduct “unbecoming of a member of the Association.”

Longtime employees say they were forced to act against the union, as representation and accountability weakened, paycuts loomed and they faced the prospect of seeing their colleagues flee to counties that pay more for similar work.

“There’s a lot that has happened that makes us feel that the association is associating with the county instead of meeting with and representing its members,” said Yesenia Olague, a nearly 10-year county employee forced to take a $278 loss of pay each month in her so-called retirement pick-up.

“As for the trials, I believe they are planning on expelling all of us,” Altmire said. “I believe they are trying to send a message…. I think it’s kind of an intimidation tactic.”

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