Category Archives: Public Employee Organizing

Don’t Balance City of Durham Budget on Backs of Workers

Durham City Workers and Allies at Rally Before Council Meeting

Durham City Workers and Allies at Rally Before Council Meeting

(From Justice Speaks May/June 2009)

As the banks and big corporations receive trillions in bailout money, governments are balancing budgets on workers’ backs. Public workers are under attack! There is no fat left on services. Any cuts will be cuts to the bone and still city manager Tom Bonfield recommends kicking 35 workers to the curb and eliminating their jobs, plus no pay-for-performance merit increases, longevity cuts, 2% cut to 401K contributions, and benefit cuts to part-time employees working less than 30 hours per week.

If cuts are necessary, then it should happen at the administrative levels only. Fire and police workers should be treated the same as other front-line city employees who provide essential services. Any stimulus money should be used for public jobs, not more privatization. The city manager proposed that the City of Durham’s Fund Balance, Rainy Day Fund, will not be used to balance the budget, “It will be maintained at 11%, but may increase using savings from FY2009.”

Well, HELLO. . . IT’S RAINING!! In fact, it’s a severe thunderstorm bordering on hurricane conditions for front-line workers! We are certainly being forced to go into our “rainy day funds” or savings, if we have them, to balance our household budgets or to keep from slipping two or three months behind in our bills. We’ve had to pay for necessities for our family with high interest credit cards and, yes, even from time to time, visit the dreaded cash advance/check cashing establishments. If workers’ rainy day funds can get drained to 0%, why do the city administrators refuse to even consider lowering the city’s below 11%? The pain should be shared!

Workers came out to the Durham City Council Meeting on May 18 to show our opposition to the budget being balanced on our backs! That we are not happy just to have a job! That we see attacks on co-workers as attacks on all of us!  More will join the efforts of the Durham City Workers Union Chapter of UE 150, the NC Public Service Workers Union.

Virginia UE Scores Victory: Wins Job, Back Pay & Union Rep Rights

Joanne Evans-Davis, UE 160 union leader and City of Petersburg public servant.

Joanne Evans-Davis, UE 160 union leader and City of Petersburg public servant.

Petersburg, VA—On Monday, August 4th, Joanne Evans-Davis will top off a seven-month battle and triumphantly walk into the Petersburg, Va City Water/Public Works Department and begin work as a Customer Service Representative.

Virginia UE Local 160, sister union of NC UE 150, fought the City of Petersburg all the way through its grievance process to win her reinstatement to a job comparable to the one she had been forced out. The union also won backpay for her leave time and credit for all the time she had worked for the city and reinstatement of her sick leave.

Since the summer of 2007, Joanne has worked with UE 160 organizers in support of the union’s efforts to help Petersburg City Workers organize and build a strong union. As part of its fight back plan for better pay, improved working conditions, and against discriminatory, disrespectful, and unfair treatment, the union began to demand accountability from the Petersburg City Council. Joanne, meeting after meeting, was out front as one of the union’s main spokespersons. On December 18, 2007, due to the union and community supporters’ constatnt pressure, the Petersburg City Council appropriated $15,000 to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of personnel practices in the Department of Public Works, Division of Operations and Support Services to ensure working conditions and treatment of city employees were consistent with city policies. The very next day, December 19, Ms. Evans-Davis was reprimanded by her department head and reminded that she “did not speak for the Department of Social Services.” One month later, she was threatened with immediate discharge if she did not submit to “mandatory probation extension”.

Management in Ms. Evans-Davis’ old job as an account clerk in Social Services had attempted to create a “paper trail” of non-grievable bad evaluations of her job performance. They then attempted to shield everything from challenge by claiming their actions fell under the city policies defined as “Management Responsibilities.” UE Local 160 defeated this strategy and were successful in getting those negative write-ups re-defined as unfair discipline and her bosses’ actions characterized as “anti-union animus” – which is in violation of the Code of Virginia.

It is extremely important to workers and their union that UE 160 also was successful in getting the organizer as her representative in the grievance meeting.

State Mental Hospital Workers Rally for Justice

Beverly Moriarty (center, with bullhorn), RN at Dorothea Dix Hospital, speaks about the devastation that the planned closing of Dix will have. State Sen. Vernon Malone (lower right) attended the rally to show support for the concerns of the protesters.

Beverly Moriarty (center, with bullhorn), RN at Dorothea Dix Hospital, speaks about the devastation that the planned closing of Dix will have. State Sen. Vernon Malone (lower right) attended the rally to show support for the concerns of the protesters.

The Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh remains in turmoil. As we edge closer to the closing date presently set for July 1, 2008, we have stirred up a momentum not seen since our earliest struggles. The issues here are the same as those in other statewide facilities, but with the closure looming, the stress level is compounded. On Friday April 25 we held a rally in front of the hospital covered by media to restate the urgency of saving Dix and bring to the attention of the community that we as dedicated front line workers are standing up to defend our jobs as committed workers serving our patients honorably. We are underpaid and underappreciated and have been placed in harm’s way with the ever increasing reductions of staffing. The loss of core staffing places greater demands on remaining staff to fill the gap. Not only do we use our dots, but on those days and nights when the staffing levels are dangerously low, we have to mandate that anyone not working more than 8 hours has to remain to satisfy the staffing needs. It only makes the workers more demoralized and fatigued. The problem is only worsening.

We are pleading with the powers that be to consider the safely issues that will be created by attempting to transition to Central Regional Hospital too quickly. There has been enough negative media attention on safety and we don’t need more. It was brought out that the hospital has been a resource in the community for 150 years. It has served the most vulnerable, the sickest and the poorest of our severely mentally ill. It has been there as a comfort to those who love their sick family members and it has provided jobs to workers like housekeepers, kitchen aids, grounds keepers and healthcare tech. The closing of this hospital will most severely negatively impact these individuals. And these individuals are disproportionately our black citizens. I ask if this will be our mini Katrina. Our legislators need to think carefully and move forward with caution before the situation is irreversible. We need to open Central Regional BEFORE closing Dix, which is functioning and is providing service to its community.

On May 2 we had a second rally with Senator Vernon Malone supporting our efforts to protect Dix. We showed our solidarity to save the hospital, address the unsafe staffing and to address the serious injuries sustained by our front line workers. We asked that he respond to our proposal to meet with us again and to encourage other legislators and community leaders to attend our weekly rallies. We asked that he encourage others to attend our Mental Health Workers Bill of Rights Public Hearing Thursday May 29 in Raleigh.