Irvine municipal employees voted Thursday to unionize, joining their colleagues in every other city in Orange County.
With 210 ballots cast out of a total of 268 eligible employees, representation by the fledgling Irvine City Employees Assn. was approved, 144 to 66. In all, 53.7% of the eligible employees voted in favor of unionization, said Wally Kreutzen, director of administrative services. A 51% majority was needed to organize.
David Suter, acting president of the association, said that while the vote was not a landslide, it was a “clear victory.”
The association will represent all city employees except management and police officers. Although the Police Department has been unionized since 1980, Irvine was the only city in Orange County whose other employees were not represented by unions.
The association plans a “strong membership drive” in June, Suter said. Although all city employees will be represented by the union, only actual members will be required to pay dues, which he estimated will be around $7 to $10 a month. The association also plans to meet later this month to elect a permanent board of directors, Suter said.
Kreutzen said the union is expected to submit its contract proposals to the city by October or November, with negotiations for the first contract likely to be completed by December.
Although city management said in the past that it believed there was no need for a union, both Suter and Kreutzen agreed that employee-management relations remained good throughout the organizing process.
“I think the city management and the association’s members worked well together throughout this process,” Kreutzen said, adding that he hoped the friendly relations would continue now that the employees are unionized.
“It’s a delicate situation, but the city management will do everything it can to maintain a positive working relationship,” he said.