Workers Protest Union Official’s Arrest : Labor: The California State Employees Assn. urges the governor to dismiss two Anaheim managers of the Economic Development Department after a CSEA representative was taken into custody.
State workers Monday protested the arrest last week of a union representative on suspicion of making threats against the Anaheim office of the state Economic Development Department.
The arrest came Thursday at the Anaheim EDD office during a meeting between the union official and a state employee. They were meeting in a break room to discuss a grievance.
State officials say they didn’t want union representative James Connors talking to workers because he had made statements that amounted to a threat against the department. The union says that all Connors did was say that if morale didn’t improve at the Anaheim office, it could face the same situation as a Garden Grove office where a frustrated employee in 1986 shot to death a supervisor and then himself.
Connors, 55, a California State Employees Assn. representative for nearly 20 years, was arrested on suspicion of trespassing, obstructing police officers and making terrorist threats. He spent most of Thursday in County Jail with bail initially set at $10,000 before he was released later that evening on his own recognizance. He could face up to three years in jail and $4,000 in fines, if convicted.
Connors is one of about 50 labor relations representatives who work on behalf of the union’s estimated 125,000 members statewide. The union has called on Gov. George Deukmejian and EDD Director Alice J. Gonzales to take action--including dismissal--against two Anaheim managers and up to four other state EDD officials that the union says were involved in the action against Connors.
In addition, CSEA said it will file unfair labor charges against the EDD, and is considering suing the agency. They also have asked the California State Police Commissioner to investigate the action of the arresting officers.
“What we want is that everyone who is responsible for this adversity to be charged,” said Margaret Dean, president of CSEA. “Management has rights but not rights that infringe on the rights of the employees and the organization.”
Last week’s arrest came in the aftermath of a comment by Connors at a meeting on April 26 between the union and Anaheim office managers. “Mr. Connors made a remark that we felt . . . posed a threat to our employees and our workplace,” said Valerie Reynoso, a spokeswoman for the EDD. “We took it very seriously.”
At the meeting, she said, Connors had warned Jesus Vasquez, manager of the Anaheim office, and others that if certain pending labor matters were not resolved, the office may have an incident such as the one in Garden Grove.
That comment was in reference to a March 1986 murder-suicide in the EDD’s office there in which an employee gunned down his manager and then killed himself, in a scene union representatives say was virtually inevitable under the office’s strained working conditions.
Union representatives say they believed that the dispute over Connors’ remarks had been settled during a meeting the day before the arrest and that the idea of Connors’ comment being seen as a threat was laid to rest.
“It seemed there was a resolution,” said Susan Kleinman, a CSEA attorney, of the Wednesday meeting. “There weren’t police there at that time.”
But CSEA spokeswoman Pat Mc Conahay said that Vasquez had asked the union to send anyone but Connors for the grievance meeting on Thursday because Vasquez perceived him as a potential threat to the safety of the workplace.
But since the Anaheim office was in Connors’ area, and he was familiar with the workers, his supervisor saw no reason to bend to what he considered an unfounded request, Mc Conahay said.
So after Connors called the office on Wednesday, a common practice to inform officials that he would be meeting with an employee the following day, Vasquez called the California State Police and asked for intervention.
State Police Capt. Robert Donnalley said that although Connors made no threats that Thursday, police made the arrest based on the perceived threat he posed at that working environment.
“A sustained fear has developed out of the threat that man has made,” Donnalley said. “That threat was made previous to our involvement.” He said Connors did not offer any physical resistance during the morning arrest.