Utility workers protest at City Hall

One month after the City Council imposed salary cuts and a scaled-down retirement benefits system for rank-and-file employees, hundreds of utility workers on Tuesday demonstrated on the steps of City Hall in support of new union representation.

For more than a year, a faction of the Glendale City Employees' Assn. made up of Glendale Water & Power employees has been pushing to join the Local 18 chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, or IBEW.

At City Hall on Tuesday night, the frustration of an ongoing stalemate had clearly boiled over. Protracted negotiations between the city and Glendale City Employees' Assn. led to a 1.5% salary cut and scaled-down benefits for new hires after the City Council last month voted to end the impasse and impose a new contract.

But internal e-mails last year between the leadership of the association, which represents about 1,000 rank-and-file employees, showed a push among some members even then to at least bring in IBEW representation.

"My question is, why don't Glendale Water & Power employees as a unit have the freedom to vote for the representation it desires?" Allen Case said.

A letter sent from IBEW and received by city officials Nov. 29 requested a vote on representing 57 classifications of Glendale Water & Power employees, although it was not immediately clear how many people that would include.

The city manager, not the City Council, holds sole authority to call a hearing on employee union changes, or whether to schedule a membership vote, officials said.

Human Resources Director Matt Doyle refuted employee claims that the petition had been denied, adding that his office was looking at what the city's legal options were.

After two representatives made their case to the City Council, City Manager Jim Starbird said that his office was preparing a response to the IBEW letter, and that it would likely include a hearing date to review the petition.

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