Glendale denies workers' bid to split from union

Grayson Power Plant operators will not be permitted to split off from the larger Glendale Water & Power union, a move that quashes the possibility of a sixth city union.

DOCUMENT: City Manager's Final Decision regarding GPA's Petition for Recognition following Unit Determination Hearing

City Manager Scott Ochoa said he denied the Glendale Power Plant Assn.'s application on Thursday because it did not meet criteria laid out in long-standing employee-relations rules. Although the city has had a tenuous relationship with the larger union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, Ochoa said that did not play into his decision-making.

“I'm not going to make a decision that's based on the wrong factors and ultimately gets overturned,” he said.

While the City Council makes hiring and firing decisions regarding city executives, the power to appoint a new union is vested with the City Manager, according to city rules.

The city has been butting heads with IBEW for years and in May, the council declared the two sides were at an impasse because they could not find compromise on new contract terms. The council then cut IBEW members' pay by 1.75%. The two sides continue to negotiate. 

The group of power plant operators applied to form their own union distinct from IBEW because they felt their issues were not being addressed by the union, according to a letter sent to Ochoa in August from the association's leadership.

When the IBEW recommended that employees ignore emergency calls for off-duty work and refuse overtime — a job action an IBEW spokesman has denied — the Grayson operators refused to do so even though others did follow the advice, according to the August letter. The council ended up giving one-time bonuses to managers who took over for employees who didn't show up to emergency calls. 

“While this was a recommendation, we feel that this violated our employees' freedom of choice since there was so much pressure to comply,” the letter stated. 

Ochoa said although the power plant operators said IBEW officials don't listen to them, they didn't provide sufficient evidence to prove their case. In addition, the operators did not include other employees who work at the plant, such as electricians and mechanics, another impediment, Ochoa said.

Ochoa also weighed the impact that adding a sixth union would have on City Hall workers as a whole.

“It's one more thing to do and absent the compelling argument to do it, it works against [Glendale Power Plant Assn.'s] application,” he said. 

The Glendale Power Plant Assn. could reapply in a year. Greg Strong, president of the association, said the group has yet to decide whether to try again. Strong said he had no other comment about the decision.

Martin Marrufo, an IBEW spokesman, said the union had no comment as well.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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