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Temporary restraining order granted against SEIU

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Today San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Thomas Peterson granted a temporary restraining order requested by San Bernardino Public Employees Association (SBPEA) against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEIU is conducting a decertification campaign against SBPEA to become the collective bargaining representative for more than 11,000 San Bernardino County employees.

County employees began receiving mailers from SEIU several weeks ago, and more recently, phone calls at home and on their cell phones. Some employees are concerned as they thought the personal information in the County’s payroll and Human Resources system is confidential. They complain of harassment by SEIU representatives at home and on the job.

SBPEA requested the restraining order after they determined SEIU obtained a list of county employees with their home phone numbers, home addresses, and emergency contact information. At issue is how SEIU obtained the information.

In his ruling, Judge Peterson wrote, “SEIU . . . [is] restrained and enjoined from using and disclosing to anyone Plaintiff’s members’ confidential personal information (including, but not limited to, home addresses, home and personal phone numbers, and emergency contact information) that was obtained from the County San Bernardino’s employee records whether such information was obtained from the County of San Bernardino from SEIU, obtained from the County of San Bernardino by any of SEIU’s agents or employees, or obtained from the County of San Bernardino by a third party and provided to SEIU.”

SEIU has until June 17, 2014, to file opposition papers to the restraining order. Judge Peterson gave SBPEA until June 19, to respond to the opposition. The matter is set for June 26.

SEIU is conducting an aggressive decertification effort. SEIU members are coming in from around the state to make personal contact with San Bernardino County employees in hopes of convincing them to sign interest cards so that a decertification vote can take place.

San Bernardino County has in place one of the toughest labor relations ordinances in the state. The window of opportunity is only 30 days. It is designed to make decertification almost impossible when dealing with larger bargaining units.

This is the second time in less than a year that SBPEA faces a decertification effort by an outside union. Last August, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) made a similar attempt but they fell short.

Some county employees feel SBPEA is ineffective while others prefer to keep the lower dues and independent union. Facebook pages have sprouted up to defend all sides of the issue. SBPEA Out Now leans towards SEIU while SEIU Sucks exposes “SEIU’s shady tactics.” San Bernardino Employees for Change remains active for those who want to decertify but would prefer to go with IBEW. SBPEA operates its own Facebook page.

The latest uprising is due to the recent contract negotiated by SBPEA. It would require employees to pay the seven percent retirement contribution currently paid by the county and offers no across-the-board raises. Employees rejected it the first time around, and a mediator was brought in to make recommendations. Mediator David Hart, who many consider to be “county friendly” due to his rulings against county employees during civil service hearings, made minor adjustments.

Employees have until June 18 to turn in their ballots for this count. June 19 is the date set for counting the ballots. Any units that ratify the contract cannot join in the decertification effort. The contract specifies that SBPEA is the exclusive bargaining agent for the duration of the three-year contract.

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