Remember tough times never last, but tough people do.
2012 Member report
Because of the intensity of the discussions surrounding negotiations, we
did not have a chance to present the following report at the annual
meeting. 2012 was a rough year for AOCW members, but we did have
some victories. Also, it remains important that we hold some aspects of
our situation in perspective. Compared to other public employees and
other units, we are holding our own. Since the 2008 recession, our unit
has had only two brief layoffs and no furloughs. However, members of
the OSM unit have not had a raise since 2008, and that has eroded the
standard of living for many members. Besides job security, the chief
focus of the group has been to make gains in wages.
AOCW has handled 36 investigations this year. We argued the
petition to compel arbitration Market Rate Adjustment lawsuit at the
appellate court level and won. Sadly, very sadly, when we finally held
the long fought arbitration, we lost.
There were two discharges in the unit, both for on-the-job
drinking. We represented the employees to arbitration in both discharges
Besides the two discharges, we held one arbitration regarding
violation of the leave of absence provisions. We won this arbitration
which did establish the important principal that the County cannot place
an injured employee on unpaid leave of absence as a reasonable
accommodation. An arbitrator found that this was a violation of the
MOU and ordered back pay for the employee who had subsequently
retired as a result of his injury.
We have been meeting regularly in negotiations since April,
2012. The negotiating team has held fourteen negotiations meetings and
developed eight counterproposals. The County is currently still
proposing all take backs and is holding firm in that position. Mediation
is scheduled for May 1.
We have been regularly attending the stakeholder’s meetings of
OCERS in order to properly counsel employees regarding PEPRA, the
new retirement law and to give input into other retirement issues.
We held one steward’s training.
We also met with seven members who have worker’s
compensation injuries, referring them to worker’s compensation
specialists, pension counseling and aiding them with the interactive
We gave four employees referrals to state agencies because we
perceived them as having problems of a type which state agencies
handle. This resulted in investigations in custodians and the auto
mechanics. Both investigations resulted in substantial improvements in
working conditions for the affected employees.
We filed one appeal on behalf of an employee whose infant was
wrongly denied medical coverage and won.
ARE WE A UNION? At the annual meeting the question came
up—are we a union? Technically, and legally, yes, we are a union.
Legally, we are a non-profit mutual benefit corporation registered with
the state of California. We are certified by the Public Employee
Relations Board as the recognized employee organization by the state of
But more important, we are a union because we do what a union is
supposed to do. We stick together. We protect our members. We
sacrifice for each other. And, most important, we fight hard, because
that’s what unions do. Unions were born in the blood and sacrifice of
thousands and thousands of working people. They are a proud trading.
An American tradition and one we are proud to be part of.
There were wild allegations at our annual meeting and good questions,
which we have been happy to answer. No officer of the union gets a
special retirement or extra money for what he or she does. Five officers
of the union are issued cell phones to answer questions of the union
member. There is one computer issued to the treasurer for keeping the
books on. There is one year of seniority for union officers and stewards
in case of layoff. Union officers perform some of their service on
County time. We serve food at the meetings. That’s it.
No one steals from this union and the allegations say more about the
people making them than they say about us. The officers of this union
lead this union out of the SEIU because they believed they were crooked,
and that has turned out to be true. Tyrone Freeman, one of SEIU’s
officers, has been convicted of embezzlement and is facing 180 years in
prison. In this union, we believe that a union is something you die for,
not something you steal from. Our financial records are open and
available in detail at every annual meeting.
Members ask—how are our dues spent? Most of the money goes to the
services of professionals who help the members. There are attorneys
who help with grievance, negotiations, the market rate adjustment
lawsuit and the trust fund. We have a field representative who attends
grievances and interactive meetings. There is a trust administrator who
answers questions regarding the dental and disability benefits. All of the
professionals who work with AOCW are diligent, courteous and skilled
at their jobs.
The, union officers spend many, many hours of their own time at
meetings. They answer questions of the members. They make tough
decision and are often given a lot crap for it.
Our lawyers have fought harder for us than in our wildest dreams we
And yes, we had more losses than wins, but we fought and fought
hard for our members. We have not made wage gains, but we have
staved off losses. In the past five years, our union has had no furloughs
and only two brief layoffs. That is a better record than most unions.
Right now proposals to cut wage's and hard won job security provisions
are being made to unions all over the state. All the unions, including
AOCW are fighting back hard against them. All of the proposals on the
table would have been implemented a year ago were it not for your
unions using all the power the law gives them to resist them. Now is not
the time to leave your unions. Now is the time to support them.
Whatever happens, win or lose, we are not giving up our proud
traditions without fighting for them. We apologize to no one for that.