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Labor complaint filed against city

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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The California Public Employment Relations Board has filed a complaint in favor of Lincoln’s public-services employees regarding an unfair labor practice charge. On Oct. 4, Local 39 filed an unfair labor practice charge on behalf of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39, which is the city’s classified group, according to previous News Messenger reports. Public Employment Relations Board division chief Les Chisholm would not say what the end result of the charge could be. “There’s a variety of different outcomes that might result. One of the obligations of the charging party is to identify the remedy they are seeking,” Chisholm said. “If it’s a bad faith barganing charge, we can order the offending party to bargain in good faith.” When asked what remedy Local 39 is seeking in this case, Local 39 Director of Public Employees Joan Bryant would not say. “We don’t want to negotiate it in the press,” Bryant said On Nov. 23, Bryant said that the union received a notice from the Public Employment Relations Board that the board has issued a complaint against the city of Lincoln. “They have issued a complaint, which means we did state a prima facie case about their bad faith so the next step is we will go to an informal conference to see if we can resolve the matter,” Bryant said. Chisholm said an informal conference is scheduled for Jan. 5. “The standard next step is to bring the parties together to attempt to help the parties reach a resolution of the dispute on a voluntary basis,” Chisholm said. “If the informal conference is not successful, the case would be set for a formal hearing before a PERB administrative law judge.” The News Messenger asked Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep about the complaint. “We received the complaint and it’s the first step in the process,” Estep said Tuesday. “There’s an informal hearing, and we will go and talk to them, and explain our position.” The unfair labor practice charge was filed in relation to the recent public services strike, which began Sept. 14 and lasted six weeks, according to previous News Messenger reports. On Sept. 13, City Council approved a Last, Best and Final Offer for the Local 39 classified group, which included employees paying 10 percent for their health care. The employees did not agree with the hike in health-care costs for themselves and their families, causing them to strike, according to previous News Messenger reports. Local 39 and the city went to the negotiating table, and a tentative agreement was ratified by the employees on Sept. 19, according to previous News Messenger reports. On Sept. 27, the agreement was brought before City Council members, who did not vote but directed city staff to return to the negotiating table. The complaint issued by the Public Employment Relations Board states that the “respondent (city) failed and refused to meet and confer in good faith with charging party (Local 39).” “The city failed to fulfill its obligation by either voting the tentative agreement up or down,” Bryant said. “They couldn’t just not do anything.” Bryant said Local 39 “went in good faith upon their (the city’s) request.” “The essence of the charge is the city of Lincoln has acted in bad faith to fail to formally consider a tentative agreement,” said Steve Crouch, Local 39 district representative. “This employer has engaged in bad faith bargaining, and unfortunately, we had to go out on strike.” Bryant said she “is excited about” the complaint. “We always believed that we had a charge,” Bryant said. “In one respect, it will certainly say to that employer that you cannot engage in this kind of conduct.”