The largest county union could get smaller



It was a small victory for members of the San Luis Obispo General Employees’ Association (SLOGEA) when the new union was permitted to take a vote on July 15 and possibly split from the largest public union in the county: San Luis Obispo County Employees’ Association (SLOCEA).

A simple majority vote could split the 179 members of the Trades, Crafts, and Services unit from the other 1,431 members of SLOCEA. (An election date hadn’t yet been scheduled as of press time.)

Take a deep breath and keep the acronyms straight: SLOCEA leadership appealed to county supervisors that SLOGEA had failed to meet guidelines when it filed a petition to break from the SLOCEA umbrella. Despite claims that the petitioners were granted an extension beyond the mandated deadline, that some signatures and dates may have been recorded improperly, and that the new union was attempting to confuse members into abandoning the SLOCEA ship, county supervisors overturned the appeal and decided SLOGEA’s petition met the 40 percent minimum threshold with 72 signatures. In order to officially break away, SLOGEA needs to entice at least 50 percent plus one of the Trades, Crafts, and Services unit.

Following the decision, SLOGEA members gathered in the hallway, cheering, clapping, and coalescing in a giant, giddy group hug.

Strife within SLOCEA escalated for months leading to the petition, said former president Michele Whipple. Whipple began circulating the petition after her resignation in mid January, giving the group 12 days to file for a split. They would have attempted to decertify the entire SLOCEA union if there were more time to do so, she added.

“I resigned because I didn’t believe in the board [of directors],” Whipple told New Times. “And I have morals and ethics.”

Problems in the union began after a senior member was terminated and the SLOCEA office manager was subsequently granted a salary increase, SLOGEA members told New Times. After filing a grievance over her colleague’s termination, former member Christine Brown said she was fired, too.

SLOCEA General Manager Kimm Daniels said salary increases are only approved by the board of directors, but declined to comment further on “internal salaries.”

Asked about expected results of the election, Daniels said, “That remains to be seen. I don’t know that the 40 percent [who signed the petition] would still be in support.”

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