By: Jeffrey Mitchell , Rail/Mover Vice President
I would like to start by wishing everyone a very safe, happy, and healthy New Year. The year 2018 is going to be unlike recent ones in the labor arena. Quite frankly, Unions in this County as well as those nationwide will not survive if we don’t change our ways, and we are planning many important strategies that I believe will make a big difference going forward.
Contract negotiations have ended, and we just finished the State-required Special Master hearings to resolve our differences. The Special Master has submitted his recommendations, including a retroactive four percent (4%) raise. The process will be finalized after the final recommendations are eventually voted on by the Board of County Commissioners soon.
The Union is also negotiating some form of settlement regarding the County’s breach of our contract’s requirement that our bargaining-unit members perform all Gear Box overhaul work on the Metrorail trains. We have already argued the case before the assigned Arbitrator, and he will be making a binding ruling in the not-too-distant future.
Some of the above-referenced issues are very technical and may be impacted by the Special Master’s recommendations the Board of County Commissioners may vote on. Even the attorneys involved in these matters have been confused or are unsure as to who has jurisdiction over the cases, with the law being unclear in these matters.
The newly appointed International President of the Transport Workers Union in Washington, DC, John Samuelsen, recently came down to Miami with his senior staff, and pledged to join the fight against the Union-busting forces trying to dismantle Unions all across the country. The TWU International’s new President is the former President of TWU Local 100 in New York, the largest Union under the TWU umbrella. The International has a wealth of experience and resources that will be made available to us, and we hope to be able to do things that normally cannot be done as a smaller Local. We are talking about full-page ads in periodicals such as the Miami Herald, large billboard ads, and even radio and television buys. What a difference that will make!
One of the main procedures for fighting any violation of our contract or unfair discipline of our members, is to file a formal grievance. In the last couple of years, however, the grievance process has almost come to a screeching halt. This has been due to heavy turnover in the County’s division overseeing grievances, the termination of their newly appointed and inept Civil Rights Director, and the fact that Miami-Dade Transit’s Director, Alice Bravo, is doing her best to sabotage the system. We are now putting together litigation to stop this Unfair Labor Practice, and the law is clearly on our side. County administrators, of course, think they are above the law.
One of the ways we can do that is to remind taxpayers that they are all being fleeced as a result of the Mayor’s “Ponzi” scheme, wherein the County continues to collect the extra ½ cent sales tax, under false pretenses, for the “expansion” of the transit system. A Ponzi scheme is when you illegally take money from someone (½ cent sales tax) then refuse to give them what you promised for that money (expansion of transit).
Finally, the Union is aggressively addressing the continuing failure of Rail administrators to offer overtime in accordance with contractual requirements. Despite the fact that the County has literally been forced to pay millions of dollars to our members over time after court awards for violations of the overtime-equalization clause, they never seem to be able to follow clear but strict procedures required by our contract. Just last week a court ordered the County to return to arbitration to determine the damages to our members due to their failure to follow proper and binding overtime procedures.