A labor coalition comprised of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3947, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 721, AFSCME Local 2325 and the Compton Firefighters International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2216 said it plans to sue the city of Compton for what it sees as a number of violations that occurred during the budget process.
This week the coalition’s attorney Anthony Segall sent a letter to Compton Mayor Eric J. Perrodin and members of the city council outlining what the lawsuit will entail.
The following is a summary of the key points in the letter.
1. Violation of Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA) Failure to Meet and Confer in Good Faith.
The city has an obligation to meet and confer with the bargaining representatives of its employees regarding matters within the scope of representation. According to the suit, the city’s conduct before and at the July 19 council meeting made a mockery of the bargaining process required by the MMBA due to repeated flat refusals to bargain and a refusal to respond to the coalition’s information requests.
2. Violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Requires that in order for legislative action to be valid, the body must post an agenda with each item of business to be transacted at least 72 hours prior to a meeting. The suit argues that the council’s July 11 agenda included a memorandum on a proposed resolution to adopt a budget for fiscal year 2011-2012 that differed substantially from the resolution actually presented at the meeting and was distributed to some council members only immediately prior the meeting.
3. Violation of Compton City Charter- Layoff Without Regard to Classifications and Job Families. This section of the charter requires that when the city abolishes or reduces the number of employees, all layoffs must be governed by seniority in service in the reverse order of employment. It also requires the city manager to conduct periodic studies of the classification of positions and use that information to form the basis of proposals to be considered/adopted by the personnel board. The suit argues that those studies have not been done, causing the classification system to be out of date, which will result in contravention of the seniority rules mandated by the charter.
4. Violation of Compton City Charter-Illegal Temporary Appointment.
The coalition argues that since at least 2007 the city has made numerous temporary/interim appointments to the Classified Service for terms that exceed the city’s appointment power. It is also up for debate whether the appointments complied with the charter’s merit-based hiring rules that only allow interim appointments when there is no eligible list to fill a vacancy. Because individuals serving in expired appointments have remained in exempted positions of the Classified Service, it is nearly certain that any proposed layoffs will not be by seniority in service as required by the charter.
5. Civil Service Mandate-Prohibition Against Contracting for Services.
Although not all of the proposed layoffs have been implemented yet, any future contracting for services currently provided by positions to be laid off will violate the civil service mandate implied by the California Constitution and Article XI of the charter, which forbids private contracts for work that the state itself can perform adequately and competently.
AFSCME Local 3947 president Rose Downs, one of the people who has been at the forefront of the Compton budget battles, and an employee who is likely to be laid off, said that exit interviews for outgoing employees were occurring today.
In the letter, the coalition also reiterated its frustration with not being able to obtain requested information and, once again, makes a formal request for the information including, but not limited to: The current list of employees proposed for layoffs and the methodology for selecting those employees; a list of all temporary, exempt, or interim employees in the Classified Service; all studies of the classification of positions that may affect classes with proposed layoffs, and a personnel list of all persons employed in all coalition bargaining units.
“I haven’t talked with any of the members of the council since the vote to pass the budget with layoffs,” said Yvonne Arceneaux, the only councilmember to vote against the layoffs. “I’m sure the council wasn’t pleased with my decision on the budget, but I didn’t believe that we were prepared to make that kind of decision at that time. I was working with too limited an amount of information. Nevertheless, it was passed and today is the last day of layoffs. It turned out to be about 81 employees that were let go. There was a farewell gathering at City Hall yesterday for those outgoing employees.”
When asked how far she believed layoff fight would go, Arceneaux said that she believes it will come to a legal battle and that the city is preparing for that situation. “When the unions gave us the proposal to prevent layoffs, there was a whole list of things that needed to be done to make that a possibility, but instead the city manager decided to pick and choose which parts he wanted to adopt and that wasn’t the way it was presented. (The union wanted) all or nothing, you accept it or you don’t. The unions said it would come to this, so although I haven’t been informed on what is going on and exactly what action is being taken at this moment, it isn’t a surprise.”
Although out of town, Arceneaux was the only city official who was available for a response at press time.