It’s heartbreaking to witness the actions that the Interim Management and the Board of Directors have taken in the last couple of months. While we still don’t know how each Board member voted (despite repeated calls for transparency), we don’t believe the actions can we justified. To the contrary, everything the Interim Management and a majority of the Board has done reeks of anti-union retaliation.
It is important to know that the staff that voted to form a union did so out of an unwavering commitment to the organization’s mission and the communities that they diligently serve every day. It is important to know that the union formed in response to a number of troubling events and circumstances that were years in the making. We saw leaks of strange black liquid from the roof every time it rained. The HVAC was broken on and off for more than a year; someone counted the days and it was more than a total of three months in the span of a year, in a building where we could not open the windows so the uncirculated air temperatures soared to the high 80s. There was a horrific fire at our (now closed) San Gabriel Community Center where one of the staff was pregnant and inhaled so much smoke she was ordered to bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy term. That building we leased lacked fire alarms or sprinklers. Over the years, we regularly saw cockroaches in the kitchen, some dead and some alive. Some issues border on the unlawful. This list of grievances is far from exhaustive.
And despite raising these legitimate concerns, Management regularly failed to improve working conditions. There was too little accountability at the top. In addition to all this, staff salaries were dismal and far below the comparable rates at similar legal services agencies.
Make no mistake, the union staff’s requests were imminently reasonable. Fair wages. Improved infrastructure. Accountability across the board.
How did Interim Management and the majority of the Board respond to staff concerns? They have engaged in anti-union and anti-progressive tactics. They authorize targeted “layoffs” of line staff and union leaders.
The great irony is that these Board Members who authorized to terminate hardworking staff and take away their livelihood, are mostly partners at large law firms and executive management at multinational corporations. They almost certainly could not put up with even a month of the working conditions and wages that the union staff has endured for years. These Board Members would never let their husbands, wives, daughters, sons, or even friends, put up with half of the horrific conditions that we have endured.
It is indefensible and appalling for the Interim Management and the Board to expect the union staff to simply accept a different set of workplace standards that they would never accept for themselves.