We believe that Management and the Board of Directors are violating the law by conducting layoffs before a collective bargaining agreement has been finalized. At the staff meeting yesterday, Management indicated that its position is that it has no obligation to bargain with the union over layoff decisions, including the identities of affected staff. This is legally incorrect. However, even if Management’s position holds some water, one thing is indisputable: these layoffs defy the spirit of organized labor. Advancing Justice-LA is proving that it is anything but a progressive employer.
In August 2018, we began contract negotiations with Management. We presented a comprehensive initial proposal to Management on the very first day that we met. As negotiations proceeded, we went through the union’s initial proposal article by article, reaching tentative agreements on articles where we could.
One article that the union proposed should not have been controversial. We proposed a standard seniority provision that would outline the procedure for layoffs should they become necessary. We proposed, as is the case in many collective bargaining agreements, a “last in, first out” procedure — that is the least senior (“last in”) employee would be the first to be laid off (“first out”) in each job classification. This standard procedure is common in unionized workplaces, as it creates job security and rewards workplace loyalty. It also protects workers from arbitrary or retaliatory termination. Although this proposal was nothing radical, Management vehemently objected to it. It wanted to be able to pick and choose whom they could lay off, regardless of seniority. It submitted a counter-proposal that effectively made seniority irrelevant. To date, we have not reached a tentative agreement on this article.
Meanwhile, throughout negotiations, Management repeatedly assured us that it was not actively contemplating layoffs, likely to diminish any sense of urgency the union might have felt about bargaining seniority provisions. These representations were outright lies. Behind the union’s back, Management was orchestrating layoff plans and identifying particular employees, many of whom have been especially vocal in union activities, for termination. Under the pretense of a “financial emergency,” Management is rushing headlong into layoffs before a seniority provision or the like hamstrings its ability to pick off employees it does not like. On July 25, 2019, the Board of Directors covertly approved a proposal for layoffs, identifying by name or position only three individuals — all of whom have been deeply engaged in the collective bargaining unit.
These are not the actions of a progressive organization. A progressive organization sees the value in collective bargaining agreements. A progressive organization sees the value in providing its staff with job security. A progressive organization sees the value in minimizing the risk of arbitrary and retaliatory layoffs. A progressive organization does not lie to its staff while secretly plotting to lay them off. With these actions, Advancing Justice-LA has shown that it has little, if any, respect for organized labor. It has lost any right to call itself a progressive organization.