For the past nine years, Chula Vista city workers have been represented at the bargaining table by one of the largest international unions in the nation.
But that relationship could possibly come to an end as the 386 members of the Chula Vista Employees Association will vote April 17 to determine if they want to remain affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, Local 221,or break away from SEIU and create its own union called ACE — Association of Chula Vista Employees —or not be backed by a union at all.
Ballots must be returned to the Public Employees Relations Board by May 15 with the votes tallied on May 16. The option that received 50 percent plus one of the vote wins.
CVEA’s contract with the city of Chula Vista expires on June 30.
CVEA had an election to affiliate with SEIU in 2009 and it failed. However, SEIU said there was a discrepancy so they held the election again and it passed. An affiliation agreement was drawn up and signed by CVEA representatives but it was never signed by SEIU or filed with the city of Chula Vista. Although there is not an affiliation agreement signed or filed, SEIU has been collecting agency fees from CVEA, about $250,000 annually.
Despite the unsigned document SEIU argued that the affiliation agreement is valid based on SEIU’s history of working with CVEA.
“The affiliation agreement has been in place and they are a full-fledged chapter of SEIU 221,” said David Garcias, SEIU president, Local 221.
Deputy City Attorney Simon Silva said PERB rules prevents him from publicly commenting on the affiliation agreement or on the upcoming election because the process is ongoing. He did say the city has to remain neutral throughout the process and must abide with the outcome of the election.
On Jan.3, 232 CVEA employees, 63 percent, signed a decertification petition that was submitted to human resources.
Esteban Barajas, a Chula Vista public works employee and a full dues paying member with SEIU, said he wants to see his union break away from SEIU because he said they do not properly represent Chula Vista Employees when they are needed, and are only around every three years during contract negotiations and he said SEIU does not give CVEA a fair share of money. He said SEIU receives about $250,000 annually as part of CVEA’s union dues.
“We’re supposed to be on the top of the food chain so why are they getting $250,000 and we are over here living off of top ramen soups?”
Garcias disagrees with all of Barajas’ claims.
Garcias said SEIU has always provided representation for CVEA when needed in the form of organizers, negotiators, attorneys and other resources,
“We’ve had good organizers working there, we have always had good leadership and we’ve always had strong leadership in the Chula Vista chapter.”
Garcias said CVEA has a separate fund where members pay an additional $1 into the fund monthly.
But CVEA members said SEIU is behind in reimbursing.
Barajas said morale has been low under SEIU leadership. Barajas said another issue he has with SEIU is during elections for the Chula Vista City Council. He said SEIU endorsed Mike Diaz and wanted CVEA to endorse him too. But on the endorsement check listed that it came from SEIU, not CVEA.
“In their eyes, when we come and ask them (the city council) for help, it’s like ‘I never got a check from kind of thing,” he said. “CVEA should be on everything, SEIU is just the sister partnership.”
Throughout the years, a slew of unions have decertified from SEIU including the San Diego Community College District, employees from the city of San Marcos and city of La Mesa as well as the San Diego County Probation Officers Unit.