District, union come to agreement

Antonio Hernandez / Roundup, Jared Iorio / Roundup

A new contract between the Los Angeles Community College District and the Los Angeles City and County School Employees Union was signed Wednesday at the LACCD Board of Trustees meeting in downtown L.A.

The union, represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 99, has been in negotiations with the district since last August. Paul Nieman, director of facilities at Pierce College, was part of the team that met weekly with the union, which represents LACCD maintenance, custodial and janitorial workers, until a tentative agreement was reached Dec. 4 of last year.

“It was an interesting experience, being part of the district negotiations,” Nieman said. “It was an open contract negotiation, but there weren’t many changes made.”

James J. Bradley, Pierce custodian and shop steward, was also on hand for the signing of the contract.

“Many terms have been revised in the contract,” Bradley said. “One of the big issues was making sure that no one would be scheduled to work into the early morning, such as 1 a.m., and not have to come in before 4:30 a.m.”

Nieman explained that the scheduled start and stop times were unlikely to affect the Pierce campus much, as none of the workers are currently scheduled before or after those times, but they may affect other district schools.

Bradley believes the union is satisfied with the new contract, which also included new rules for breaks during work.

“We covered a rest period for continuous labor, for example, during graduation service you would work an hour digging holes and such, and would get a break every two hours. Now, workers will be allowed to have a five minute break every hour,” Bradley said.

One major change to the contract was the addition of the Steward Network Augmentation Program (SNAP), which is designed to fill the void of union shop stewards throughout the district.

“As of now,” Nieman said, “there are some campuses that don’t have any or enough shop stewards, so what you have is stewards going from place to place to deal with everyday issues.”

Shop stewards are an important link between employees and employers.  It is usually a position which is held voluntarily by an employee on site in order to deal with day-to day grievances that may come up.

The new SNAP program allows employees to meet for one half-hour a month with pay to discuss union issues and train new stewards, Nieman explained.

Other changes in the contract include vouchers for mandated safety footwear and education differentials. Representative organizer Troylynn Limar, explained the reason for including education differentials, which benefit custodial workers pursuing a degree.

“You have to go to school and tend (to) your education if you’re going to give your employer the best,” Limar said.

They eventually reached an agreement with the LACCD, but it wasn’t easy, according to Limar. He described the four months of negotiations as hard, but said the exchanges between the SEIC and the district were never hostile.

“Our negotiations were tough, but they were not mean spirited. These people actually understand what we do, and the value of that work. They also realize that many of their employees are also students at their college,” Limar said.

Paul E. Richard Sr. (right), a gardener at Southwest College, signs the new contract between the SEIU local 99 and the Los Angeles Community College District on Wednesday in downtown Los Angeles. Other union representatives and LACCD Board of Trustees President Kelly G. Candaele (left) also signed the contract. (Jared Iorio / Roundup)