Aug. 30, 2008 — Fed up with what they view as poor representation, some unionized local government workers are asking the Public Employees Relations Board to decertify the United Industrial Workers-Seafarers International Union as their representative.
"All decisions are at a national level, not local," Shalima Joseph, president of Union Members in Action, said.
Joseph and other government workers formed Union Members in Action to oust the UIW-SIU. The union is the exclusive representative for non-supervisory personnel in many government departments and agencies. About 1,900 government workers belong to UIW-SIU. Its collective bargaining agreement with the government has expired and was extended on a day-to-day basis.
PERB will hold hearings on the issue Sept. 26 at the PERB office in Gallows Bay and Sept. 29 at the PERB office in Nisky Center. Both begin at 10 a.m.
Union Members in Action Vice President Herman Richards said that he's encouraging his fellow government workers to join the V.I. Worker's Union or Our V.I. Labor Union.
Joseph and Richards both said that union workers pay over $500,000 a year in dues.
"But we're not seeing the benefits," Richards said.
According to a document filed with PERB, the Union Members in Action organization claims that UIW-SIU has not held fair and democratic elections for union positions, refused to provide information to its members and the Legislature on its internal operations, real estate dealings and financial arrangements.
Additionally, ballots or supervision by a neutral party were not used in local elections, the union failed to hold secret ballot elections for delegates or shop stewards, the union's financing remains a mystery to members, and the union failed to provide financial accountability to its members.
UIW-SIU Vice President Eugene Irish said that that his job is to defend the union against the Union Workers in Action allegations.
"Anyone can say anything," he said.
According to a document provided by PERB, UIW-SIU responded that the workers' petition to decertify the union was deficient because 30 percent of the unionized members did not sign. That is the minimum requirement.
Additionally, UIW-SIU claimed the petition was deficient because the union has represented the workers for decades, appeared before PERB on numerous occasions representing the rights of its members, complied with the legal requirements for election of delegates to the national convention, and the union's financial information is available to the public.
The document indicates that 780 people signed the petition. This wasn't enough to meet the threshold of 30 percent of members from each "unit," but PERB said the hearings would be held because the allegations were "sufficient specific to warrant a hearing on the matter."
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