Former Local 1245 member Terry Wolff died in a tragic accident Aug. 19 while doing a private tree job in Gualala, CA. Wolff fell 63 feet and apparently died instantly. He had worked for Davey Tree Surgery 19 years and became a private tree work contractor when Davey lost the PG&E line clearance contract in the Fort Bragg/Point Arena area. Wolff was 62 years old and had over 25 years of experience in tree work.
There has been a major management shakeup at Davey Tree with three general foremen returning to the bargaining unit. Three account managers were demoted to supervisors and at least three supervisors demoted to general foremen. The company claims this was done as a cost cutting measure.
The union has met in Grievance Review Committee with Davey Tree Surgery, Trees Inc. and Asplundh Tree Expert in recent weeks with mixed results. Employees accused and terminated for falsification of company documents (penciling trees) continues to be a huge problem with companies not using progressive discipline. The miss-use of the word falsification (when in fact many times these are clerical mistakes) makes this issue catastrophic career-wise for those caught up in this issue. We have repeatedly informed the members about this issue and the consequences but the number of cases seems to be increasing.
Asplundh and its subsidiaries, Trees Inc. and Utility Tree Service, have a safety policy called Lifesaving Rules while Davey’s policy is called Critical Violations that completely bypass progressive discipline. First violation of Lifesaving Rules calls for termination without question and Critical Violations are two-day suspension on the first occurrence with termination on the second.
The union held a Grievance Review Committee meeting with Asplundh at Weakley Hall in Vacaville on Aug. 25. All open 2009 and 2010 grievances were reviewed–18 in all. The union and company settled the majority of these grievances. A wrap-up meeting has been scheduled for September. The union expects progressive discipline to be adhered to by the company.
The union held a Grievance Review Committee meeting with Trees Inc. at Weakley Hall in Vacaville on Aug. 23. All open 2009 and 2010 grievances were reviewed–12 in all. There are quality control issues with Trees Inc. in regards to audits of work completed in vegetation control. Technicians are signing off work that has not been completed. The company takes a hard line on these types of infractions. The company informed the union of a drop in forecasted work, and implemented layoffs in Fresno and San Joaquin Divisions. The union informed the company bumping rights are being requested in both areas.
The union held a Grievance Review Committee meeting with Davey Tree at Weakley Hall in Vacaville on Aug. 17. All open 2010 grievances were discussed–12 in all. We reached satisfactory settlements in the majority of these cases. The company informed us the work picture has picked up in Central Coast and Los Padres Divisions. Los Padres is working seven days a week. Work has picked up in Oakland and Diablo Divisions. These crews are on 10-hours shifts. Work has also picked up in Sierra Division and crews are now working 10-hour shifts. We are still in fire season so please take all your gear to your work site!
Finally, the Youth Engaged for Solidarity Conference (Youth Engaged for Solidarity) scheduled for Sept. 25 has been generating positive feedback among members in line clearance tree trimming.
Ron Cochran, Junior Ornelas and Carl Lamers contributed to this report.