Local 1245 held a Line Clearance Peer-to-Peer Safety Summit in Vacaville in December. All tree trimmer stewards in the system were invited. Business Reps. Dean Gurke and Fred Ross and Assistant Business Manager Ralph Armstrong led the program. Business Reps. Carl Lamers and Junior Ornelas were present, along with guests from the Local 1245 Safety Committee. The group watched a video about the farmworkers’ historic labor struggle in the 1970s. Local 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell, who was an attorney for the farmworkers union at that time, was featured in the video.
A sub-committee selected from this group met in Vacaville on Jan. 4, 2012 to create a safety program for our tree trimmer members. Production Pressure Production pressure is universal among our tree trimmer employers. We are seeing a growing number of problems with all the companies. Our members are taking risks and violating the tree companies’ policies in response to production pressure. Upper management takes a no-nonsense approach to their safety policies while lower management—who are also feeling production pressure—are fine with policy violations as long as nothing happens. But when something does happen, our members are the ones at risk.
The union has seen an increase in problems with application of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). We have discussed FMLA at length with our members, but there is still a lack of knowledge about how it works or even that it exists. In some cases members over-extend their FMLA, or do not file for it, or do not complete the forms. They then end up in trouble with their employers. Some of the employers, it appears, consider employees who take FMLA as a liability and are only too happy to fire those that make errors regarding FMLA. The union will continue to spread the word about how this important program works.
Asplundh Agreement Rejected
We reached a table agreement with the Asplundh companies, including Wright Tree, in Vacaville on Dec. 6. The vote was conducted Dec. 29, 2011. The offer was rejected by the membership at all four companies. Several key issues were changes in language when the company takes over another area, and the Pension Plan.
The Grievance Committee will meet on Jan. 20, 2012. This will wrap-up all open matters for 2011. We are having issues involving production. The majority of these issues are self-inflicted by management. Crew foremen request line kills, or T&M, but supervisors refuse to address the issue with PG&E. Supervisors then issue the work to another crew. Supervisors then hammer the foremen for low production. This has been a problem for some time.
Davey Tree Surgery/South: We are having pay issues in Central Coast & Los Padres Division. This matter has been brought to the company’s attention. Several members have not received their 2011 pay increase. We are now preparing for the Davey/Turlock Irrigation District negotiations. Proposals have been completed by the majority of the membership. Negotiations are set for Jan. 17. Labor Management meetings are set for Los Padres Division in San Luis Obispo on Jan. 11. Central Coast, East-Bay, Mission, and Diablo are forthcoming.
Trees Inc.: We reached a table agreement on Dec. 6, 2011. The vote was conducted on Dec. 29. The offer was overwhelmingly rejected by the membership. The major hurdle was the elimination of the Vegetation Control-4 Specialist classification. Those members already in the classification would be grandfathered, but all others would never be promoted.
The next Grievance Review Committee is set to meet on Jan. 12. We have several open issues to discuss and resolve. We had an issue in Stockton regarding FMLA. We need to make certain all parts of the application are completed prior to a member taking leave.
Utility Tree: We reached the table agreement with the company on Dec. 6, 2011. The vote was conducted on Dec. 29. The offer was rejected by the membership. This was the same offer that was voted on at the other Asplundh Tree companies. The change to the pension plan was a key issue.
Windy Tree: We held a negotiation meeting on Dec. 19. The company is proposing changes to the existing agreement and changes to the medical plan. We have another negotiation meeting set for Jan. 5 in Sacramento, CA.
Wright Tree: We reached the table agreement on Dec. 6, 2011. The vote was rejected by the majority of the membership. The change in the agreement to eliminate the Master Foreman Classification was a major issue.
We had a Grievance Review Committee meeting on Dec. 19. We have a few open issues to resolve.
Davey Tree Surgery/North: Since the fatal accident in Pebble Beach the company has taken a much tougher stance on their “Critical Violation” policy. We just dealt with an issue of an employee who was climbing without a climbing line and operating a chain saw in a tree with a single tie in. We were lucky to save his job although he was demoted and has to serve an extended probation with regard to the “Critical Violation” policy.
The company has put the Humboldt contract out to bid for the second time in as many years. We attended a company Foremen’s Meeting in Eureka where the company explained how and why they will rebid this contract.
The company is equipping more of their trucks with GPS and, contrary to what many of our members believe, the company is using it and we have seen it used. In one case it worked as a “BS” detector resulting in a termination.
Business Representatives Junior Ornelas and Carl Lamers contributed to this report.