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Labor Pains: City Bus Drivers, County Jailers Threaten Strikes

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Fresno city bus drivers authorized a strike. Meetings are scheduled. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)
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Two local public labor unions are threatening strikes.

In the city of Fresno, the bus driver union — ATU — objects to what its leaders say is the city wanting to change the labor contract regarding two key issues.

In Fresno County, the union representing correctional officers has called for a strike to start May 23. The county says such a labor stoppage is illegal and will go to court to stop a strike.

Bus Union: Overtime and Monitoring

Union members authorized a strike on May 1 by a 98% margin. Rick Steitz, a consultant for the union, says there are still many steps and meetings with the city before any stoppage date is set.

The union says the city wants to calculate overtime on a weekly basis (40 or more hours) as opposed to daily (more than 8 hours).

A problem also exists with how the city wants to use surveillance cameras, the union says. Per the union contract, the city is allowed to review video around certain events such as accidents and problems with riders. Now, the union says, the city wants to monitor all drivers 24/7.

“They want to call anything an incident and just violate our privacy,” Steitz said. “They are certainly overreaching.”

City Responds

Gregory Barfield, assistant Fresno city manager, says “the City is not requesting any changes to the current policy which was approved in previous (union contracts).”

Regarding the overtime policy, Barfield says they city wants to bring drivers into existing federal standards, which is overtime after 40 hours in a week.

“Status quo in the current (union contract) is that ATU members receive time and a half for any time actually worked over 8 hours in one day, even if they do not actually work complete their weekly assigned schedule,” Barfield said in an email to GV Wire.

The Fresno City Council is scheduled to discuss the ATU negotiation Thursday. The city and union have a meeting planned next week.

“We and I believe that the city of Fresno will have an honest, earnest effort to reach an agreement next Tuesday. Whether we do or not remains to be seen,” Steitz said.

County Correctional Workers Want Parity With Deputies

Inside the Fresno County Jail. (California Board of State and Community Corrections)

The Fresno County Public Safety Association says it wants parity with the union representing sheriff’s deputies. Both groups made concessions in 2011.

The union represents 1,000 employees including jailers, county security, child support employees, probation technicians and program technicians.

Since then, the union say the deputies have received a 22% raise, while correctional workers at both the main jail and juvenile hall have received 7.5% hike.

“The exhaustive working conditions within the Corrections classifications and the simple fact that it has become virtually impossible to recruit and retain qualified staff has resulted in unsafe and understaffed working conditions,” FCPSA said in a news release.

The county, in a news statement, said that public safety will not be compromised if a strike occurs.

“The County’s plan is not to release inmates prematurely as a result of this temporary job action, and impact to jail operations will be minimal, if any,” County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland said.

The county said it would file an injunction to prevent the labor action. None had been filed as of Wednesday afternoon.

How Sheriff Candidates Would Deal with Labor Problem

John Zanoni and Mark Salazar are the two candidates running for the open Fresno County Sheriff position. Both say they would help solve the labor problem if elected sheriff.

Zanoni, the assistant sheriff, believes there is “common ground” between the union and the county. He says communication is key.

“As sheriff, I would even enhance that even more, be even a stronger advocate for the employees and ensure that issues are resolved by having frequent monthly meetings, talking to them and getting an understanding for what they’re seeing,” Zanoni said.

Salazar, the Fresno Police Department deputy chief, says correctional officers tell him morale is low.

“I’m going to be a sheriff that shows up, that is present but also that invests in them and their development in their training, mentoring and coaching and let them know that they’re valued. That’s a big deal,” Salazar said.

2022 Fresno County sheriff candidates Mark Salazar (left) and John Zanoni. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email