Tuesday, November 6, 2001
Superior Court Employee Union Asks for Probe of Election Memo
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A memorandum from the Los Angeles Superior Court's top administrator to all employees eligible to vote in an ongoing union election spurred a complaint to the attorney general that the court was interfering in union business, union spokeswoman Karleen George said yesterday.
George, an official with District Council 36 of the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees, said she had yet to hear from the Attorney General's Office whether it will open a probe into the memo, which George said may violate a law barring the use of public funds on anti-union activity.
The Nov. 2 memo from court Executive Officer/Clerk John Clarke explains the purpose and mechanics of the "agency shop" election now taking place for employees in three Superior Court bargaining units-the research attorneys, the judicial assistants and court mediators.
The question before the 950 court employees represented by the three units is whether to create an agency shop, meaning that all such employees not already members of AFSCME must join and pay union dues, or instead pay an "agency fee" for opting out. Voting, which is being conducted by mail, began late last month. Ballots are to be counted Nov. 28.
George said Clarke's one-page memo was e-mailed on Friday to the 950 employees represented by the three units, and mailed over the weekend.
She acknowledged that Clarke's statement takes no position on the question of whether to create an agency shop, but she said it includes definitions and terms that are incorrect.
Court spokesman Kyle Christopherson said the memo was simply "giving a factual definition to the employees."
"We take no position in the agency shop issue," Christopherson said. "It was really just an effort to help our employees cast an informed vote, and that is all."
The three-paragraph memo notes that AFSCME submitted petitions signed by at least 30 percent of the bargaining unit requesting an agency shop election, and that there will now be a vote. It quotes Government Code Sec. 71632.5's description of an agency shop, paraphrases the definition, and notes that employees who opt not to join but have a bona fide religious objection to union membership may instead contribute the money to a qualified charity.
"AFSCME District Council 36 dues will be a percentage of your monthly salary," the memo says. "The service fee paid by non-members will be some fraction of the membership dues. AFSCME advised the Court that it has not yet determined its dues amounts."
The memo concludes with a statement that the a majority vote establishes an agency shop and that the court takes no position on it.
George said last year's Assembly Bill 1889 barred the use of public funds for anti-union activities and forms the basis of AFSCME's request for a probe.
She declined to reveal the amount of dues paid by union members, but said the agency shop fee is calculated after a series of audits and is generally "10 to 15 percent under the dues amount."
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company