UKIAH, 6/23/23 — Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021 filed a formal labor complaint with the California Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) on Tuesday, alleging that the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors and CEO Darcie Antie have engaged in bad faith negotiations with more than 700 county workers. Union members also allege that they’ve been barred from attending BOS meetings during work hours without permission — which would limit their ability to advocate for themselves in ongoing labor negotiations.
“There have been multiple instances where department heads have told staff that they can’t engage in collective bargaining because it is on county time, and refused to approve personal time off for this,” said Mendocino County SEIU Chapter President Julie Beardsley.
According to the charges, librarian Melissa Carr was also threatened with retaliation by Library and Museum Director Deborah Fader Samson after complaining about ongoing problems in the workplace. Specifically, the county allegedly attempted to reclassify Carr from branch librarian to library branch manager, thereby transferring Carr out of SEIU 1021 and into a different bargaining unit.
“The branch librarians have concerns that they would lose protections and be more vulnerable to retaliation and discipline,” union field representative Patrick Hickey said in an email, further describing the move as a “divide and conquer” strategy.
The Mendocino Voice reached out to Carr for comment but received an auto-reply indicating Carr will be out of the office until mid-July.
The Board of Supervisors, as well as Mendocino County CEO Darcie Antle, were contacted regarding the unfair labor practice allegations, but only 5th District Supervisor Ted Williams responded by time of publication.
“I don’t find it to be much of a story,” Williams wrote in a brief email.
These accusations of executive misconduct come amid a contentious negotiation over the union’s contract, which expires at the end of this month. The primary concern is cost of living adjustments (COLA) amid significant inflation. Mendocino county has an annual budget in excess of $421 million, but Supervisor Ted Williams has asserted that a 1% COLA for SEIU 1021 members would cost roughly $1.3 million, and necessitate layoffs.
Outgoing 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde was booed during a hostile exchange with county employees Tuesday morning in public comment after blaming the high cost of the union’s healthcare plan on the county’s workforce, saying that “some county employees are using the plan more aggressively” than workers at other government agencies. Union members attribute that cost discrepancy to an aging workforce, and Mendocino County’s relative difficulty recruiting or retaining young employees.