New union for SLO County Trades Services workers moves along in process

A new union seeking to represent county Trades Services workers has passed a procedural hurdle but still has bridges to cross.

The county Human Resources Department on Thursday verified that the San Luis Obispo General Employees Association, SLOGEA, turned in enough signatures to move its recognition process along.

SLOGEA needed valid petition signatures from 40 percent of the 178 members of the trades and crafts unit currently represented by the San Luis Obispo County Employees Association, SLOCEA.

It also met other requirements such as having a bank account and creating bylaws, according to Human Relations Director Tami Douglas-Schatz.

Now a 30-day waiting period kicks in, while others who might want to represent these workers either challenge the findings or seek a place on the ballot themselves.

Kimm Daniels, general manager of SLOCEA, did not return an e-mail asking what her union plans to do.

Whichever group emerges victorious will have the right to negotiate with county management over wages and benefits.

A SLOGEA effort to gather sufficient signatures to trigger a similar election in three other bargaining units — public services, supervisory and clerical — failed in January.

The Trades Services contract does not expire until June 2011.

While in one sense this is an internal union matter, in another it is in the public purview.

SLOCEA's bargaining units represent about 1,700 of the county's 2,400 workers. It is a powerful force affecting county government and its costs and effectiveness. Although it is a private organization, its activities ultimately affect all county taxpayers.