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Engineers union files unfair practices charge against city

The union that represents city engineers has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the state,  alleging the city has drawn out negotiations over a new contract.  

The Long Beach Association of Engineering Employees is one of eight bargaining units that are currently in negotiations with the city to replace labor agreements that expired at the end of September. 

Only the police and firefighters unions have been successful in ratifying new terms for their members. The two remaining unions, Association of Long Beach Employees and Service Employees International Union, are currently under contract terms imposed by the Long Beach City Council as a result of unsuccessful negotiations with the Long Beach Department of Human Resources. 

In its charge with the state Public Employee Relations Board, the engineering union alleges that the city has engaged in unfair practice by failing to negotiate in good faith. 

“The city has been taking too much time to get their ducks in a row, when it comes to negotiating with our bargaining unit,” LBAEE President Jason Rodriguez told the Business Journal. “We need help. We need help fixing this situation.”

Salaries are a major concern for the union. A salary survey published by the union in October showed that Long Beach engineering employees earned less than their regional counterparts in 13 of the 15 positions reviewed. Positions to be included in the survey were picked according to city guidelines and compared to the “Standard 10” cities selected by the city, which include Anaheim, Torrance and Los Angeles. 

LBAEE Survey Graph
Data Source: Long Beach Association of Engineering Employees and Long Beach Department of Human Resources Salary Survey, Data Visualization: Alena Maschke

Income gaps between Long Beach employees and their colleagues in the region ranged from 16.2% below the area median for Geographic Information System (GIS) analysts to 4.6% above the median for fire prevention plan checkers. 

“The fact that the engineering employees are so far below the median is cause for great concern. It’s almost an emergency,” Rodriguez said. 

Long Beach Labor Relations Manager Dana Anderson said in an email that she could not comment on ongoing negotiations, adding that the city is “negotiating in good faith.” 

Anderson said the city submitted a response to the labor charge on Feb. 11.

Once the city’s response has been submitted, the assigned PERB agent will determine whether the charge meets the legal standard for a violation. If it meets the standard, the charge will be transformed into a complaint to be resolved through an informal settlement conference, mediated by a different board agent. 

If the two parties are unable to reach an agreement during the settlement conference, the case will be set for formal hearing in front of a PERB administrative law judge.

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