Members of the city’s largest bargaining unit will soon be asked if they wish to cut ties with their international union affiliate.
On Tuesday, the Napa City Council unanimously agreed to allow a secret ballot election to be held so the 206 members of the Napa City Employees Association can decide if they’d like to remain part of the Service Employees International Union, or become an entirely independent unit.
“I have personally fought for workers’ right to organize and affiliate and inherently a great part of that is their right to not organize and not affiliate,” Councilman Scott Sedgley said. “It’s the worker’s right to choose.”
Those who wish to split from the SEIU have said becoming a local-only association will give Napa employees more control and will keep their dues in the city, rather than being used for union issues in big cities. Those who wish to remain affiliated with the SEIU said the union provides greater protection for NCEA members, offers educational opportunities and representation.
The election will be handled by the State Mediation and Conciliation Service and will be held as soon as possible. The state will formulate the ballot language, but generally, it will ask members if they wish to disaffiliate from the SEIU and be their own Napa union.
On Oct. 2, the city received a petition with 77 signatures from members of the Napa City Employees Association expressing their desire to hold an election regarding their affiliation with SEIU. A state mediator reviewed the signatures and determined 76 were valid, surpassing the necessary threshold of 62 signatures required for a vote.
“There’s a good portion of the employees that aren’t satisfied with the representation they’ve been getting from either the state affiliate or the local affiliate,” Sedgley said. “That has to be addressed. That’s too big a portion of our workforce to be dissatisfied with the group that negotiates their wages and benefits. ... SEIU and the current NCEA needs to figure out why 30 percent of their members aren’t happy”
Representatives of Napa City Employees Association and SEIU leadership who are against the vote contested some of the signatures and raised questions surrounding the legality of the pro-split group’s decision to change its name midway through the process. Ultimately, the council decided a vote should be held so all members may make a final decision.
“I don’t think this is the end of it. People will decide when they vote,” Councilman Alfredo Pedroza said. “I believe our employees should have the opportunity to choose.”
Councilman Peter Mott joined Mayor Jill Techel in saying he’d like to proceed with a vote as soon as possible. The city is currently negotiating a new contract with the NCEA and SEIU.
“There’s certainly unhappy people and the easiest way to get that figured out is to move forward with an election,” Mott said.