THE GOOD NEWS – At the January 13, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting a positive step was taken in improving the relationship between the Township Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC). There was an agreement made regarding the employment status and unionization efforts of PRC employees.
THE BAD NEWS – Contrary to what Supervisor Gonser stated, Trustee Bailey confirmed that unionization efforts by the Parks Commission employees occurred after the current Board was elected. Unionization efforts are typically initiated by employees to protect themselves from administrative’ actions and decisions. The Parks Commission employees are considering joining a union. The Fire Fighters joined a union after the current Board came into office.
At the January 13, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting, the Township Board agreed to a Tentative Settlement Agreement between the Oakland Township Board, the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Commission and the Michigan AFSCME Council 25, AFL-CIO. This agreement states that the Township Parks and Recreation Commission employees are co-employed by the Parks and Recreation Commission as well as the Township. It states that both parties (PRC and Township) ‘have the right to participate in bargaining with the proposed bargaining unit’.
This tentative agreement was negotiated as a result of a December 16, 2014 State of Michigan Employment Relations Commission Hearing. This Tenatative agreement was approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission at their December 17, 2014 meeting after the hearing.
The issue of who the Parks and Recreation employees ‘work for’ has been a contentious issue ever since the current Board of Trustees came into office in 2012. Several members of the Board had taken the position that the PRC employees were under their control, not the Parks and Recreation Commission. The issue had escalated to the point where legal action had been taken between the Board and the PRC. Taxpayer money has been spent on arriving at the Tentative Agreement.
At the January 13th Board meeting, Supervisor Gonser stated that the unionization efforts by Township Staff was started under the former Board (the Fire Department is now unionized and the PRC employees are considering joining a union). Trustee Michael Bailey corrected Supervisor Gonser indicating that the unionization efforts were started after this Board was elected.
Here is Gonser’s statement:
“Both the unionization of the Fire Department, and unionization of the Parks Department began under the previous administration, so that was already in place when this Board took office. It has simply progressed from there to this point.”
One of Oakland Township citizens questioned Gonser’s choice of words asking:
“Is that a technical point? Are you saying before you “took office”, but was it after you were elected? Because I had understood, or heard, that there was (employee) fear based on (new Board member) positions taken.”
Gonser replied by stating:
” I don’t know if I can draw that distinction, but I do know it took place before this board took office.”
Trustee Bailey (a Trustee of the Board under the previous administration) responded by saying:
“I do not recall any discussion about unionization of Parks Commission during our tenure on previous Board.
As far as the Fire Department unionization, there were preliminary discussions, but no real action taken until after this Board came on board.”
Here is a video of that exchange:
There have been many issues between the Board and the PRC since the Board came into power in 2012. The most egregious was Terry Gonser’s April 1, 2014 memo, sent by former Superintendant James Creech, attempting to take control of the Land Preservation fund from the PRC. Other documented issues are referenced here:
Here is a copy of the agreement.
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? The approval of the agreement can be construed as a ‘bury the hatchet’ action by both the Township Board and the PRC. Hopefully future actions the Board takes will keep the positive direction taken in this first step.
The only reason we were dealing with this issue is because of the attacks that Supervisor Gonser, and several other members of the Board, have taken against the Parks and Recreation Commission and employees. Employees seek union protection when they fear actions that their ‘management’ may take.
The potential unionization of Township employees does not benefit the Township or ultimately the employees if a good working relationship with ‘administration’ can be maintained.
Supervisor Gonser’s denial that unionization efforts started when this Board was elected in 2012 is another example of him trying to distance himself from the consequences of his actions.
Hopefully the majority of the Board will continue to improve the relationship with the PRC and eliminate any further legal expense associated with asking the court system to resolve issues.