County Workers Union Chief Speaks Out on Layoffs

Nick Berardino

Nick Berardino

Orange County Employees Association General Manager Nick Berardino sent the following message out to his 11,000 plus members highlighting the difficulties and differences of approach from county managers in addressing pending layoffs due to budget shortfalls.

As the State budget situation deteriorates and it appears we may become vulnerable to even more reductions, I want to share some brief thoughts with you.

The following may be uncharacteristically emotional for me, but after the honor of serving you for over three decades I feel my insights may be valuable. I clearly understand that my views are biased and will appropriately be viewed as such by some of the individuals involved and their supporters, but there are certain facts that are not disputable.This is about something that I have now witnessed so repeatedly that I can no longer remain silent about it.

That “something” is the conduct during our layoff bargaining sessions of many of the County representatives and department managers. I won’t dance around this, the conduct of many of those on the County side of the table has bordered on despicable, with the notable exception of representatives from the Health Care Agency and the District Attorney’s Office. I realize a compliment from me to the representatives of those two departments is like a “medal from the devil,” but the truth is that they have been the only County representatives who have actively fought to save jobs and demonstrated true compassion and legitimate concern for their impacted employees. Sorry HCA and DA if I just got you in trouble.

Unfortunately, representatives from other departments and agencies – SSA, Probation, the Sheriff’s Department, Community Resources, Clerk of the Board, and Central HR (with the exception of HR Director Carl Crown, who has demonstrated real compassion) – have been cold, callous and uncreative. Most of them have been indifferent at best, and many times just plain condescending.

At times it has seemed we were dealing with a County contingent comprised of nothing but soulless androids and hostile enemies. Their collective lack of leadership skills have been painfully evident, and I am frankly amazed that many of them were ever moved into positions of responsibility, much less leadership. These department managers have sat silently while County HR representatives have failed to demonstrate even a modicum of compassion or concern. Not once have these so-called County leaders had the courage to speak up for their staffs, or expressed sorrow for the economic devastation that impacted employees will soon face.

I have watched with disgust as department leaders show up to meetings in luxury cars (like BMWs, Mercedes, and Corvettes) paid for by taxpayers, then proceed to coldly put single moms on the street. And they take such actions without even a simple “we are so sorry we have to do this.” County HR staff and department managers have repeatedly attended meetings unprepared, presented inaccurate and misleading statistics and financial data, and treated the meet and confer process as no more than an inconvenience. Their lack of preparation and disdain for the process are clear indications of their lack of concern for their employees.

I wish I had a lapel movie camera so I could show film to the CEO and the Board of Supervisors of the conduct of the pseudo-leaders they have entrusted with managing some of their departments. If they saw what has transpired, I am confident they would address that conduct directly. I know the CEO and each member of the Board of Supervisors personally. Despite our various differences, I know that deep down, as a group, they are generally good and decent people and that they would be disturbed and offended by the conduct of the County’s representatives.What OCEA has requested from department representatives and County HR staff in layoff negotiations is both reasonable and minimally burdensome on the County.

Simply tell employees why there is a need for reductions, “share the pain” by reducing an equitable number of managers and executives, present complete and accurate information, adhere to the MOU, demonstrate that you have made a concerted effort to impact as few lives as possible, and show your employees that you are genuinely concerned about the impacts of the actions you take and are truly sorry that such actions must be taken. I know that this is what the CEO wants, I know that this is what each of the members of the Board of Supervisors wants, and I hope that this can guide the future conduct of the County’s representatives as we continue to weather the economic crisis.

In Solidarity,

  1 comment for “County Workers Union Chief Speaks Out on Layoffs

  1. M. Thom
    June 12, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I realize that you are not my union rep, Nick. I have AFSCME. But you are all just unbelievable. You know why these leaders are so tired of your drama? Because they know that many of the rank and file are sick and tired of paying hard earned money into the unions that they are forced to belong to, and getting absolutely nothing in return.

    Why can’t employees have the freedom to choose whether they want the union or not? Why can’t we pick? Why can’t we choose to not be in these unions? Frankly, I don’t see one single thing that AFSCME has done that benefits me.

    They know that the public is sick of unions demanding outrageous pensions and taking money from workers, while workers toil without any benefit from the union.

    Let the workers out of the unions, if they want!

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