Berkeley nonprofit fails to resolve new contract with labor union

Karen Chow/Staff

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Contract negotiations between the California Professional Employees Union and one of their employers — Berkeley nonprofit Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, or BOSS — remained unresolved after the union refused to sign the new fiscal year contract during an unsuccessful mediation Sept. 27.

These discussions have been ongoing since June, though the process began in March. In an effort to reach an agreement, the union brought in mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service two weeks ago, but ultimately the union decided that not all of their requests were being met.

The union’s field representative and campus alumni Christopher Graeber said during the mediation the union was unsatisfied with the negotiations because they wanted the contract to include a request for quarter-year financial reports from BOSS. This condition, according to Graeber, is a response to BOSS’s announcement that employees will not receive a cost of living adjustment this year due to financial difficulties.

“It’s not uncommon for a labor dispute to go on for months,” Graeber said. “We now have the right to raise other issues. We could go on strike if we want to.”

During negotiations, according to Executive Director of BOSS Donald Frazier, the organization offered biannual budget reports, citing their financial problems to a loss of funding. Frazier added that quarterly budget reports are unreasonable and that biannual reports are more fair.

Additionally, Graeber said the union expressed concern over BOSS allegedly removing five former members from the union by recategorizing these employees as managers. According to Graeber, the union brought these concerns to the National Labor Relations Board, which ordered that BOSS comply this past August. Graeber said BOSS agreed to reinstate the employees to the union; however, this assurance was not included in the contract presented to the union in September.

As a result, according to Graeber, the union brought mediators into the negotiations partly in response to the move of the five employees. Graeber said Frazier was not present for the negotiations, adding that BOSS Shared Services Director Dina Mayfield and another consultant attended instead.

Frazier said he was previously unsure why the union was refusing to sign the contract and he thought they had reached a tentative agreement awaiting signatures. He added that he was under the impression that there was “nothing left to discuss” and that the union had not informed him of any of their complaints against the negotiations.

“If there’s an expectation that we have to abide by every (request) of the union, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Frazier said. “What we are bound to do is negotiate in good faith with the union.”

Frazier said prior to his start with the board of BOSS in 2013, the employees had not received a raise since 2006. Since 2014, employees were given a 2 percent raise each year for two years, according to Frazier.

The union has raised other complaints against BOSS in the past regarding unfair labor practices, Graeber said. He added that their most recent complaint involves an employee who was allegedly fired when she gave her two weeks notice.

“We’re willing to concede no raise this year if we can see the books,” Graeber said. “We want to see if they’re truly broke.”

Contact Ashley Wong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @wongalum.