Union, city take contract fight public

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: Union-Davis-08-25-16: Grant Davis, Teamsters Local #14 Vice President/Director of Operations, addressed the Mesquite City Council during public comment period regarding the ongoing contract negotiations for supervisory and blue collar city employees. A 20 minute contentious debate ensued with several council members calling for public meetings to settle contract issues. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

Grant Davis, Teamsters Local #14 Vice President/Director of Operations, addressed the Mesquite City Council during public comment period regarding the ongoing contract negotiations for supervisory and blue collar city employees. A 20 minute contentious debate ensued with several council members calling for public meetings to settle contract issues. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

The public comment period at Tuesday’s Mesquite city council meeting turned into a battle of wills and words when Teamsters Local #14 Vice President/Director of Operations Grant Davis gave a statement regarding contract negotiations between the city and the union. Davis represents supervisory and blue collar city employees.

“I want to address to you the misconceptions that have been perpetrated about this group of hardworking and loyal city employees,” Davis said. He referenced recent articles in the Mesquite Local News pointing to comments by city attorney Robert Sweetin who Davis said characterized the employees as “greedy. That couldn’t be any further from the truth.”

Davis went on to make comments about the negotiations centered on the ‘me too’ clause in the 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that basically said if any other employee group gets pay raises this group would also. City police and firefighters received step increases and several managers received pay raises.

The union contends that kicked in the clause and now wants raises for the rank-and-file employees. A recent arbitrator’s decision appears to support the union’s contention.

Many of Davis’ comments are included in his commentary in Thursday’s print edition on page 4A and is available online under Guest Column.

The fireworks began after Davis concluded his public comment remarks receiving a round of applause from employees who attended the meeting.

Councilman Kraig Hafen challenged many of Davis’ comments immediately saying “Just for the record, I don’t think anyone in here is disparaging city employees. Many of them are our friends.” Hafen also referenced Davis’ commentary in the MLN and said “we heard one side of the story. There are two sides to this story. To attack Mr. Sweetin…Mr. Sweetin works for us [council].”

Hafen asked Davis several questions about past meetings, negotiations, and presumably agreements that seemed to have settled the issues. “We’ve tried to put things out there,” Hafen said. After a couple audience snickers, Hafen asked how many times the employees were given an opportunity to vote on city proposals contending that most of the offers had never been presented to the entire union membership.

Davis explained that several offers had been taken to a small, select committee representing the whole membership on two different occasions. “When we get to the point where we’ll need input from the entire membership, we’ll take it to them for a vote,” he said.

Hafen then challenged Davis to bring the negotiations into the open and allow all of the union membership and the public “who’s paying for this” to attend the meetings between city officials and union leaders. “We can get this thing resolved so the employees can feel like they’ve been treated fairly and taxpayers which it’s their money, and bring this thing to a resolution,” Hafen said. “Let’s hold it right here, televise it and then there’s no disparity between what you said and what Sweetin said and what you say we didn’t propose. I agree with the ‘me too’ clause and think they deserve a raise.”

“I don’t know that I have any disagreement with that,” Davis said.

However, later when Davis was challenged again to hold public meetings, he walked back some of that saying, “I’ll speak with the [union] Secretary/Treasurer and get his opinion. You send me a formal request to do that.”

Councilman George Rapson joined in the discussion agreeing that he too wanted a public meeting and challenged the notion that all of the city’s offers had been taken to the full union membership. “I don’t know but I don’t think there has been an official vote by the [full] union. Yes, it’s been presented to a committee or stewards. They may have voted to not do something but the body of the union has not voted. I’m asking you [Davis].”

“I’m telling you, you are incorrect,” Davis said. “But a public process would create other issues so we need to talk about that. It’s the union’s decision; it will not be decided by the membership.”

“But the citizens of Mesquite who pay our wages get to have a dog in the fight,” Rapson said about public meetings. “They get to listen and they can comment.”

After a heated back-and-forth between Davis, Rapson and Hafen, Sweetin joined in asking Davis very pointed questions about previous negotiations and discussions.

One of them focused on a union representative, Fred Horvath, who had been part of meetings in April 2016. Sweetin contended that he and Horvath had reached a settlement to the whole pay issue but that the union leadership then backed out. “Mr. Horvath didn’t have authorization to make a deal,” Davis said. “He had authority to have conversations.”

“Your union made an offer and we made an agreement with Fred,” Sweetin said. “It was a 5 percent pay increase for all employees effective July 2016. All employees would have an opportunity to gain any lost pay increase. Every employee would receive a retro paycheck for 18 months based on a 5 percent pay increase. The current CBA would be extended an additional two years. Employees topped out would receive an additional 3 percent pay increase. That’s the deal Fred made with us. You sent me an email later that day that said ‘sounds like we have an agreement.’”

“We took it back and our membership said no,” Davis said. He conceded that the particular offer had probably not gone to the full membership but that the committee had decided on it. “But I don’t know that for a fact,” he said adding that he didn’t have all his notes with him.

After the 20-minute contentious discussion concluded, the room was quiet and the employees left the meeting.

Comments

  1. Immature Kraig Hafen who has little education or knowledge on how Unions work was an embarrassment to the city. Rapson, who should know better acted like a spoiled child. Both should know that a team negotiates for the group and the group, in this case, city employees, then vote on the package. Townspeople are not included in the process and they know it. Glad the city employees have such a professional representation by the Teamsters.

  2. To hafen ,rapson ,sweetin- WHY DID THE CITY SIGN THE ME TOO CLAUSE , THEN NOT HONOR IT?
    Hafen knows nothing about negotiations ,he should just stick to spreading manure on his farm.
    Rapson is a punk blowhard, a hatchet guy for geno and premier realty, both are only on the council to self serve there own interests.
    It is now obvious who is telling sweetin to pursue this losing strategy , and in the end will cost us taxpayers even more monies.
    And that goes for the mayor , too .
    The me too clause was signed and agreed to by the mayor,council and now they will not honor there agreement.
    Sweetin ,i thought it may just be you in your union busting tactics, now i realize the mayor,council are just as rotten and not honorable in meeting there signed commitments.
    And hafen ,stick to your farm – you may be an expert there but you are no legal atty when it comes to union negotiations . You do not have a clue how negotiations work And the process involved in union negotiations- why would you – you hate unions and want to bust the union.
    The city and council tactics are costing us big monies being wasted-
    HONOR YOUR ME TOO AGREEMENT YOU PEOPLE SIGNED!

    • Concerned citizen says:

      I am a city employee and was never asked to vote or presented with any offer by the union. We are kept in the dark.

      • Concern employee says:

        Like the Ole saying goes (you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink) it’s simple, go to the meetings when they are scheduled, ask questions and voice concerns. Everyone knows who to contact with concerns or questions. If this is true a city employee.

        • The union says:

          Or maybe you are not a union member. You are free-loading benefits from a union negotiated contract but you wouldn’t be able to attend the meetings or vote on any union matters. If you are a city employee, quit complaining, join the union and be involved!

  3. And a big thank you to Grant Davis , the union vice president .
    As a former union member and contractor, the city of mesquite union employees are very fortunate to have a honorable and honest person representing them.
    Grant walked into the lions den, the meeting, stuck up for his members and acted honestly and honorable.
    Unlike sweetin, rapson and hafen whom tried to grandstand with there blowhard comments and are so dumb in labor matters as to think that negotiations are done in public.
    They have no idea how labor matters are done.
    THANK YOU AGAIN , GRANT DAVIS AND A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OUR HARD WORKING CITY EMPLOYEES!

  4. Kathleen Spack says:

    We are new to Mesquite and have been to several meetings trying to get the feel of this community that we moved to. My husband worked for the city that we are from, he was active in the union and was in on many labor negotiations. I personally was appalled at the way the alderman called the union rep back to the podium and then went on to badger him in front of all the city workers that were at the meeting. That was no place for the exchange. There was an arbitrator that came back with the answer to the contract and the city should abide by it. If they were not going to abide, they should not have gone to arbitration.

    • The UNION picked the place for the exchange, not the board. And without any warning. What did you expect the board to do?

      • Arbitrator says:

        Steve- no warning?
        They knew it was on the agenda and saw sll the employees there.
        Still no reason for the council to act unprofessional and like a bunch of thugs.
        Grant the union rep acted very professional and stated the facts very articulately.
        Too bad rapson and hafen gotta act like a bunch of thugs and then sweetin, whom has been ruled against twice in this case , 1 by a judge and 2 by s arbitrator starts spewing garbage and geno , who id supposed to be running the meeting sits up there in a daze , unable to function – what a joke they are.

        • To my knowledge, it was not on the agenda. You sir rallied your troops together, made sure the media knew and showed up to have the discussion during open comments. I am not disagreeing for one minute that the union employees deserve what is owed to them. However, I do disagree with your tactics. You could have requested to make it an agenda item and demand the board make a decision on your ruling, but you didn’t do that. When you come looking for a fight with a lynch mob, expect to get what you ask for.

      • I expect our council to be professional. It’s unfortunate that when anyone union or not disagree with council they go on attack mode. Since when is it right or ethical on any circumstance when you disagree to have this kind of behavior. I think we all understand that Bob is doing the dirty for council. I also wonder why we have 5 council when only two run the show while Cindy, Gino and green are to afraid to act or comment due to retaliation from Hafen and Rapson. Is this where our city is at? When Hafen was on the water board is was a disaster as well. Hafen seems to continually give out increases to water Dist employees (check the voting record) as I’m sure they are hard working employees. I find it interesting how Hafen and Rapson give out monumental raises upwards of 14-16 percent to some of the highest paid employees but yet not to the lowest paid employees. How is it that Rapson is now threatening layoffs to the very people who don’t get raises? Who in there right mind hands out this kind of money and then in the paper mentions layoffs to those that don’t get the raises. I’m I missing something here. I am fairly new to mesquite is this typical of Mesquites city council? Would someone respond that has been here longer than I have just curious help me understand how this happens.

        • No Dan – you pretty much see what is going on.
          Hafen ,rapson and geno are pretty much on the board for there self serving interests.
          Of course hafen hands out raises to the water dist employees – him and his family have made millions on water rights deals here in mesquite.
          Rapson is a bully punk and hatchet man for geno and premier realty.
          Rapson will try to reap revenge on the honest city employees by seeking layoffs and ruining families.
          And hafen hates the union so he will vote that way .
          And geno will vote whatever rapson ,his buddy tells him how to vote.
          Green and delany say nothing ,being bullied by rapson ,geno and hafen.
          Green is a big disappointment ,as he ran on being independent ,but says or does nothing .
          And of course our mayor ,whom is awol on this subject will slam it to the city employees.
          Remember,these are all the same people who paid a vegas atty to do there bargaining last time, all they got was the me too clause ,and paid this guy over $80,000 in leagal fees .they all voted and approved this guy,but now will not honor there me too comittment.
          We need a clean sweep of city hall- these ol boy antiques gotta go before mesquite will ever move forward.
          Taco shops and dollar stores are the litman legacy.

  5. Hafen asked to negotiate in public, so the tax payers have a dog in the fught. It’s a common theme for them, “the tax payers want this or that”. I’ve never been asked what I wanted. Did anyone get asked about that attorney they spent $80,000 + on. Waste of money! Here they are again wasting money, fighting the city workers. The arbitrator has come to a conclusion, pay up.

    Oh! Do they not pay taxes as well? Does their money not go back into the local economy?

  6. I’m very embarrassed by the way Hafen, Rapson, and Sweetin acted during the council meeting. It was very unprofessional and I would say childish. Three of you attacking one man is ridiculous. Way to go.

    • He asked for the fight. HE came in armed for bear with 50 employees behind him. The arbitrator said the employees should be paid what was promised them. To my knowledge the board hadn’t even had time to respond, mush less refused to pay the employees. Like Bob and the counsel said, the board made them a good offer earlier this year that the employee representative agreed to. Then he backed out without ever even telling the employees what the offer is, OR letting them vote on it. That is not how unions work, the union rep’s are supposed to negotiate a contract, then present it to the employees to vote on it.

      • Arbitrator says:

        Steve – you have no idea how unions work.
        You are listening to sweetins version.
        If the bargaining committee does not like it or will not accept it, you do not take it to ratification.
        Only when the bargaining committee accepts it , it then goes to the membership for a ratification vote.
        GET IT?

        • I have no ideas how unions work? That’s hysterical? Ever hear of a company called AMF Voit? Our family fought with the rubber worker’s union for two decades to force them to pay living wages and benefits, and won. It’s my understanding that the bargaining committee did accept the offer earlier this year, even said “it looks like we have a deal”. then backed out when they found out that it could result in layoffs. Am I wrong about this? This my friend is how union deals work. If you demand something on one end that results in large payments, the money has to come from somewhere. Again, I think these employees deserve the money owed them, 100%. But you can not have your cake and eat it too. There has to be give and take. When the union negotiates a contract, they can not guarantee the continued employment of every person involved for an indefinite period of time. The city made a HUGE mistake allowing the “ME TOO” clause into the contract never should of been there in the first place, but now they are stuck with it.

  7. The mayor and his council of “THUGS” try to rule by intimidation.
    Anytime you confront litman ,hafen, rapson , geno they are like the bullies on the playground.
    And get them all together on that podium , it is worse.
    I commend Grant, the union rep for acting professional , keeping his cool , and representing his unit in a great manner.
    Unfortunatly , rapson , hafen and sweetin whom represent me, the taxpayer acted like cowards and thugs, and geno whom was leading the meeting sat back and let his thugs embarrass themselves.
    Of course litman would not had done anything different .
    But hey , these are the clowns that 3 yrs ago , paid a vegas atty $80,000 to get the me too clause, and now will not honor it.
    What a circus we have at city hall.

    • In part, I agree with your last sentence. Want to make things better? Put your name to your comments so people know who you are. Then when 3 seats on the council are up at the next election, run for council and have your voice heard. Like them or not, that’s what each and every person on the council did, and won. Don’t like the way things are, by all means help change them.

  8. Arbitrator says:

    Ok Steve – steve who?

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