BarbNote to Council: ‘Oops’ is not a good defense.

As reported last week in the Mesquite Local News, the City and Teamsters Local #14 are headed to court over a provision in the non-supervisory and M1-M2 public employee contract nicknamed the “me too” clause.

When the current contract was signed in 2014 and made retroactive to July 1, 2013, both the Union and the City agreed that 60 general employees covered by the contract would not receive a pay increase for fiscal year 2013-2014. The City claimed it was broke and couldn’t afford any raises.

However, a provision in the contract language stipulates “if any other group receives any monetary gain in the negotiated collective bargaining agreements for 2013/14 – 2015/16, other than for a necessary job reclassification, an equal monetary gain shall be given to all employees subject to this Agreement.” Hence the Union’s term “me too.”

City employees last received a 2.25 percent general wage increase on July 1, 2012.

Subsequently, the Mesquite City Council agreed to new union contracts with the Mesquite Police Officers Association and Fire and Rescue employees, also represented by Teamsters Local #14. Both contracts included provisions for ‘step increases’ in pay based on length of employment and disciplinary history.

All but a handful of police and fire department employees received between a 4 and 5 percent monetary gain in their paychecks based on the new contracts. The only reason some did not receive the step increases is because they were topped out on their seniority.

Some non-union managers were also awarded pay increases by the same City Council members who seemed to have forgotten the ‘me too’ contract clause for rank-and-file employees.

Did council members think the very same union that represents the average employee would not recognize pay raises awarded to the union’s other represented group for what they really are – a monetary gain?

Whether you like public employee unions or not is immaterial in this case. Whether you agree or disagree that public employees already receive enough or too much pay and benefits is also immaterial in this case.

The minute the council awarded a monetary gain for some employees but not others, the ‘me too’ clause kicked in.

Essentially, the same officials who said no to one group of employees said yes to all other employees.

We also disagree with the city’s stance that the union did not file a grievance or complaint in a timely manner as required by the contract.

[Editor’s note: Please notice the correction to the original story published in today’s MLN.]

The Teamsters Union #14 did notify the city attorney on March 10, 2015 pointing out the pay increases awarded to other union members and referencing the ‘me too’ clause in the rank-and-file employee contract.

As court documents show, the city and the union negotiated for months on a mutually agreeable selection of an arbitrator to work out the disagreement. Both sides eventually decided on one and were prepared to meet with him in December. Unfortunately, the individual was unable to fulfill the negotiations because of a personal emergency.

All of a sudden, the city pulled out of negotiating a second arbitrator.

That’s when the union filed a “Motion to Compel Arbitration” with the Clark County District Courts because “there was an agreement to arbitrate which the City has violated. The complaint with the EMRB (Employee Management Relations Board) was filed due to the City’s continued refusal to follow the law,” according to the union’s attorney.

It’s difficult to understand why the city spent nine months preparing for arbitration, even scheduling the meetings for the second floor conference room in Mesquite City Hall, and then suddenly quit the process.

Both the city attorney and union representative said they previously agreed that any pay increases – er, monetary gains – would be retroactive only to July 1, 2014 rather than the original contract effective date of July 1, 2013. The difference in one year is very important to the city’s budget.

The council should have thought of that when they agreed to ‘monetary gains’ for almost all other employees.

Now the union says it will insist the ‘me too’ clause will be enforced retroactively to the original date of the contract if it wins in arbitration.

The best the council and us, the taxpayers, can hope for is that the union will agree to a one year extension of the current contract taking it out to June 2017. Entering negotiations so soon after this fiasco can’t be good for us.

And if the city was ‘broke’ before, it’s really in trouble now.

The city council blew it on the ‘me too’ clause.