EDCEA in the LABOR MOVEMENT
Historical struggles have brought us the 40 hour work week, restrictions on child labor, the notions of work-place safety standards, and recourse for workers wronged by employers. The battles for the right to unionize brought these landmark rights to a broad sector of the United States work force. Anti-discrimination laws, workers’ compensation and mandatory overtime pay were products of union initiatives.
Do those of us who enjoy the rights still need a union? Is union activity good for our professions? How has my union – The El Dorado County Employees Association, Public Employees Union, Local #1 (EDCEA) – benefited county employees and the public? Would life be different for us had there been no union?
Let’s go back to the early 1950’s, before the Association began to establish itself as a labor organization. There was: no sick leave; no recourse for action taken against an employee and no legal appeal upon dismissal; no way to pursue a grievance (The Civil Service Commission ordinance was enacted by vote of the people in November, 1960.); no pension plan (though there was Social Security); no Tahoe pay differential; no medical insurance (Hospital plan was enacted in 1959 or 1960); no night differential; nor any allowance for sheriff’s uniforms. (The Deputy Sheriff’s Association had not been formed.)
In the early 1960’s, EDCEA offered a death benefit. In August 1961, EDCEA offered life insurance and, for a while, a Credit Union was established. By that time, the Association had a negotiating team.
Until the mid-1970’s, when the Association hired a director, there were no grievance procedures and no one to represent the employee in a disciplinary action.
Rather like the industrial unions, our Union experienced organizing struggles. As the Association made gains, the County Applied pressure to undermine the Union. For a period in the 1970’s, the membership voted to join the Operating Engineers. County Management attacked active member’s full tilt and used other devices, such as rumor campaigns and preferential treatment, to weaken Union support.
The support for union representation remained strong, but in the early 1980’s most of the membership voted out of the Operating Engineers. On Sept.1, 1985 the Association joined with Public Employees Union, Local #1, a statewide independent union.
From that day forward, EDCEA has worked with steady determination to improve wages and working conditions and to address the specific needs of public employees.
We have seen our Union take many important steps over the last few years. Each development brings significant benefits to all employees. We now have the ability to better serve our employees with a team of shop stewards who can address specific problems or needs.
The Union helps us do our jobs more effectively. EDCEA members bring the concerns of their professions to the Association. The Association helps us obtain the resources we need to do our best work. The sense of support and security contributes to good morale. The Union also works to affect public opinion with positive publicity for public employees.