The local union that represents service and technical workers at Stanford University, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Santa Clara University will hold its biennial leadership elections tomorrow.
The Stanford polling place at the Parking and Transportation Services building on Bonair Siding will be open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The union—the roughly 1,300-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2007—has entered a voluntary compliance agreement with the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) to hold the leadership election before March 1, 2013, in accordance with the union’s bylaws.
Paul Regalado, the union’s current president and a steward for SLAC, will contest the election against Chris McGilvery, a steward for the grounds maintenance department.
Regalado was appointed as the union’s interim president in 2007 by the SEIU International President after it came to light that then-president Jose Escanuela had been convicted of embezzlement less than 13 years before assuming the union presidency, in a violation of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. Regalado was subsequently re-elected to the post.
According to a letter from OLMS to Regalado, OLMS’ involvement arose from controversy surrounding an Oct. 27, 2011, union leadership election. The validity of that election was challenged, and an OLMS investigation found that SEIU Local 2007 had “denied a member in good standing the right to run for office by using a candidacy requirement which required a member to be in continuous good standing for more than two years prior to nominations,” the letter said.
Regalado said that the union entered the voluntary partnership with the Department of Labor—which he described as being “pretty rough”—to avoid a costly legal process following the allegations made by Regalado’s opponent, McGilvery.
“In order to stop further litigation, we agreed to allow them to come on board, but that in no sense admitted on our part any wrongdoing,” Regalado said. “Matter of fact, the reason why we did allow them to come in is because we didn’t want to spend any more money—any more union membership money—on the frivolous accusations that he’s throwing at us.”
The Department of Labor has not initiated legal proceedings against SEIU Local 2007 over the challenged election in light of the agreement to conduct the Thursday election. However, the Department of Labor has reserved the right to take legal action at any point before April 1.
Campaigns’ contrasting views
McGilvery, who served as a union organizer in 2005 and a collective bargaining agreement ratification team member in 2009, expressed concern that voter turnout may be low due to low levels of awareness. He added that current union leadership had distributed election information in regular union mailers that members routinely toss out before reading.
“It’s like anything else the present leadership does,” McGilvery said. “They tried to keep information to themselves.”
Despite the McGilvery campaign’s concerns about turnout, Tony Ruiz, McGilvery’s campaign manager, said that he is confident in McGilvery’s chances in the election given the Department of Labor’s administrative oversight of the voting process, which he said would ensure a fair election. Ruiz claimed that McGilvery will be the next union president, barring a freak accident.
By contrast, Regalado said that he has observed widespread awareness about the election while campaigning and claimed that voters generally favor his candidacy.
“The level of awareness is very high,” Regalado said. “They all know about the campaign…about the election process.”
“The feeling that I’m getting from the workers is that they have positive comments to me but negative comments about my counterpart,” he continued.
Regalado said that he has campaigned in dining halls, craft shops and on the grounds as well as at SLAC, Santa Clara University and Cardinal Cogent. On the campaign trail, he has focused extensively on the apprenticeship program established last year in which apprentices acquire State of California, Stanford and community college certifications over the course of a four-year program.
Beyond the election
With a collective bargaining cycle in the next year, Regalado said that he has also focused on the contract negotiation and the process of developing a contract committee.
He asserted that while the number of grievances from workers in the union has been very high recently, many of those grievances have been settled to both party’s satisfaction.
“We’ve had…very large amounts of grievances in the past year alone where…95 percent of them have turned out favorably, not only to the union but as well to Stanford, meaning that we come to a consensus where both parties get what they want,” Regalado said.
The top item on McGilvery’s platform is to end the use of interspace bargaining, the practice used to negotiate the union’s last collective bargaining agreement. According to McGilvery, the practice does not allow for the involvement of third parties, such as mediators, in the model of interspace bargaining implemented between Stanford and SEIU Local 2007.
The practice also creates limited transparency in the collective bargaining process, according to Ruiz.
The union first started negotiating with Stanford using interspace bargaining and its accompanying process, interspace problem-solving, after current Vice President for Human Resources David Jones arrived at the University, according to McGilvery.
In the last round of collective bargaining, the union’s bargaining team was prohibited from speaking with media because of the interspace bargaining model, according to McGilvery. He said that, if elected, he would like to open the process back up to the media and to students in order to achieve transparency.
“The union never wins when it’s an argument,” McGilvery said. “What’s the use of interspace problem-solving if the management always wins?”
Speaking on behalf of Jones, University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin declined to respond to McGilvery’s assertions, saying that it would be inappropriate for the University to be perceived as influencing a union election by commenting on part of a candidate’s platform.
McGilvery also hopes to reduce the number of steps it takes to reach the top pay grade to five from the current 10, to link vacation days to seniority rather than hours worked, as takes place currently, and to address several problems faced by dining workers such as work done outside of their pay scale and employment during University closures.
“The biggest gripe I’ve heard on the campaign trail is that this union is too close to management and that this union never came that close to management until David Jones came,” McGilvery said.
Ruiz added that he hopes McGilvery, if elected, will act as a better voice for the SEIU Local 2007 members when problems arise with management.
“Members are not being represented by anybody because management is in bed with the leadership of the union,” he said.
Dan Gazzano, a former groundskeeper, has campaigned on campus for McGilvery and agreed with Ruiz that a main goal of the McGilvery campaign is to restore rank-and-file union members as the organization’s focus.
“We’re just trying to give this union back to the workers who pay for it,” Gazzano said of his support for McGilvery.
Gazzano is currently involved in legal proceeding against the University and SEIU Local 2007 for wrongful termination after he acted as a whistleblower and informed his superiors of Escanuela’s prior embezzlement record.