Policy: Labor

Labor organizer claims union boss fired her when she tried to join staff union

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor

Here’s an ironic one: Las Vegas union organizer Maria Elena Hermanson has claimed she was fired from the Clark County Education Association when she attempted to join a union that represents the union’s staff.

“My job is to recruit teachers to join the union, but you won’t allow me to join a union,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal quoted Hermanson as saying.

She has filed a complaint against  CCEA’s Executive Director John Vellardita. It is scheduled to be heard by the National Labor Relations Board on Aug. 13.

The Review-Journal reported earlier this month:

Vellardita fired Hermanson on Feb. 20 after her six-month probation period had ended. She met with him to discuss joining the staff organization already representing other CCEA staff, she said.

Vellardita contended in a Friday inter­view that Hermanson’s request to join a union had nothing to do with her dismissal.

“She was a probationary worker let go at the end of her probation because of performance,” said Vellardita, referencing the direction he has been given from CCEA’s board to “clean up” staff performance and improve customer service for the more than 17,000 Clark County teachers it represents. “We have a standard here.”

But Hermanson defended her performance and said the timing is more than coincidental. She discussed joining the union mere days before her termination, she said.

“It was definitely not because of my performance,” she said.

Vellardita pointed out that the teachers union has “voluntarily” agreed to allow the staff union to represent organizers.

However, Michael Soden, president of the staff organization, argued that Vellardita only made the change so that he could defend Hermanson’s firing and say to the national board that he is not standing in the way of union organizers who want representation themselves.

“He’s not stupid,” Soden said of Vellardita. “Once there was no way out of it, he agreed.”

The paper notes this is not the first time Vellardita’s leadership has been under a cloud:

In a 2010 federal lawsuit, Vellardita was personally liable for $77,850 in damages, the largest share of any of the 17 co-defendants, for conspiracy to make their Oakland, Calif., union un­governable, destruction of files and property, violating union bylaws and breaking fiduciary responsibilities.

At the time, Vellardita was head of the long-term care division of United Healthcare Workers-West, a chapter of SEIU, the nation’s largest health care union with 1.2 million members.

According to court testimony and documents, Vellardita and other leaders of the California local were dismantling it because word had trickled down that the SEIU was going to take it into trusteeship and likely replace its leaders, in part because of financial improprieties.

 

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