Jump to content

Union Not Happy About Eagle Project

Recommended Posts

In pursuit of an Eagle Scout badge, Kevin Anderson, 17, has toiled for more than 200 hours hours over several weeks to clear a walking path in an east Allentown park. Little did the do-gooder know that his altruistic act would put him in the cross hairs of the city's largest municipal union.


Nick Balzano, president of the local Service Employees International Union, told Allentown City Council Tuesday that the union is considering filing a grievance against the city for allowing Anderson to clear a 1,000-foot walking and biking path at Kimmets Lock Park. "We'll be looking into the Cub Scout or Boy Scout who did the trails," Balzano told the council.

Balzano said Saturday he isn't targeting Boy Scouts. But given the city's decision in July to lay off 39 SEIU members, Balzano said "there's to be no volunteers." No one except union members may pick up a hoe or shovel, plant a flower or clear a walking path.


"We would hope that the well-intentioned efforts of an Eagle Scout candidate would not be challenged by the union," said Mayor Ed Pawlowski in an e-mail Friday. "This young man is performing a great service to the community. His efforts should be recognized as such." Balzano said Saturday the union is still looking into the matter and might cut the city a break. "We are probably going to let this one go," Balzano said .


The possible entanglement of a local Boy Scout in a union dispute underscores the frustration and anger SEIU members feel after being the lone city union to suffer layoffs in the ongoing financial crisis. It may also serve as a preview of future labor battles as the city tries to outsource some necessary jobs as a result of the layoffs.


Anderson, a junior and varsity soccer player at Southern Lehigh High School, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 301 of Center Valley. He got the idea for the trail while taking hikes along the partially complete, 165-mile Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. He noticed there were a few missing connections to the trail in Kimmets Lock Park, which is on the Lehigh River near Dauphin Street. He already has logged 250 hours trying to carve out a walking and biking trail along the river.


"I decided to do my part in completing this part of the trail. In that way, others could enjoy walking along the river, without having to walk on the busy road," Anderson said in an e-mail Friday. During last week's budget hearings, where City Council reviewed the Public Works and Park and Recreation departments' funding requests, it was made clear that the layoffs and early retirements -- all of which have led to the lowest city staffing levels in two decades -- are bound to create union disputes in the weeks and months ahead.


For example, the city currently does not have an electrician available because of the layoffs and an employee on an extended sick leave. As a result, the city has been forced to hire an outside union electrician to oversee the installation for the popular Lights on the Parkway holiday display. "In the spirit of the holiday, we decided to let that go," Balzano said.


Greg Weitzel, head of the Parks and Recreation Department, which lost 17 full-time employees as a result of the layoffs and retirements, said the low staffing levels will require more outsourcing of labor and a greater reliance on volunteers. "There are some things that we can do in-house and other things we will have to bid out," Weitzel said Tuesday. "We originally had plans to do more with our labor force, but now we have to bid out that work."




Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 96
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Sorry, but this is exactly the problem with unions today. When the mentality goes from protecting my work and job experience from someone lesser qualified to only I can do my job, no-one else, there is a problem. Why should the city agree to ban volunteer labor to make trails, plant flowers, or do landscaping? They will not be as fast or efficient as the union members, but they can get the job done and give back to their community.


BTW, I am an employee at will and have to justify my salary for my position every day.

Link to post
Share on other sites

okay, I'll be the very first to admit that I have no dealings and quite possibly any understanding of the inner workings of a Union.

Having said that: Since when did employees of a city, wether union or not, have the say so over who does what and what policies are?


"Balzano said "there's to be no volunteers." "


I mean, I understand agreeing on what jobs are considered routine or above the bar, I understand negotiating holidays, vaction and insurance.

But for an employee to dictate policy to scale of what Balzano said is just ludicris!



Reminds me of my son when he was 3, If I didn't give him a full bowl of cerial, he'd say He wanted a whole bowl or he wouldn't eat any! Fine, I just dumped it back in the cerial box. The only person who got screwed was him!

However in this case, Balzano's union guys still arent getting paid either.

I have issue with it wether it pertains to a scout or not. But the fact that a scout did it as a community servise project is just the icing on the cake!(This message has been edited by scoutfish)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am a union leader. I think I understand about this.


First, most unions have recall clauses in their contract to protect the rights of their members in the situation where lay-offs happen. These recall clauses typically specify that laid-off members are the first to be called back (or some order of preferences for call-backs) when work becomes available. This is a necessity - it is not childish - because otherwise, an employer could be free to "union bust" by simply laying off all or many union employees and hiring somebody else instead.


Second, the way contract law is typically enforced, once a union lets work go, it can be difficult to claim it back. A failure to challenge a violation of the recall provisions, for example, could make it harder or impossible to apply those recall provisions in future situations. This could be construed as a violation of the legally binding duty of representation that unions have to their members. In other words, unions can be sued by members who feel the union has failed to represent them adequately.


Third, the grievance process exists to resolve differences over contract administration. Both sides - employer and employee - have a say in negotiating the grievance process, and it is therefore reasonable to use it as a dispute resolution mechanism.


Fourth, every provision of the contract was agreed to by the employer. Unions do not simply impose their will on hapless employers, especially in these tough economic times. If the employer didn't like the terms and was unwilling to abide by them, then the employer shouldn't have agreed to the contract.


Fifth, PR matters. The fact is that the union is probably between a rock and a hard place here. On one hand, if they fail to file a formal complaint then they are failing to protect the future rights of their members (see #2 above). On the other hand, it looks really, really bad to be seen as being against boy scouts or against Christmas decorations. So what this union probably did was to file the formal complaint to protect their future rights, and then agree to drop the matter as a practical solution. But it gets portrayed as "stupid union goons are against the boy scouts and helping old ladies" or something.


This is not to say that all unions are always smart about how they do things. Some are too dogmatic, some expect pie-in-the-sky benefits and perks. Most, though, form because there is a real and demonstrable need for them. Many of the basic rights people expect on the job today in terms of reasonable, fair treatment come from the long, hard work of unions in the past -whether a current job is a union job or not.





Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know Frank - "They will not be as fast or efficient as the union members" - The volunteers probably don't have mandated coffee breaks every 15 minutes, cigarette breaks every 30 minutes, and don't have to defer the decision to planting a tree at the next rep meeting because it weighed 2.4 pounds more than the suggested union guidelines!

My opinion of unions is this:

While they may have been neccesary at one time, the advent of the US labor department, the Employment Security Commission, and current labor and wage laws...I see unions as nothing more than legal rackateering groups.


You will pay me $35 dollars an hour to be a janitor, but you can't ask me to actually mop, scrub, pick up trash cans, or clean toilets!

Basically, don't expect me to do the work that my job dictates!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I do belong to a union.

I have served on the Executive Board of our local.

I can and do see the argument that the SEIU members have.

This situation could have been avoided if the Allentown City Council had talked with the SEIU before giving permission for work to take place.

As a Scouter I'm overjoyed that we have Scouts who are willing and do take on projects like this.

But if I were a laid off SEIU member and seen a volunteer doing 200 hours of work that I used to do? I would be not a happy camper.

Seems to me that in this case management just didn't communicate with their workers.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe if you were one of the people who lost their jobs, you'd have a better understanding of why they are using every weapon in their arsenal to get their jobs back. Citizen complaints over work not getting done is a primary way that government employees get to keep their jobs. Volunteer groups seriously infringe on that. It boils down to putting food on the table and clothes on the backs of families.

Link to post
Share on other sites


" This is a necessity - it is not childish - because otherwise, an employer could be free to "union bust" by simply laying off all or many union employees and HIRING somebody else instead."


The scout was nether hired by the city, nor did he get compensated in any way. The union crew was not replaced by him .


Now as for my complaining about Unions, I know it was harsh, but that is the norm, not the exception. As with all things in life, there are always exception. Polititions for example: Most are money hungry , self serving people who vote based on personal interest or money, not the good of the people. BUT...there are those that actually run and serve their people while in office. They actually serve for the greater good.

But when we talk of politions, we generalize and hardly mention the exceptions.

Same thing with my coments about unions. Whuile yours may be a noble group, the vast majority are not!


Balzano's case as the example: This guy is bent all out of shape because the city did not pay them to do something. The Scout was not paid or compensated in any way. The city didn't spend a single cent. Had the city actually had to wait for Bazano's guys to do the project, it would still be as yet unfinished because of the lack of money on the city's part.


This isn't about "Protecting workers rights" This is about straight up ego and a power trip!

This is a case of :"How dare you think of not paying ME if anything needs to be done!"


Maybe the city should stop the scout and give the oppertunity for Belzano'z guys to VOLUNTEER" instead of the scout. I bet they( the union guys) would jump on that in a heartbeat!(This message has been edited by scoutfish)

Link to post
Share on other sites

"..why they are using every weapon in their arsenal to get their jobs back."


See, that's the flawwed logic here.


THis was not a city project! THuis was not something the city, city council or public in general had planned on.


If it was not for the actions of the scout, this project would not have happened, Not the idea,the planning , nor the project itself.


The city did not ask, hire, pay, or compensate the scout.

If it was about losing work, then I have to ask: "What work was lost?" There was never a plan for the union guys to do it.


BUT there was no exclusion of the union guys either. They are of no importance or relavance to the matter. they did not lose work because of the scout, Had the scout not done it, it still wouldn't be done!


Somebody volunteer to do something for the community. Everybody ought to recognize it for what it was : a gift!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Scoutfish: Replacing union work with "volunteer" work can also be a way of breaking unions.


I am not arguing that in this specific case, the city colluded with the BSA to bust this particular union. But it has been tried before, and it will probably be tried again. That's why unions have problems with this sort of thing. Eamonn is right that some basic communication between city and union could have avoided the scene entirely, though.


As someone involved with unions, I will also say that there currently exists a need for more unions. Poor treatment in the workplace is not a thing of the past, unfortunately. Stories I could tell you...


The existence of unions also makes it more likely that employers will actually follow existing labor law - because realistically, it is challenging for a lone employee to stand up to a large employer on their own, if the employer refuses to follow the law.


But union-management relations do not have to be hostile. Unions do not have to be greedy and divorced from reality. Those are very 1970s-era views of how unions and employers relate, for the most part.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Lisabob / Eamonn:


I hope your reasoning is correct, and they are just looking out for their own people and not knee-jerk reacting to anything that is being done that infringes on what they perceive as their turf.


Regardless, the statement: "We'll be looking into the Cub Scout or Boy Scout who did the trails," Balzano told the council is one of the stupidest remarks I have heard in a long time. If the dispute is between the union & the council, leave the scouts out of it. What's next: Scout scabs?


Link to post
Share on other sites

My very first comment on this subject was that I did not claim to understand the inner working ofa union.


But I do have to argue at least one thing you said:


"Those are very 1970s-era views of how unions and employers relate, for the most part."

Mr Balzano is the very reason that these views are also very 2000's era views too!

Nobody lost any work or money. Nobody tried to undermine anybody or replace anybody. Yet istead of using commen sense and thinking, this guy distorted, and exaggerated the situation and tried to make it into something it's not. In order for him to maintain any sense or credibilty at all, he should imediately back down, reverse his stance on it and apologize for acting the way he did!



Link to post
Share on other sites

"Replacing union work with "volunteer" work can also be a way of breaking unions"


"Volunter" work could also be a fancy way of saying slavery , no?


Since it was performed by an under the legal age of 18 scout, it might even break child labor laws right?


Did this child perform a scout action unsupervised by any scout leadership? Might out to contact the council and see who need to be reprimanded

Maybe he actually paid somebody else to do it...say illegal immigrants? Who knows, mabey the Eagle Review board ought to investigate?

Somebody should contact INS at the very least!


Yeah, all of that is rediculous and way out of proportion, but it's also the same as Balzano'z action: out of proportion and rediculous!

Balzano is just trying to show his muscle and prove a point.


He proved a point though..just not the one he intended!

Link to post
Share on other sites

On topic:

Though I do not participate in a union and find some of their actions unnecessary. I do see where this particular union has valid points. If they are the only section of local government being laid off that can make perception look bad.


On a side note: This scout has spent over 200 personal hours clearing (blazing) a trail as work toward his Eagle Badge. How is this a Eagle project? Where is the leadership involved?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...