UnionMaine

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We have lost a Friend

Members of SEIU 1989 recently lost one of their own. One of our long term field reps, one of the best, was hired by our the State’s Human Resources Dept, A.K.A. “The Dark Side”, the same group your negotiations team and your stewards sit across the table from. Someone who knows how we think, what we were talking about this contract year, has now joined the dark side and taken his knowledge of our plans with him.

While he won’t be working for us I know he won’t be giving up our secrets just to get ahead. This guy has honor and I trust him. In this case we don’t have a problem. Our ex rep will probably be one of the “good guys” in HR and he will know when we are right as we defend our members and our contract.

The issue is, his years of skill will be put to work to defeat our members in grievances and job actions. He did his best for us, and he will do his best for HR, his best is damn good!

That worries me. I liked this rep, he did great work for members in the past, but I have to ask, how long the recruitment dance has been going on for, under cover, without MSEASEIU staff being aware. Is it only this rep or have they made an approach to other SEIU staff?
While thinking about offers, can a rep focus on representing our members? Will they worry they might do something that could kill the job offer? Do our members get the representation they need when staff is being solicited? Work done for our members after a job is sought or offered is done under conflict of interest.

We won’t have an enemy in HR this time, possibly even a friend, but what about the next time and the time after that?
We have to know why someone would take an offer like this and we need to prevent it in the future.

Our board of directors should take action to prevent this hostile raiding in the future. Our members deserve to receive representation without divided loyalties. Is this betrayal or did the State just make an offer he couldn’t refuse? Maybe the State is paying more.

SEIU employees have NO retirement, and from what I have seen, when they are working for us, they have no lives except the Union. To retire they have to save for themselves and I can only imagine what has happened to their plans in the last few months. It can’t be good.

Maybe the benefits that field rep helped us win in the past are better than the SEIU provides employees. Maybe the reality of having to live and feed your family overcame any dedication to Labor Rights. There are many reasons why someone changes jobs. Money, family, health care, retirement, or just a more interesting job.

The worst scenario is if our Rep. looked around, heard things, and decided he wanted be a winner. Did he hear something from the other side while being recruited that made him think he was on the losing side?
We think we know what we are losing. What is HR gaining? The rep has helped to plan our bargaining in the past.
He knows how we think and what we would use to win a contract or win a grievance. He knew some of our bargaining priorities and strategies for this year. He will never give up our private information, the real danger is brain drain, our reps know how we think, and we are hurt when we lose someone with his skills, abilities, and historical knowledge.

Human Resources, might see him rightly or wrongly as an ace in the hole, a resource they can use to counter our stewards, our bargaining teams, or just to break our spirit. That rep is lost to us, but we cannot let this continue! We don’t know why he left or what they offered him. We can plan for the future. It is time to let the reps still working for us know that we are grateful for their years of service and all the help they have given our members. We can’t let one incident change our opinion of this great bunch of men and women, that don’t have many of the benefits they have helped us win for ourselves.

O.K. it is a lousy situation but how do we fix it? Both Unions and Business have known two ways to protect themselves from hostile knowledge raiders for decades: pay them more and have a Non-Compete Clause. We have lost a lot of staff recently and we have trouble attracting field reps to Maine. The MSEASEIU rep pay scale may seem good on the raw numbers but in the same way we compare our salaries to other states you need to compare rep salaries to other states. MSEASEIU rep pay is significantly lower and comes with reduced benefits in Maine, how else could the State or even other Unions hire our staff even in this economy?

The second method, a non-compete clause, has become more common in some contracts especially when it protects “secrets” or information that could unfairly advantage the entity hiring an insider.
No one would want to prevent someone from making a living in their field of expertise. You don’t want to lock them in to one job and have a miserable employee. It is immoral to prevent someone from finding another job.
What would be wrong with an agreement preventing an SEIU employee from taking an HR position with any company, in Maine, employing members represented by MSEASEIU? You could make it easier by limiting the restriction to only a year.
I don’t know what the staff contract says or doesn’t say on non-compete. But it certainly looks like something needing investigation.

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April 11th, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Executive Branch Bargaining, MSEA, MSEA contract, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, state employee lay offs | one comment

1 Comment

  1. Just a heads-up/warning: a former MEA UniServ Director now works for the main law firm representing school boards/superintendents. He left the MTA (at the time) many years ago, but still mentions his union experience at every opportunity because he seems to believe it gives him credibility.

    Comment by NancyH | April 20, 2009

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