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Union: Clark Used Intimidation Tactics

by Melissa Bailey | Dec 18, 2009 5:16 pm

(28) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, Schools

willclark.pngChief Operating Officer Will Clark (pictured) tried to “intimidate and harass” custodial union leadership by threatening to put their jobs out to bid—then followed through with the threat, according to a complaint filed this week with the state labor relations board.

The complaint was filed Monday by AFSCME Council 4 Local 287, which represents about 200 custodial workers and drivers for the New Haven Public Schools.

The union is currently negotiating with the Board of Education (BOE) on a new contract to replace the one that expired June 30, 2009. Meanwhile, the city just issued a Request For Proposals seeking to hire a private company to perform the custodial services that are currently done by union labor.

AFSCME spokesman Larry Dorman said the BOE is attempting to “punish” and “intimidate” the union by moving to privatize its jobs while the negotiations continue.

The union’s complaint centers on a negotiation session between Clark and union leaders on Dec. 7.

After the meeting, Clark informed the union president and vice-president that “if they continued to file complaints and grievances, the Board [of Education] would contract out the work performed by Local 287,” according to the complaint.

Clark’s comment “interfered with, restrained and coerced” workers’ rights and discriminated against them for having filed past grievances, the complaint alleges.

Click here to read the complaint and accompanying union press release.

Reached Friday, Clark flatly denied the accusations.

“There was certainly no threats whatsoever,” Clark said. “The allegation is absolutely untrue.”

He said the union leaders were already aware that the school system was thinking of privatizing more jobs. He said he gave the union representatives “a heads up” that the BOE is looking at sending out an RFP to outsource custodial work in the next few weeks.

The RFP came out recently (it’s dated Dec. 20, but was available on Friday, two days prior to that date). Under the terms of the bid, the subcontractor would take on the “whole custodial operation,” Clark said.

Custodial services are currently managed by a private firm called AFB. The subcontractor would responsible for managing cleaning at a number of schools. The company would act as another layer of management above union workers.

Union workers wouldn’t necessarily lose their jobs: the company would give union members preference in doing the work. (Click here to read the RFP.)

Dorman called the RFP “retribution” for the union’s outspoken stance against privatization, and for its grievances on prior issues.

His complaints come as the school system continues to shift toward privatizing custodian’s services. The BOE already contracts with private companies to clean the BOE central office as well as all leased spaces. That comprises about half a dozen buildings, Clark said.

He said subcontracting the work has proved to be far more efficient for the school system.

The custodial union currently suffers from high absenteeism, according to school budget officials. On Friday, 50 workers were absent. On average, 1 in 4 are absent on a given day. That amounts an average of 350 lost hours of productivity per day based on absenteeism. The district spends $900,000 per year in overtime costs to hire workers to replace those who are absent, officials said. Workman’s compensation costs are among the highest in the city, too: Local 287 members incurred $870,000 over the past five years in workman’s compensation-related costs.

Dorman dismissed those charges.

He said outsourcing leads to a lack of transparency, costly contracts and more waste. If the district is having a problem with absenteeism, he said, “then that’s a management problem.” He said management should work with the union to address the issue.

Clark said the BOE just proved, in the passage of a trades union contract this week, that it can negotiate a fair deal even in these economic times. He accused Local 287 of canceling the last four to five negotiation sessions, showing an unwillingness to negotiate. Dorman said he could not address that allegation; Local 287 President Robert Montuori couldn’t be reached.

Paul Oates, spokesman for the state Board of Labor Relations, confirmed his office received the complaint this week. He said it is scheduled for an informal hearing on Jan. 29.

If the complaint isn’t worked out at that time, it would head for a public hearing before the labor relations board.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 18, 2009  8:26pm

I try to warn you all. This is what school reform
is about. Not only are they trying to get rid of the teachers union,They are trying to get rid of all of the unions in the school systems across this country.

http://www.nea.org/home/30347.htm


http://www.allbusiness.com/education-training/education-administration/12718505-1.html

If you don’t wake up now this is where you may be.

http://www.layofflist.org/

posted by: andrew garrow on December 19, 2009  8:10am

Anyone who’s ever working for, or been enrolled in NHPS knows the custodial union is both the strongest, and - in my humble opinion - the most crooked.
I’m glad someone has finally challenged them.

posted by: The Professor on December 19, 2009  9:24am

Chief Operating Officer Will Clark (pictured) tried to �intimidate and harass� custodial union leadership by threatening to put their jobs out to bid � then followed through with the threat, according to a complaint filed this week with the state labor relations board.

Wait, really?  How is that harassment and intimidation?  It sounds like pretty standard negotiation to me.  These custodians have no idea what it’s like to ACTUALLY be harassed and intimidated.  I know people who have worked as “salts” for labor unions, meaning that they went undercover, got hired in a workplace where a union is trying to organize, and worked undercover under an assumed identity to try to identify potential leaders for the unionizers.  When “salts” get found out, they literally get severely beaten.  That’s what some people are still dealing with today.

So basically, this sounds like we’ve got a bunch of janitors with a 25% absenteeism rate whining about being “harassed” by the big bad City official who wants to hire people who will actually do the work that they’re getting paid to do.  Hearing this bunch of slackers compare their situation to that faced by, say, the miners and steelworkers of the early-mid 20th century or even the hotel workers of today is disgusting.

posted by: Brian V on December 19, 2009  12:12pm

“The district spends $900,000 per year in overtime costs to hire workers to replace those who are absent, officials said. Workmens compensation costs are among the highest in the city, too: on average, each Local 287 member incurred $870,000 over the past five years in workmen compensation costs.
Dorman dismissed those charges.”

I say dismiss Dorman! Sub out the work to a company that you can fire tomorrow if they don’t show up for work. That only makes sense.
I said it before and I’ll say it again:

Will Clark for MAYOR!

posted by: Tim Holahan on December 19, 2009  12:23pm

This is an interesting article, but the data in the paragraph beginning “The custodial union currently suffers from…” seems highly questionable.

It seems impossible that each local 287 member incurred $870,000 in Workmens’ Comp costs in the last five years. That would average out to $174,000 per worker per year, above and beyond salary and other benefits. That would mean that custodial workers in New Haven had a $34.8 million dollar budget. That would be 10% of the General Fund and roughly 5% of the total budget annually. No way.

On the other hand, if 1 in 4 bargaining unit members (of a total of 200) is absent on any given day, it seems improbable that only 350 hours are lost over a year. Rough math suggests that number should be closer to 100,000 hours (250 workdays/year * 50 workers/day * 8 hours per day).

It’s great that the Independent covers these slightly dry but important topics. Can you follow up with some fact-checking? Thanks.

posted by: GET REAL on December 19, 2009  7:18pm

The Union leader says that ‘if the district is having a problem with absenteeism, he said, then thats a management problem.’

Are you kidding me? What exactly is the union responsibility here?  Seems like Clark is indeed trying to address the problem from a management perspective: replace a group of workers who somehow don’t seem to understand that the number part of their job is SHOWING UP TO WORK!

posted by: Oh Please on December 19, 2009  9:38pm

Will Clark is a bully with no foresight. Look at many, if not all, of the “plans” he has pushed through for NHPS. Think what you want but he’s taking your tax dollars and, out of ignorance, is spending them in ways that you will pay for later. He’s got a huge ego and nothing behind that except bluster. It’s really sad. Really sad. But you can’t get rid of him - he’s in like flint for some unknown reason. Tragic.

posted by: Funky Chicken on December 19, 2009  10:17pm

Will, dont let them bully you! Stand strong! The tax payers of New Haven appreciate that you are trying to save us money and the Union is just trying to intimidate you.

posted by: Walt on December 20, 2009  6:21am

Even with the confused math   questions as cited by Tim H,  it is a hell of a mess.

Sub-contract as soon as possible.  This Union and its members must go.

No kudos to those in management,  probably including Clark who apparently let such a situation develop.

posted by: JMS on December 20, 2009  1:17pm

“Will Clark for Mayor”

Ditto.

JMS

posted by: antim on December 20, 2009  6:51pm

There are almost fifty schools in new haven and 197 custodians,In stamford there are 22 schools and 120 custodians,and afb is the management company there,do the math,If there are alot of custodians abusing sick time maybe we can find a solution,like in stamford the custodians can sell sick time to their pension,and to andrew garrow,how are we corrupt we do not handle the money thats will clark,we are short staffed most of us are over worked,90% of custodians do not abuse sick time and are excellent workers and have children that come to school here and it is managements job to weed out any bad workers just like any other company,will clark has a personal vendetta against custodians,they elliminate positions and theres not enough custodians in most of the buildings,so management will say we are not doing a good job,and when the mayor came to us asking for concessions we helped unlike other unions,and before that he came to us asking if we can help and we did we held off on a raise for six months,we also helped when asked to move engineer jobs to save money,we helped everytime and they just keep asking and we keep getting screwed,how about when we signed our contract,will clark got us good and aramark at the time having our old corrupt president go school to school coierceing custodians into signing the contract and then gave him a job,thats the same time will clark became a city worker,when he was the city attorney that wrote the contract,it cost more money to pay the private company,the money they save is projected,not actual savings,we need the attorney general to start to investigate will clark and the mayor,going back to 2.2 billion in constuction money,they need to have a talk with andy butler and steve persival,and dont for get the mayor,mr.attorney general local 287 needs your help,there are schools being signed off on that they are done but in fact are leaking water and there is so much more that is not done correctly,I am a tax payer and I am sick of corrupt polititions trying to give us a hard time and use the funds to pay us for their own gain.and I know a couple of guys that get city contracts and they told me what they have to do in order to get the contracts and Im sick of this,and the city is very top heavy,we are supposed to get new equipment where is the money going,and I want to see some proof in all the over time money being spent,when someones out we had to do the work as best as we can with no over time and we can not even clean properly,the guide line for cleaning is 20 to 25 thousand sq. ft. per man,and in alot of buildings this is not the case,in any company if you over work the people working will take alot of time off,the city should work with us instead of having an idoit try and run us into the ground,if we were dealing with paying customers will clark would have been fired his first week at work.and I am not going to stop until I get the attorney general down here to look into the way the city is handling any issues that come up,and what has gone on in the past,there are alot of ways to save money and our union had alot of good ideas and the mayor never took the time to even see,the city better think twice before they let will clark keep calling the shots.

posted by: Walt on December 21, 2009  6:09am

On further thought, please delete comment re Clark


Right now,  he is doing a great job as I see it and does deserve kudos,

posted by: Exiled Italian Shill on December 21, 2009  10:23am

Whats up with DeStefano? Fighting with sacred cow Boise Kimber, and now he has green lighted Clark to go after the unions?

posted by: Melissa Bailey on December 21, 2009  12:34pm

Hi folks, 2 math errors fixed. According to NHPS:
It’s 350 lost hours of productivity per day based on absenteeism
and
Local 287 members together incurred $870,000 over the past five years in workman’s compensation-related costs.

posted by: Lynn Guini on December 21, 2009  1:16pm

Fellow taxpayers of New Haven…Why should we pay for “another layer of management”?  If the “union workers wouldn’t necessarily lose their jobs”, then this article is saying that we are paying for the administration (Mayor, Superintendent, Will Clark, etc.), then pay over 2 million for a management company (AFB), then pay a sub-contractor to handle all of the work that Local 287 does, and keep the workers anyway?  This sounds like Union Busting to me.  If the RFP isn’t in retaliation for something recent, then why did the city take applications last month for the custodial Civil Service test?
The unions proved to us already that outside contractors (Aramark Food Services and Aramark Facilities Management) misspent millions of our hard-earned dollars for 14 or so years.  The result was that Food Service was brought back in-house.  Not only did we save millions on the management contract, operating costs have been brought under control (kudos to Dir. Chef Tim Cipriani).  Why hasn’t this model been followed in maintenance?  Again, why add another layer of mangm’nt?

Andrew Garrow-how can the custodians have the strongest and most corrupt union?  Not only did they open their contracts and give concessions TWICE during DeStefano’s tenure, but they took 2% raises for a 5-yr contract, only to watch teachers and administrators get 4 and 5%/yr. while JD ran for governor. 
I say, it’s better for New Haven and its taxpayers to a)get rid of the lawyer acting as Operations Officer and get someone who has business experience or came up through the ranks of the BOE-and the best interests of our children, b)get rid of the high-priced outside contractors whose main goal is to make a profit off of us taxpayers, and while we’re at it, the Mayor that brought them all in!

posted by: On the front line on December 21, 2009  1:26pm

Ok before we start to beat up the Union over two accusations made by Mr Clark.We should educate our selfs before we speak.First we should look into why these things have been allowed to happen.One why are people getting injured on the job and in what areas.Could some of these injuries have been avoided through better management.Were potential problems reported and never dealt with.Secondly if people are out of work do they not need a doctors note?or a reason for it.Clarly there is language in any Union contract that deals abuse.Have the sick time abusers been dealt with? The Union is not the paarty that deals with these individuals.The management is in that business.If Clark wrote that contract he should of put that into it.Was his law not paid for that? I bet if we dig into this we will see that it is clarly a management issue.Last question I have is why is Clark beating on this local was he allowed to exspose teachers,Copsor the trades that went before the custodians?

posted by: cedarhillresident on December 21, 2009  3:30pm

I am going to sit back and see what happens. Will Clark has made some good moves for the city and the tax payers since he was given his job. Lets just wait and see. Give him that much

posted by: Brian V on December 21, 2009  3:59pm

Exiled Italian Shill:
I too, am questioning the mayor’s recent acts with some puzzlement.
Could he finally be working for his constituents best interests, instead of his own political interests?
Finding a new Police Chief along the lines of Chief Lewis would be nice, lets see what happens there too.
I am cautiously optimistic.

posted by: Just take a second on December 21, 2009  6:37pm

I am a custodian for the city.

I have not abused my sicktime.

I have never been on workers compensation.

I was one of the custodians standing up at a rally in front of city hall over the corruption of Aramark. ( Which saved the city tons of money )

I have been in meetings when the Mayor & his staff has come and asked our union for concessions (Which we gave him).

We are willing to work with the Mayor for a fair contract not only for us but for the city & the taxpayers. ( I expressed this to the Mayor personally at our Union meeting last December ) He stated he wasn’t interested in anything other than his ideas.

Do we as a union have a few bad apples…Yes we do. I’m the first to admit that. But there are more…alot more great custodians who go above and beyond their job desription to help any Principle, Teacher, Student or Parent.

As stated in the article. We as a union can not reprimand another custodian. That must come from management.

Ask yourself this…Do you work with someone who may not work as hard as you? Do you work with someone who may take more time off than you?

Should you lose your job because of that?

posted by: New and Improved on December 21, 2009  10:18pm

Professor,

I hope that 25% absentee rate was not calculated by the district’s research department.  I wouldn’t believe any number that comes out of there….  Just ask CSDE

posted by: Tom Burns on December 21, 2009  11:25pm

I just want to thank all of our hard working custodians for the fine job that they do——your numbers have been cut over the years and still you continue to do a great job—-I teach in New Haven and do not know all of the custodians, but the ones that I do know always go above and beyond their duties——Keep on doing what you are doing——I am sure that Mr. Clark knows a good deal when he sees one———Give him a call and start the conversation——They did get rid of Aramark and I am sure they don’t want to bring another one in——Do this together for the benefit of both sides——-Best of Luck—Tom

posted by: slow your roll on December 22, 2009  9:04am

Speaking as a custodian myself, I can not understand the small minded narrow sighted comments some people post. I take great pride in my work and take my job seriously. I have not collected a single day of workmans comp and not called out sick in over seven years. I will be the first one to say get rid of these people that abuse the system. They do us all no good. If management would dicipline and right up people then we can start getting these people removed. I can’t stand a bum as much as the next guy. But please don’t lump us all in together.

posted by: vladamir on December 22, 2009  9:25am

Will your sure to point out the absenteeism in the custodians how about everybody else like teachers police,firemen im sure its not just the custodians its city wide.Also to the public over 100 custodians get 7 sick days use them or lose them so at this time of the year most people will use them instead of losing them.Maybe when mr clark negotiates another contract he should put out there if you dont youse your sick time the city will buy them back maybe you wont have this problem.The fact of the matter is mr clark should not be doing contracts hes a lawyer so he hates to lose. Hey Will when you do contract negotiations you have to give a little to get a little

posted by: Patrick on December 22, 2009  9:26am

To Lynn Guini,

Just an FYI, it was Mr. Clark that initiated getting rid of Aramark and feeding the children attending NHPS in house. Also, Mr. Clark hired Tim Cipriani.
“I say, it’s better for New Haven and its taxpayers to a)get rid of the lawyer acting as Operations Officer and get someone who has business experience or came up through the ranks of the BOE-and the best interests of our children” Mr. Clark may not have come up through the ranks of the BOE, but he has worked for the City in the past and has an impeccable record/reputation. Mr. Clark’s children are enrolled in the New Haven Public School system and I know that he has the best interests for ALL of OUR children in mind.
Please take it from someone that went through the New Haven Public School system, there is a fair amount of custodians underperforming. I was friends with many custodians when I attended Wilbur Cross as well as after I graduated and it is about time that some type of reform is in the process of being initiated.

posted by: vladamir on December 22, 2009  12:50pm

Im having a hard time understanding,Mr Clarks reputation is inpeccable,what reputation,he didnt get ride of aramark the people got tired of paying people to fudge numbers and misleading the taxpayers. And for the fair amount of custodians that arnt doing their job,why havent Will clark or the twenty people that were hired to manage them done anything. So i guess we should just get rid of everyone then start at the top???

posted by: Get it straight on December 22, 2009  2:51pm

Patrick:

Get it straight…Will Clark had nothing to do with getting rid of Aramark.

It was 2 Unions Custodial & Food Service that got rid of Aramark.

The Unions did all the digging.
The Unions are the ones who found the dirty papertrail.

Will Clark only stepped in front of the cameras with the Mayor after they couldn’t hide it anymore and had no choice but to turn on Aramark and get rid of them.

By the way with all the stuff going on with the mayor & PAC maybe the State Attorny General should take a close look at his donors and see what companies they own and see if they have contracts with the City?

posted by: vladamir on December 22, 2009  5:36pm

get your fax straight before you make stupid comments like the custodian union is the most corrupt.How are they corrupt

posted by: James on January 7, 2010  10:20pm

Mayor Destefano’s invalid assertion that 50 custodians were out sick is a blatant fabrication designed to justify his ... privatization practices.  ...  Why is Mayor Destefano’s management company not being held accountable?  Is there no attendance policy in place to curb sick time abuse?  In any competent organization the abuse of an attendance policy would result in progressive discipline.  Is there any acknowledgment of the custodians that have perfect attendance?  Why is management not being held responsible for doing their job?   The solution is not to get rid of the hard working members of Local 287 who have families, but to improve and develop management practices.

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