District Council 57

Stories From The Frontline: Fighting Layoffs at Sunrise Recreation and Park District

Maurice Negueloua and his wife Danielle were excitedly awaiting the birth of their second child, due March 13 when he was pulled into management’s office on Valentine’s Day.

“They told me they were laying me off on March 15 and it’s like they knock the wind out of you. I am worried about, ‘hey, how am I going to provide insurance for my new baby,’ and stuff like that. I couldn’t believe the way they did it,” said Maurice.

In bargaining for only a handful of sessions, AFSCME’s bargaining team had been given a list of take backs at the table, while the Union’s request for documentation went unanswered. Without any notice to the Union, management pulled members into their office and announced layoffs.

Members stood up and fought back. The Union showed that 8 administrators took more than $32,000 in car/admin allowances and even though the membership made up just 5% of total District employees, they were taking more than 98% of the cuts. With posters showing the inequities, members filled the front rows of the District Board meeting. Maurice, his nine months pregnant wife Danielle and their 4 year old daughter, Giselle, among them. Giselle held a big, bold sign reading “Please Save My Daddy’s Job” throughout the meeting.

“During past layoffs, the board refused to listen to us,” said Sharon O’Guinn, a 17 year District employee.

Chapter President Jeremy Gutenberger started the testimony with a heart wrenching speech about how the district isn’t just laying off skilled workers with expertise, saving the district money in the long run, but that the district is laying off good community members. “Jeremy humanized these layoffs. He told the board about each member and made them see that their actions had consequences,” said Business Agent Karmen Lee Ortloff. “At the end of his testimony, the only dry eyes in the hall were the administrators’!”

“It touched my heart, all the people coming together to save jobs at the meeting. It really did. I am so glad we stood together. In talking to members who weren’t at the meeting, people wished they were there. I think they are seeing we need to unite. It touched my heart,” said Sharon.

After hearing the testimony of workers and their supporters, the board started asking pointed questions. “How can the district bargain in good faith if they don’t give the Union information?” “It seems like this is a matter of the District vs. the Union, which is not what this budget should be about.” “Why isn’t everyone sharing fairly in the sacrifice?”

The issue of shared sacrifice came up at the bargaining table as Council 57 Director George Popyack pointed out that management and non-Union employees were not taking furloughs, pay cuts or eliminating their excessive car allowances. “Most places you see management leading by example. That is not the case here,” said George.

During her layoff notice meeting and in the public board meeting, Sharon challenged the administrators by telling them, “If you are not willing to give up your car allowance so a man with a wife and child on the way can keep his job, shame on you!”

After a tense questioning of the administrators and lead negotiator, the board unanimously voted to hold off on the layoff for 60 days so the Union and management can negotiate in good faith. The Union has a proposal on the table that will save Union jobs and is awaiting a reply by the district, but in the meantime, the fight goes on.

“Honestly, I am not emotionally ready to retire, but I will do so to save someone else’s job,” said Sharon. “Unity is building here and people see we need to stand together because we do care about each other. When you look at someone like Maurice, he has fought so hard for others over the years, we need to stand and fight for him now. ”

With a noticeable power shift in the atmosphere at the district, members overhead a manager saying that they were “disappointed in how this round of layoffs went because they liked how much better it was last time.” Unity is growing, so management may be disappointed for a while.

See AFSCME posters below:



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