A union representing 176 city and Newington School Board employees has filed nine labor complaints against the city, alleging, in part, that the city refused to negotiate pay for the COVID-19 pandemic and retaliated against the union by contracting out the work.
“Even though we have not received pandemic pay, we should be recognized for the work we have done during the pandemic,” said Ann-Marie Sunderland, president of AFSCME Local 2930 and secretary of Newington High School.
Much of the union’s criticism is aimed at city manager Keith Chapman.
Sunderland were backed by around 50 union members who attended Thursday’s meeting, some holding placards reading ‘We deserve respect’ and ‘Pandemic Pay Now’.
A day after Sunderland publicly aired the complaints to Newington City Council, Chapman announced his resignation effective December 2. When contacted for comment, Chapman said his resignation had nothing to do with the union issue.
A Friday press release regarding Chapman’s resignation from Newington Mayor Beth A. DelBuono did not mention the union issue or the reason for Chapman’s resignation.
In complaints filed this week, the union alleges the city acted unlawfully by failing to negotiate pandemic pay bonuses in good faith. The city has reached agreements with other employees of other unions, including fire and police and paraprofessionals.
Complaints filed by the union also allege that Chapman breached the union contract by hiring outside contractors to perform union members’ work at least seven times.
“I come to you as a last resort,” Sunderland told the board during the public comment portion of the meeting.
She told them that the union has tried to work with Chapman for the past three years, but got nowhere.
Several council members expressed interest in the issue in general at the meeting – saying they would investigate further – but refused to take sides, calling it a personnel issue.
Next week, Chapman said he would provide the city council with a full set of responses to the union’s demands.
Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) filed all nine Municipal Prohibited Practices (MPP) complaints with the Board of Labor Relations this week.
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Other complaints claim Chapman retaliated against union employees by “holding meetings with a captive audience and making threatening comments that if the union refused to settle grievances, things would get worse,” a statement said. union press.
Sunderland called Chapman’s behavior “unprofessional and disturbing”, saying his conduct hurt employee morale.
“We are all invested in Newington’s success,” Sunderland said. “We need real solutions to ensure our members can continue to do the work that helps Newington thrive.”
The complaint seeks an order requiring Newington to cease contracting out, unilateral changes, making all parties “whole”, payment of union fees and more.
Union staff representative Scott Soares said the claims against the city include:
- Bargaining in bad faith or subcontracting work to non-union members.
- Reprisals and threats against trade unionists.
- Refusal to negotiate compensation in the event of a pandemic.
- Refusal to schedule grievance hearings.
- Failure to comply with a settlement agreement.
- Deal directly with union members, rather than through a designated union official.
- Acting in an anti-union manner ignoring labor law.
- Threatening not to fill positions.
Soares, who was at the meeting, said he was “very encouraged” to hear the comments from city council members. Sunderland also had a positive feeling after the game.
“I’m very hopeful after last night’s board meeting,” she said.