Spreading (Other People’s) Wealth Around

A California county underpaid some SEIU members for several years of overtime work. SEIU and the county worked out a deal under which the county would pay $2900 to all union members rather than the amount owed to individual union members – some of whom are owed  over $100,000. Rather than accept the measly $2900, dozens of SEIU members who were underpaid are suing the county – and their union – to stop the outrageous deal.

Dozens of Santa Clara County social workers filed labor complaints Friday against the county and their union claiming a proposed overtime dispute settlement shortchanges them by tens of thousands of dollars.

SEIU Local 521, which represents the county’s social workers, filed a grievance with the county in 2011, and told its members to keep working overtime shifts while the matter was resolved. The union and county agreed last November to settle for $3.2 million. But the money was to be divided equally among all the 1,1000 members of the social workers unit, each of whom would receive about $2,900.

Christopher Banys, a Palo Alto lawyer representing the 55 workers in the state labor complaints, said the legal action aims to recover what’s owed each individual, some whose paychecks came out to be short more than $100,000 over the years.

“Our goal is to get our clients paid what they are owed and nothing more,” Banys said. “If someone worked $100,000 they ought to be paid that $100,000 and that’s what we going after.”

SEIU representatives did not return calls seeking comment…

Banys said they tried to work with the union to get workers their due pay but met with resistance and opted to take legal action before funds are dispersed en masse to membership.

“The union’s current position makes no sense to anyone I’ve ever told about it,” he said. “The only sense I can make of it is they are trying to spread the money around to all members, and I’m not even sure they all want that — many don’t want to take it away from their brothers and sisters who have earned it.”

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