Labor Board Ruling Favors Vernon Professionals, Local 818

What do you do when your employer reneges on a promised bonus?

You hope that you have a union to represent you. And if you do, you ask that union to fight on your behalf.

That’s what happened in Vernon, where members of AFSCME Local 818-018, the Town Professionals Union, worked with Council 4 to secure a ruling that will ultimately get them the $500 bonus to which they are legally entitled.

Justice came when the Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations ruled the town broke the law when it refused to pay the employees a $500 bonus that was part of a tentative collective bargaining agreement that both sides ratified in January 2018.

The unanimous decision by a three-person panel stemmed from a Municipal Prohibited Practice (MPP) complaint that Council 4 filed last year on behalf of Local 818-018 members.

In its ruling, the Board ordered the town to pay the $500 bonus to those employees who are or were bargaining unit employees when the January 18, 2018 tentative agreement was ratified.

The ruling also ordered the town to "cease and desist" from failing to implement the agreement; and to reimburse the union for "reasonable fees and costs," including attorney's fees and transcript costs.

In rendering a unanimous decision, the Board strongly chastised the town:

“We find the claim that by rejecting the Union’s proposal to increase the signing bonus, the Town rejected any signing bonus, notwithstanding the “current contract language remains” provision in that agreement, to be a specious argument. The claim not only defies logic and basic principles of contract interpretation, it would lead to harsh, absurd, or nonsensical results were it applied to other conditions of employment that were encompassed by the parties’ negotiations.”

“This decision is a victory for our members and for the rule of law,” Local 818-018 President Jeremy Whetzel said. “We appreciate the way Council 4 has helped us.”

“I think the ruling demonstrates the importance of union representation and advocacy, particularly when your employer refuses to honor a legal commitment” Whetzel, a systems analyst and vice chair of Council 4’s Conservative Political Caucus, added.

Council 4 Staff Representative Lisa McKinnon and Staff Representative/Attorney Tricia Johnson provided expert guidance and support to the local throughout the process, from contract negotiations through the labor board hearing process. Along with Whetzel, Local 818-018 members Christine Clarke, the deputy assessor, and Frank Zitkus, the controller, serve on the bargaining team.

Ironically, the. town filed an objection to the labor board ruling as it began negotiations with our union on a successor collective bargaining agreement.

“Our members work hard for the people of Vernon. They are advocates for the taxpayers as well,” McKinnon noted. “We hope the town will do the right thing and drop its objection. But if they don’t, we will keep fighting.”