News


Court rejects order to halt Atherton layoffs

Union plans to continue lawsuit

Describing it as a "very, very difficult decision," and a "profoundly sad case," a judge denied the Teamsters Union Local 856 request for an injunction that would have stopped the town of Atherton from laying off 11 employees.

Judge Steven Dylina in San Mateo County Superior Court on Thursday (Aug. 11) sought arguments from both sides before rendering the ruling, and told the courtroom that he fully expected the case to head to the appeals court.

He explained that the plaintiffs failed to prove their case in light of other cases cited by Atherton's legal defense, which argued that cities have the right to lay off employees as needed.

The union appeared to agree with the judge's prediction about the appeal. "We are disappointed in the ruling, but the union will continue to push the lawsuit forward," said spokesman Peter Finn. "Teamsters Local 856 is committed to fighting outsourcing with all available resources."

The town planned to lay off six employees on July 15 as part of its strategy to outsource the building and public works departments. In addition to those six layoffs, one employee retired and another resigned, while five public works maintenance employees received job extensions through the end of August. According to City Attorney Bill Conners, another employee may also retire now that the judge has ruled, bringing the number of actual layoffs to 10.

The layoffs were challenged in court by the union under a section of state government code that it says makes it illegal for the town to outsource the jobs it has targeted, according to Mr. Finn. The court granted a temporary restraining order last month, blocking the layoffs until today's hearing.

A similar case in Orange County Superior Court led to a preliminary injunction in July against outsourcing of city services in Costa Mesa. According to the firm representing the employee union in that case, the lawsuit cited California Government Codes 37103 and 53060, which it interprets as prohibiting the use of private contractors for general services performed satisfactorily by city employees.

Those are the same government code sections cited in the Atherton lawsuit. But City Attorney Bill Conners said the two cases didn't have much in common, primarily because the Teamsters union signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that the city could lay off employees and eliminate positions when necessary due to economic conditions. In the Costa Mesa case, he said, the city outsourced without first trying to negotiate, treating it as a management right.

The Teamsters argued that the MOU expired on June 30. Atherton's legal defense contended in its filing that the agreement is still in effect despite the expiration date, because no new contract has been put in place yet, an argument the judge's ruling appeared to confirm on Thursday.

Mr. Conners said he needed to review noticing requirements before confirming a new date for implementing the layoffs.

Interim City Manager John Danielson was not immediately available for comment.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is exactly as Danielson and Conners predicted. Hopefully the union will quit wasting both its money and the taxpayers' money on these endless legal maneuvers.


Like this comment
Posted by glad
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Aug 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Now outsource the over paid, totally underworked incompetant police department. Atherton outsources fire and paramedic services and the provided emergency responders are always above and beyond great.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Good for Atherton, what a waste of time and money caused by the union, with no regard for the people who pay for the services.........Taxpayer


Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2011 at 1:39 pm

There are 11 people about to lose theirs jobs. Lets try to to be too damn smug. [Portion removed. Please refrain from personal attacks.]


Like this comment
Posted by henry fox
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm

it is always hard to see people lose their jobs. But remember, an equal number of people will no doubt gain jobs as a result of the outsourcing.


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 11, 2011 at 5:00 pm

interested -

Yes, it's VERY sad that 11 people are about to lose their jobs. Sadder still that their union has inflicted this fatal wound on its members.

At at a time when businesses are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and employees are tightening their belts, it is truly sad that the union representing these valued workers have been so resistant to making any accommodations. Yes, the union finally came around with some half-hearted and insufficient concessions when the employees were finally facing termination. There was no need for brinkmanship. It should never have come to this.

This is a massive failure of the union's leadership and I only hope the employees direct their disgust to the appropriate culprit.


Like this comment
Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Oh, those dratted Unions....Wait, I like Unions.They get things done.


Like this comment
Posted by Let them eat cake
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 11, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Atherton is taking a very dangerous path in forsaking the incredible contributions of its employees. They have more than anything made Atherton a great place to live and invest in real estate. The next target of Kathy MCKeithan and her wrecking crew is the Atherton Police Department. The current town management does not respect or appreciate the incredible job the police department has done for Atherton residents. It is really one of the main reasons people buy homes here. Instead of figuring out how to save a buck we should be focusing on attracting the best officers in the Bay Area. Guess what, that's only going to happen if we pay well. By being penny wise and pound foolish our property values are going to decrease dramatically unless we maintain, support, and encourage these officers.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Let them eat cake:

I have news for you - your police department sucks. It is a joke and it always has been. It is nothing more than a high end private security force. If that's what you want, you can keep your police department in place. Of course, you'll have those pesky lawsuits to pay for because your police force isn't properly managed or disciplined. But hey, it's your increasing pacel taxes that will pay for it. If you don't care to keep paying more and more for a joke of a police department, then I guess that's your call.


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I would be very surprised if the people posting under the pseudonyms "Let them eat cake" and "interested" were not employees of Atherton facing termination. There is an inescapable desperation in their posts.

Let them eat cake - no police officer I know would ever water someone's lawn. Furthermore, no citizen I know would ever think of asking...

You are already paying some of the highest wages in the area for your cops. In return, they are falsely arresting your citizens and costing your town thousands, perhaps millions of dollars. They are video taping your town council to see who is speaking for or against them.

And no one I know buys a home because of the local police department. In fact, I've not heard that before. Proximity to work, schools, status, size, home features, resale value, etc., may play a small role.


Like this comment
Posted by Joseph Yablonski
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2011 at 10:17 pm

At the turn of the 20th century unions were needed. Companies made virtual slaves out of blue collar workers, exposing them to dangerous working conditions and working them nearly to death.

Fast forward 111 years and the situation has been reversed. Between Government over-regulation and unions rapacious demands businesses decided that in order to survive they had to move manufacturing overseas. And the Unions and liberal legislators have no one else to blame but themselves. They pushed businesses into a corner and the businesses decided to defend themselves much to the dismay of the Unions.

Samuel Johnson once said that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Today that quote could easily be adapted to "Government employee unions are the the last refuge of those scoundrels.

Employee Unions won't be satisfied until the pick the bones clean of the taxpayer carcasses. They confiscate millions of dollars of union members dues to throw responsible legislators out of office, as witnessed in Tuesday's failed Wisconsin recall election.

Atherton is doing the right thing. Atherton's responsibility is to its residents and if the Employee Unions were only reasonable in their demands they would not be losing their jobs. But is is the employee Unions that put avarice above service and the City of Atherton simply had enough.


Like this comment
Posted by Ashamed of my neighbors
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 11, 2011 at 11:34 pm

I can no longer stand idly by.

Oh so very, very, very difficult...oh so profoundly sadly heart-wrenchingly difficultisaurus...Is anybody listening to this garbage?

You bet it's difficult to rule contrary to the evidence before you. Yes, it is profoundly sad to be responsible for allowing irreparable harm befall hard working people behind the guise of a non-existent financial crisis. You better believe this incendiary shenanigan will be exposed for what it is and moreover, what it is not.

Judge Steven [deleted]? How did this guy end up with the case? The judge who imposed the temporary restraining order was supposed to hear this case. How did it end up being presided over by a guy who spent the majority of his career as deputy council for San Mateo County?

Can any of you pseudo-intellectuals say bias?

[Portion deleted.]



Like this comment
Posted by You've got to be kidding
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 12, 2011 at 12:24 am

Why is this judge saying this was a difficult decision?

Can anybody, even Peter Finn, say with a straight face that given the financial problems we have in America today, the government cannot lay people off if they can find cheaper ways to provide the same services? It's going to be against the law for the government to balance its budget?

If so, that's as sure a path to financial ruin as the Atherton police department's proviso that they be paid at the 70th percentile of neighboring communities (which have similar clauses in their contracts, creating a dynamic system if you will that keeps increasing without bounds).

The sad part about all of this is that the police department used its muscle to enforce all the cuts coming from these twelve or eleven people. The real fat to be cut is at the police department of course. The expenditures there are amazing.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 12, 2011 at 4:45 am

And just to show how ridiculous some public employee unions have become the MPFPD firefighters' union has just sued the Fire District because the District is issuing paychecks based on the actual amount of hours worked rather than checks for a fixed amount each month.


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Desoto
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2011 at 8:58 am

5.10 Board and District Public Communication

The Fire Chief, or his designee, is the spokesperson for the District when dealing
with the media. In the course of normal events, Board members should refer
inquiries to the Fire Chief. The Fire Chief and the Board should strive to be in
agreement regarding the public posture of the District. Where possible it is
desirable for the Board to have a unified position (e.g. “Board position”) that may
be communicated to the public through the media. If it is necessary for the Board
to make a separate statement to the media, that responsibility should rest with the
Board President or his/her designee.

Internal District information should not be distributed to the media without the
permission of the Fire Chief.

However, Board members as elected officials have all of the rights and privileges
of any private citizen to speak with the media. If a Board member finds it
necessary to speak to the media regarding the Fire District, that member should be
clear that he/she is speaking as an individual Board member and not as a
spokesperson for the Board. In order to speak for the Board, any individual Board
member must be authorized by the Board. When speaking to the media on matters
not related to the Fire District, any Board member should clearly state that he/she is
speaking as a private citizen and not as a Board member.


Like this comment
Posted by john gage
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Aug 12, 2011 at 9:23 am

Peter Carpenter says "And just to show how ridiculous some public employee unions have become the MPFPD firefighters' union has just sued the Fire District because the District is issuing paychecks based on the actual amount of hours worked rather than checks for a fixed amount each month.
I am struck how mocking and inappropiate this comment is coming from a member of the Board of Directors of the Fire District. Mr Carpenter plainly is making an attempt to humiliate the firefighters union in a public forum. For someone to do that who is in a position of authority who represents me is not right and I object. Mr Carpenter should resign immediately. At the very least he should issue and apology.


Like this comment
Posted by all for outsource
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 12, 2011 at 9:24 am

San Carlos outsourced police services saving millions

Half Moon Bay outsourced police services saving millions

Woodside, Ladera, Portola Valley all outsource police services

When will Atherton get smart, cut the over spending, stop paying out hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits lost CAUSED by the problematic dirty little police department.

Outsource now...the residents would still be provided great service with much more resources, alot more "real" experience and would save millions of dollars just from the budget savings alone.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2011 at 9:29 am

Peter,

Looks like you hit a nerve with Roy...."actual amount of hours worked"


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 12, 2011 at 9:30 am

Public service demands speaking out on important issues and not conducting the people's business behind closed doors. The union's actions are what humiliates them, not my reporting on or commenting on those actions .

People like John Gage will not silence me.


Like this comment
Posted by laughing
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 12, 2011 at 9:53 am

Hey Temasters 856,

Jimmy Hoffa would be proud! So typical a corrupt town, a very disfunctional, seriously corrupt and eithically challenged police department would be represented by the Teamsters!

That speaks volumes

Lose the Police Department, lose the public works department and in turn, lose the criminally founded Teamsters.


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 12, 2011 at 1:50 pm

It shows you how absurd public employee compensation has become when someone complains because you're only paying them for actual hours they worked.

If that doesn't outrage you then you are part of the problem.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm

The fire fighters union must be tone deaf. First they demand a ridiculous raise in a RECESSION, now they demand to be paid for hours they haven't even worked?


Like this comment
Posted by ummm...hello???
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 12, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Wrong topic people...this topic is about the Union and the Atherton lay offs. This has nothing to do with the fire department.


Like this comment
Posted by Dharma
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm

J Yablonski says "[It] is the employee Unions that put avarice above service and the City of Atherton simply had enough." But I fear most residents would have let the town go bankrupt rather than look squarely at current agreements for employee compensation and fix them. Town council members finally [Portion removed, terms of use] said "Enough", hire a real town manager and put away the credit card and balance the checkbook, but it took a full blown fiscal crisis to get there. If I ran my home or business like that I'd be on welfare.

Will future councils be fiscally responsible when short term memory has forgotten 2011? Will voters demand that they be?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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