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Union protests alleged administration bullying

Brianne Mcevoy

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Pat Gantt, president of the California State University Employees Union, leads the rally to Kendall Hall on the Chico State campus. Photo credit: George Johnston

The California State University Employees Union took a stand on Friday in Trinity Commons to protest bullying from the administration and then marched to Kendall Hall shouting “no justice, no peace.”

Many employees were afraid to participate in the rally and felt that they would be retaliated against or lose their jobs for showing up, said Jessica Verardi, president of the union’s Chico chapter.

“Employees should never be made to feel that way,” Verardi said. “And if they want to be an activist and come out here and support fair wages or bullying or lack of transparency, they should have the right to do that.”

Eight years ago, the university budget was meager, which didn’t allow increases in salary, and employees were asked to do much more than what their jobs required of them and were not compensated with overtime.

During this time period, employees saw a 1 percent wage increase while management’s salary continued to rise, Verardi said.

“It’s really hard when the managers are making six figures, and we most certainly aren’t,” she said. “We’re not being compensated, and they’re being rewarded for all of the work that we’ve been doing.”

The six prominent issues that the union wanted to focus on were fair wages, bullying, lack of transparency, punctual information, support for employees and parking.

The current policy regarding employee complaints doesn’t have a time limit or protect victims from bullying during the investigation, which can keep them in the same situation many months later with no resolution, Verardi said.

Specific instances of bullying include belligerent behavior from managers, demeaning someone’s work and fingers being shoved in employees faces. In one case, an employee was taken into a van and instructed to drive around campus, said Teri Randolph, chief steward and bargaining unit representative for the union.

“That’s like kidnapping,” Randolph said.

The most common issues stem from administration bullying.

The campus is currently working on a trial dispute resolution, where people can go and discuss their issues. Although the problem will be discussed in the new process, it is not in a report, so employees have to keep a timeline of potential grievance situations in mind and report them within 30 days to an alternate office.

Robin McCrea, an administration analyst in the agriculture department, is worried because it’s worse now for staff on campus, and the university considers employees expendable, she said.

“it used to be competitive,” McCrea said. “Morale was great.”

The continuous stress of the negative environment is harmful to both the university and the employees, Verardi said.

“We need to be able to offer qualified people that we want to come here and work pay that is what they’re worth,” Verardi said. “And our employees aren’t being paid what they’re worth.”

The protest is a wake-up call to the university to stop bullying behavior from managers, said Tom Dimitre, the union’s labor representative.

The people who stand behind the faculty and campus are ultimately the staff, and without them the campus would not be able to function as efficiently, McCrea said. This is why it is important to be able to hire experienced people with the career background to fill a position to be a part of the campus community.

Brianne Mcevoy can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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Union protests alleged administration bullying