Big grievance win for Contra Costa County lead custodians

From left to right: Ronald Redmond, Yoosef Surney, Kelvin Daniels

Last month, three Contra Costa County Teamsters won their grievance when an arbitrator agreed with Local 856 that the members had been working outside of their classification for several years resulting in wage increases and backpay.

Yoosef Surney, Kelvin Daniels, and Ronald Redmond were each promoted to lead custodian in Contra Costa County in 2006. They performed the normal duties outlined for a lead custodian until the custodial services supervisor retired in 2010 and the position went unfilled by the County. From then on, they filled in when they saw a need for work to be done and were also assigned supervisorial duties by the custodial services manager. As a result, they began to take on the role of the custodial services supervisor — filling out incident reports, taking and addressing complaints, meeting with building supervisors and contractors, dispatching custodians to work as needed, and addressing work-related issues after hours.

In 2017, the men noticed that other leads in similar departments were being paid more while performing less supervisory level work.

“We weren’t worried about it initially and we did the work without complaining from 2010 to 2017,” said Kelvin. “But then we started seeing job announcements and people making more money and had to address it.”

As a group, they made the decision to contact their Teamsters 856 representative Corey Hallman in early 2018.

“We attempted to work with County HR and cooperated with them in their internal review process to show that the three lead custodians were actually performing a majority of the work defined in the custodial supervisor job description,” said Corey.   “But in the end, the County decided to challenge us.”

Throughout the grievance process, the County maintained there were duties a supervisor would perform such as responding to employee complaints and planning, organizing and assigning work that Yoosef, Kelvin, and Ronald did not perform. However, each of the members testified during arbitration that they performed those duties and more, and their testimony was backed up by the custodial services manager.

“After many meetings and much persistence, we finally prevailed and the three hard-working members are deservedly getting paid for the work they have been doing,” said Corey.

Now, in addition to paying the members for the out-of-classification work they are performing, the County must pay each of them retroactively.

“We don’t back down from a tough fight,” said Local 856 Secretary-Treasurer/Principal Officer Peter Finn. “We’re not afraid to take a grievance to arbitration and go the distance to fight for what’s right for members.”

“We’ve never complained about what we do because we enjoy our work,” said Yoosef. “But it felt great to win.”

Ronald remarked that they simply wanted the County to do the right thing and pay them for their work.

“I didn’t realize how powerful a union could be,” Ronald said. “We were able to really fight for this. We had a voice and were able to speak when they were out of line.”