Local 856 shop steward vindicated in retaliation case

Karen Goff, shop steward for the City of Daly City

Karen Goff has worked for Daly City for 10 years, and has served as a Local 856 shop steward for almost eight of those years. In her work as a police assistant, Karen is a combination of a community service officer and a traffic enforcer. “I’m proud of the work I do,” she explained. “When I work with the public, a lot of times we’re giving parking tickets or towing, but what’s important to me is treating people with respect.”

In August 2016, Local 856 filed an unfair practice charge against the City of Daly City after Karen was disciplined for her union activities and for acting in her role as a shop steward.

It started in 2015, when Karen spoke out at a City Council meeting regarding substandard equipment for members of her unit. Then in early 2016, Karen spoke out publicly again, this time against the outsourcing of the City’s 911 dispatchers.

“We were losing our dispatchers,” said Karen. “I said this is a safety issue for our police officers.”

Later in 2016, as a shop steward, Karen represented a member in an issue regarding seniority. “We had a member who was going to school and had a crazy schedule,” she said. “We choose our schedules every six months, by seniority.”

“This member has more seniority than me,” Karen continued. “But she was told she had to sign up last to which I said, ‘no, that’s not right.’ The sergeant was furious with me for challenging him.”

Not long after, Karen was subjected to a disciplinary meeting without union representation, threatened with an internal affairs investigation, given a written reprimand, and subsequently stripped of her duties and pay as a Field Training Officer (FTO) and Court Officer. Karen was also told that she could not “talk for anyone else or about anyone else,” which flew in the face of her job as a shop steward.

But as a steward, Karen knew she had to contact her union. She called Local 856 Secretary-Treasurer/Principal Officer Peter Finn, who was her union rep at the time. “Once I called Peter, we met with HR, the Captain, Chief, and Sergeant,” said Karen. “The next Monday, my Sergeant yelled at me, so I contacted Peter again and told him that he’d picked up right where he left off.”

Not long after, Local 856 filed the unfair practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). Linda Shipley, Local 856 legal counsel and current representative for Karen’s unit, led on the Union’s side until a settlement was reached in November.

The settlement agreement between Local 856 and the City of Daly City reinstated Karen to her Court Officer and FTO positions and paid for her lost time. But the part of the agreement that made Karen the proudest is the required training for sergeants and captains who oversee her bargaining unit on union members’ rights under the Meyer-Milias Brown Act (MMBA) and appropriate ways to communicate with shop stewards.

“They need to really understand that it’s a symbiotic relationship, and that when labor and management work together, it’s a healthy environment,” she said.

“Retaliating against stewards is absolutely unacceptable, and when employers choose to make this mistake, we are committed to fighting back with the full resources of our Local Union,” said Peter. “This is not only a victory for Karen, but all stewards, and members of our Union.” he said.

“I always tell my coworkers, you shouldn’t be afraid,” said Karen. “And I had to live that out myself. I won’t stop fighting for our members. People have been shocked by the outcome, and I’ve told them: this is who we are and this is what we do. We’re Teamsters.”