Weston police officers, dispatchers, change unions

Members of Weston’s police and dispatch collective bargaining units are switching unions.

In separate votes held Friday, Feb. 15, the groups voted by secret ballot to leave the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME AFL-CIO) and join the United Public Service Employees Union (UPSEU).

Travis Arnette, head of the Weston police union, and Peggy Mendoza, head of the Weston dispatchers’ union, both said their respective groups decided to leave AFSCME because they did not believe they were getting adequate representation. “It’s time for a change,” Officer Arnette said.

Town Administrator Tom Landry said the town received a “report upon secret ballot” this week from the Connecticut Department of Labor confirming the union votes. He said the report was issued as a courtesy because the town has no authority over employees and their union representation.

Eventually, he said, the state will send the town a “certification of election by the unions,” when the votes are officially approved.

The police union has 13 members — nine patrol officers, three sergeants, and one detective. Mr. Landry said the secret ballot report stated that six members of the police union voted in favor of the switch. No other union members voted.

The dispatchers’ union has four members. Of those, two members voted, both in favor of the switch, Mr. Landry said.

It is not necessary for a majority of union members to vote on the issue, Mr. Landry said. He said it is necessary only that the majority of those who do cast ballots vote in favor of the change in order for it to pass.

UPSEU represents 24,000 public sector employees in New York, New Jersey, Maine, and Massachusetts. In Connecticut, UPSEU represents 130 unions, including police, dispatch and highway workers in Redding, and the town hall workers’ union in Darien, according to Ronald Suraci, UPSEU regional director.

“We’re excited to bring the new members on board, and we’re excited to start working for the members of the Weston Police Department and emergency dispatchers,” Mr. Suraci said.

Upon official state approval, the dispatchers will be part of the main UPSEU group, while the police officers’ collective bargaining unit will be part of the COPS division of UPSEU, which is dedicated to law enforcement employees.

As part of AFSCME, the groups were in different councils. The dispatchers were in Council 4, while the police officers were in Council 15.

AFSCME contests vote

There is one outstanding issue with the police union’s vote.

Mr. Landry said the town received a notification that AFSCME is contesting the police union’s vote because AFSCME representative Robert Coppola was ejected from the voting proceedings by state labor board agent José Santana.

It was not clear from the complaint, which was filed by Daniel Esposito, an attorney for AFSCME Council 15, why Mr. Coppola was ejected from the proceedings.

A phone call to Mr. Esposito was not returned by The Forum’s press time.

Mr. Landry said the town has not received any complaints yet about the dispatchers’ vote.

The collective bargaining contracts for all the town unions, including police and dispatch, expire on June 30, 2013, so all will need to be renegotiated.

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