Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Overwhelming Majority of Lifeguards Want to Leave MEA, Join Teamsters
More than 70 percent of lifeguards have signed a petition to leave the Municipal Employees Union and affiliate with the Teamsters, according to Ed Harris, a lifeguard who is working on organization issues. The lifeguards went to the City's labor relations office yesterday (April 1), but there has been no decision. The lifeguards want the mayor and council to authorize a representation vote. The issue is now being reviewed by the city attorney's office. "Lifeguards have clearly shown that they have a separate community of interest from the MEA membership," says Harris, and lawyers consider such status important for such a move. Lifeguards are the only safety employees within MEA, says Harris. Most of the MEA membership is white collar. In more than 30 years, only seven lifeguards have made it to a full retirement from the City, although some have moved on to other departments, says Harris. One of the lifeguards' major beefs is Judie Italiano, president for 20 years and now general manager of the MEA. Interim Report #28 of March 3, 2008 by former City Attorney Mike Aguirre described how Italiano ran up $20,000 of charges on the union's credit card. Union records show that she spent $100,000 of the union's money on such things as gambling casino trips, hotels, and clothing. One of Italiano's direct relatives heads Integrated Labor Solutions, an insurance operation that got two loans from the MEA. "We don't believe the MEA is being fiscally responsible with our dues," says Harris. Scott Chadwick, the City's labor relations manager, could not be reached for comment.