Jewish Vocational Service objects to employee union vote

Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), a nonprofit that provides career counseling, workshops and job-related resources, is disputing the results of an Oct. 10 election that would unionize 91 of its employees who work with GAIN (Greater Avenues for Independence), a Los Angeles County-funded program that provides case management and employment services to recipients of the state welfare-to-work program CalWORKs. 

JVS management is pushing against unionization after the bargaining unit of 91 employees, citing a desire for collective bargaining to ensure equal pay and treatment, voted to support unionizing by a narrow margin of 34-33 during an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). 

A second bargaining unit of 34 JVS employees, which works within its federally funded WorkSource Centers, Los Angeles County-funded General Relief Opportunities for Work (GROW) program as well as several programs out of its Antelope Valley office, voted 15-9 against unionizing in a separate election on Oct. 10 overseen by NLRB. 

The NLRB announced the results of both elections on Oct. 12.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 36 oversees AFSCME Local 800, the labor union that represented both groups of employees in their respective campaigns. If unionized, AFSCME Local 800 would continue to represent the 91 JVS employees, who work out of Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services offices in Burbank, Chatsworth, Palmdale and Santa Clarita.

JVS filed an objection with the NLRB on Oct. 19, calling for the federal agency to investigate the unionization election held by JVS staffers who work with GAIN.

“The outcome was determined by a single vote and voter participation was very low,” JVS CEO Vivian Seigel said in a prepared statement. “JVS’ management was made aware of allegations of possible improprieties by the union and is exercising its right to have the NLRB investigate the conduct of the election, ensuring that all employees had an opportunity to exercise their free expression of choice.”

Leslie Simon, organizing director for AFSCME District Council 36, says the objection is a tactic to delay the unionization of the 91 employees.

Simon added that the objections against the union are “pretty vague.”

Last July, both bargaining units of JVS employees filed petitions, per NLRB regulations, showing that at least one-third of each group wanted to unionize, which led to the election announcements.

AFSCME attributed the close vote and low voter turnout of the GAIN group to an aggressive and expensive negative campaign directed by anti-union consultants hired by JVS management.

“We are outraged,” Simon said.

AFSCME representatives said JVS employees refused to go on the record with the Journal, citing fear of retaliation. 

In the JVS statement, Seigel maintains that her agency, which has employed AFSCME-represented workers for approximately 50 years, supports labor unions.

“We deeply respect the role of unions in our community, but we also have an obligation to act in the best interests of our employees and organization,” Seigel said.