By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
An impartial Board of Collective Bargaining determined that the City and the Parks Department Advocate’s Office violated the New York State collective bargaining law when it tried to dictate to Local 1505 and the union who could represent members. The Office of Collective Bargaining also shot down management’s attempt to modify the procedure for scheduling investigatory interviews. It dismissed two other charges.
“I have had issues with the Advocate’s Office ever since I became president in 2008,” said Local 1505 President Dilcy Benn, who filed the improper practice petition in 2018.
“President Benn came to the DC 37 Legal Department with clear evidence of mistreatment by the Parks Advocate’s Office. Put simply, Local 1505 members, facing disciplinary charges or pre-disciplinary investigations, were being subject to treatment different than other Parks locals,” explained DC 37 lawyer Aaron Amaral, who handled the case. “The Parks Advocate was trying to dictate to the union who could represent members in proceedings, and tried to schedule the meetings without the participation of the local!”
Benn had never been down the road of having to file an improper practice petition before. As president of Local 1505, she represents over 1,200 City Park Workers, Debris Removers, Park Attendants and Park Service Workers in investigatory interviews, informal conferences, and other labor-management proceedings with the Parks Advocate’s Office.
“The Advocate’s Office thinks it is untouchable,” Benn said. “This is not an isolated incident; it shows there is ongoing problem that includes attempts to intimidate me and my members.”
“Investigations and meetings involving my members were not held in conference rooms but were moved to the Advocate’s office,” Benn explained. “That can be very intimidating. They never held these meetings in the Advocate’s office before, so why now?”
The OCB board heard testimony from both sides. The proceeding included the testimony of an Investigator in Local 1113, who said the Parks Advocate coerced him and others to file a complaint against Benn.
In the end, OCB sided with the union and gave Benn a major victory that affects all DC 37 union representatives and members. The April decision upholds the rights of union representatives to visit DPR facilities, and insists on equal treatment for all union members.
“As a result, the Parks Advocate’s Office had to back-track its practices, and we now have a ruling that the Parks Department violated state labor law,” said Amaral. “This hopefully will discourage such violations in the future.”
The OCB ordered Parks to post their decision at worksites for at least 30 days.
Benn said. “I represent my members and nothing and no one will stop me, no matter what. The law is on my side.“