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Safety Harbor workers reject call for union

Across-the-board 4 percent raises and longevity bonuses helped sway the vote, the mayor says.

Published October 10, 2006

SAFETY HARBOR - The city's employees have spoken.

There will be no union in Safety Harbor.

Of the 102 city employees eligible to vote, 75 cast ballots.

And of those, only 27 voted for the representation by the Communications Workers of America, while 48 voted against.

"By their vote, it appears that the majority do not want to unionize," interim Mayor Andy Steingold said Monday. "They have seen the quick action by the City Commission to address their salary concerns, which I think affected the way they voted."

The city's $43-million budget this year includes a 4 percent salary increase across-the-board for city employees and longevity bonuses.

It is the second time city employees have said no to being represented by a union. The first time was in 1996.

It wasn't just about money, said Stephen Sarnoff, president of CWA Local 3179, which represents city workers in Clearwater, Largo, Madeira Beach, Port Richey and St. Pete Beach.

"It was made into a black-white issue by the city," he said.

A racial harassment case in the city's Public Works Department filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission helped spur the union drive.

Two employees alleged some white colleagues used racial epithets and made monkey noises at them. The commission told the city in April that such behavior constituted racial harassment, and instructed the employees and city to settle their differences. If they don't, the commission will discuss the workers' options to pursue the matter in court.

Willie Fred Brooks, one of the men in the city's Public Works Department who filed a complaint, went to Tallahassee on Thursday to observe the ballots being counted at the offices of the Public Employees Relations Commission.

He said he was not upset by the outcome.

"You win, you lose," Brooks said. "That's a part of life. I'm 50 years old. Nothing surprises me."

The union has 15 days to challenge the result before the vote is certified by employees relations commission. Sarnoff said no decision has been made whether to appeal.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at or 727 445-4153.

[Last modified October 9, 2006, 23:06:26]

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