2ND DISTRICT REPORT | CHRIS MAHON
Santa Maria Wins Important Firefighter Ally on Council
Santa Barbara County recorded the highest voter turnout numbers the county has ever seen in a midterm election, reaching a historic 71-percent turnout. For Santa Maria Firefighters Local 2020, that meant adding a pro-firefighter voice to the City Council.
Making history on all levels, Santa Maria voters elected the city’s youngest member to ever sit on the city council. District 3 City Councilwoman, Gloria Soto, is 29-years old and ready to make an impact by adding diversity to the dais to ensure that all communities are equally represented.
Santa Maria Firefighters, Local 2020 proudly endorsed Soto as she put firefighter issues and community engagement on the forefront of her campaign values. In July, Gloria went on a ride along with Local 2020 President, Anthony Morales, and his crew. She spent the day talking with firefighters about the issues that mattered to them and exploring what a day in the life of a firefighter truly meant.
“Gloria Soto took the time to connect with the firefighters of Santa Maria and asked questions to gain an understanding of what is important to us," said Anthony Morales, President of the Santa Maria Firefighters, Local 2020. “Hearing the voices of labor is the first step towards better representation on the city council.”
In Santa Maria, the median age of residents is 29-years old and over 70-percent of the demographic are Hispanic or Latino. Soto brings a new light of diversity to city council giving a voice and a sense of hope to young voters in the city.
In another effort to connect with labor, Soto attended the Local 2020’s General Membership Meeting where members approved to endorse Gloria in the Third District council race.
President Morales said, “she understands the plight of labor and she brings fresh ideas to the table. We believe she’ll make a difference to empower our diverse community.”
La Verne Firefighters Embroiled in Two-Year Fight Against Management Retribution
Hidden-camera videos … secret dossiers … high-level political retribution … stonewalling public officials.
A John le Carré spy novel? Nope. Just the stew of intrigue to which the members of La Verne Firefighters Local 3624 have been subjected over the last two years.
Local 3624 has been forced to file not one, but two lawsuits targeting the city and its fire management for violating the Firefighters Bill of Rights. In its lawsuits, Local 3624 documents a campaign of retribution against union political activity.
“We supported a mayor candidate who lost by seven votes and then did a vote of no confidence against our Fire Chief Pete Jankowski,” said La Verne Firefighters President Andrew Glaze. “What followed was a campaign of retaliation by both the fire chief and city.”
After filing a First Amendment lawsuit against the city last winter, Local 3624 learned that a La Verne battalion chief had secretly taken more than 250 videos, 1500 photos and compiled a 235-page dossier of notes, including private conversations firefighters had with their spouses. According to Local 3624’s second lawsuit – filed last fall – Battalion Chief Michael Thompson acknowledged gathering the secret videos and collecting them for use in disciplinary proceedings. Thompson was subsequently placed on administrative leave.
Despite being caught trying to collect secret dirt on their firefighters, the retaliation attempts didn’t stop. In a break with common practice, the city stonewalled internal candidates for vacant positions and sought to recruit from outside. Through CPF, a “Do Not Apply” notice was sent to all California union leaders, who urged their members not to participate in the external hiring process.
“Three days after the notice went out, the city decided to make it ‘internal candidates only,’” said Glaze. “CPF was a great help in protecting us from some of the retaliation.”
Despite being rebuffed in most of its retaliatory practices, the city still hasn’t changed its spots, meaning Local 3624 will continue to fight on behalf of its members. The constant legal wrangling is a new experience for La Verne Firefighters, as they are best known in the community for their annual Christmas candy distribution.