Animal control workers hold one-day strike; want ability to appeal performance evaluations

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A one-day strike by unionized animal control officers at the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo County started this morning at the society's animal shelter in Burlingame, a Teamsters Local Union 856 spokesman said.
Six Teamsters union workers and supporters started picketing at 8 a.m. and marched outside the Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion at 1450 Rollins Court until about 12:45 p.m.
Picketers were gathered in front of the public entrance to the Lantos Center on Edwards Road, union spokesman Tim Jenkins said.
The union workers said they are asking for a three percent cost of living wage, Jenkins said.
But the humane society's president Ken White said he cannot offer a wage increase to someone who is not meeting minimum performance standards.
"If you're doing well enough to stay here you will get your raise," White said.
As of 11 a.m., Jenkins said the strike was going great and it is "just another peaceful protest."
The union attorney was there and strikers were following all the rules. There had been no altercation and no communication with the humane society's management.
White said he hadn't had any problems with the strikers except that sometimes they were loud and that scared some of the dogs.
The management team's offer includes a three to five percent increase in wages based on the employee's performance.
But the crux of the disagreement is that a negative performance appraisal could not be appealed.
"That's a deal-breaker for us," Jenkins said.  
Union workers feel it's an attempt to scare off whistleblowers from reporting problems because managers could unilaterally deny whistleblowers a raise, according to Jenkins.
Management updated their offer Thursday. The change would allow employees in 2017 to reconsider the "pay for performance" plan and decide how they want to be evaluated and rewarded.
Union workers also want to see an increase in the starting wage for animal control officers. Jenkins said that wage hasn't been increased in seven years.
"We absolutely have to have an increase in the starting wage," Jenkins said.
White said increasing that starting wage is something managers want to look at but while a contract is being negotiated his hands are tied.
He argued that compared with other animal welfare organizations, turnover at the humane society is lower than the norm.
Negotiations have been ongoing for 19 months. The contract expired in 2015.
White said some workers asked union leaders to allow a vote on the latest management offer but the leaders denied that request. He said that would be the next step in negotiations.
Union leaders were pleased with the strike so far because no one crossed the picket line, Jenkins said.
The strike ends at 5:59 a.m. Saturday.