Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | August 28, 2004

Puh-lease: Labor woes, empty trustee seat

It’s time again for another of my occasional round-ups of current events that make me roll my eyes, shake my head and utter a two-syllable “puh-lease.”

***

What’s with the drawn-out contract negotiations at the Gilroy Unified School District and Saint Louise Regional Hospital?

At the GUSD, nine meetings over the summer resulted in one, count ‘em, one agreement between the district and teachers on five major outstanding for the 2004-2005 contract.

Gee, classes for the 2004-2005 school year start Monday, but teachers’ contracts haven’t been finalized yet? You’d think given all the homework that schools assign, both teachers and administrators would have a healthy respect for deadlines.

But they look positively timely compared to the negotiations at Saint Louise Regional Hospital. The contract for service, technical and maintenance workers expired in April – four months ago – and employees are reporting to work every day despite their lack of a contract.

The workers are members are members of the Service Employee International Union and want a master contract that applies to all Northern California Daughters of Charity hospitals.

I don’t know who is right or who is wrong in either of these situations, but I do know this: When contracts expire and progress is so painfully slow, the situation is ripe for a strike. In both of these critical fields – education and healthcare – a strike is the last thing South Valley needs.

So, I’m rolling my eyes at the delay and issuing a plaintive “puh-lease” to both sides: Let’s get these negotiations out of the way so management and labor can concentrate on the important work of educating our students and tending to our sick.

***

Did you hear that wait times at large Department of Motor Vehicles offices have dropped sharply as a result of efforts to improve efficiency there?

But I rolled my eyes when I read that small offices – like the ones in Gilroy and Hollister – don’t reap the benefits.

Why is efficiency only important in large DMV offices? Puh-lease.

South Valley residents lose the benefits of the improved efficiency at large DMV office because they must spend 60 minutes on the round-trip drive to the nearest “large” DMV office in South San Jose at Santa Teresa Boulevard and Martinvale Lane. Wait times there have dropped by an hour, but between gasoline prices and commute times, South Valley residents might as well join the long queues in Gilroy and Hollister.

Combine that with out-of-towners advising DMV customers that they should come to Gilroy or Hollister DMV offices instead of the offices in the big cities, and you’ve got lines aplenty in South Valley.

If efficiency is good for the big-city DMV offices, it’s good for the small-town offices, too. Puh-lease, let’s use some common sense and make the DMV efficient across the entire state.

***

I tried a head shake and an eye roll to see if that would help me follow the twisted logic that tries to say there’s no vacancy on the Morgan Hill Unified School District Board of Trustees. It didn’t.

There are seven seats on the MHUSD school board. There are currently six trustees, following the mid-term resignation of former school board member Tom Kinoshita. That sounds like a vacancy to me.

Not so, according to a memo from the Santa Clara County Office of Education to the MHUSD.

The school board planned to fill the vacancy with an election this November, but no candidates are running to complete the two years remaining on Kinoshita’s term. Six candidates are competing for three open trustee seats with four-year terms. That’s when the district sought the county education office’s, uh, advice.

“The failure to have anyone register to run for a position does not create a vacancy,” according the SCCOE’s Porter Sexton, who wrote a memo in response to the district’s request for recommendations on how to proceed.

No, but the resignation of Tom Kinoshita did create a vacant seat that remains unfilled.

It seems pretty simple to me: The MHUSD needs seven trustees, it has only six now, and it will have only six after the November election. Obviously, the fourth-highest vote getter in the Nov. 2 election for the four-year seats ought to be appointed to complete Kinoshita’s term. After all, whoever comes in fourth place at least had the gumption to pull and file candidacy papers, the commitment to campaign, and thus has earned an appointment to the seat that no one else even bothered to try to win.

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