The Miami-Dade public schools administration gave a 60 percent pay hike to the president of the union that represents the district’s lowest-paid employees months before the school board approved one of two contracts that outsourced lawn maintenance work traditionally performed by union workers.
A top official of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1184 is questioning why president Vicki Hall got such a large pay increase and linked it to the two contracts that went unchallenged by the union before they were approved. The raise brought Hall’s annual school district salary from $26,141 to $42,000, records show.
“Why would they change her pay status … and give her a $16,000 increase? I tie it to the two contracts,” said union senior vice president Terry Haynes, adding that Hall’s pay raise exceeded promotion provisions of the labor contract by more than $14,000. “She cut deals” related to the district’s outsourcing contracts, he said.
AFSCME officials have complained that the outsourcing, which could pay private firms up to $1.8 million over five years, violates the union’s labor agreement with the district and will result in loss of work for employees represented by the union. The controversy has exposed sharp differences between Hall, who was elected president of the local in May 2015, and Haynes, the local’s second in command.
Hall was asked to comment on her salary hike and how it came about. “You want me to incriminate myself,” she said before hanging up.
Re-contacted again a few days later, Hall declined to comment.
In an earlier interview several months ago, Hall maintained that “no deals” were made and that she was “still a bus driver.” She also said that her annual salary increase was only from $36,000 to $42,000 – numbers different than those provided by the school district.
The union also provides Hall a separate salary stipend for her service as president, and reimburses the school administration for her school district salary so she can carry out union duties full time. The union represents about 7,900 employees, including custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, maintenance employees and some staffers at WLRN, the public radio and TV station whose license is owned by the Miami-Dade School Board.
By way of comparison, Haynes said the district never gave longtime union president Sherman Henry a large pay increase or a better pay grade. Instead, Haynes said, Henry got the same increases negotiated for all union employees. Henry retired from the school district two years ago after serving as union president for 24 years.
Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho, who union officials say backed the two outsourcing contracts, did not respond to a call for comment. School Board Attorney Walter Harvey did not return calls for comment, or to an email asking him whether the outsourcing contracts violated the union’s labor agreement with the district, as union representatives contend. Chief Human Resources Officer Jose Dotres also would not comment.
School district Chief Communications Officer Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, however, maintained that the outsourcing contracts don’t violate the board’s contract with AFSCME, and that an agreement has been reached with the union to clarify outsourcing procedures. She added that the settlement resolves all grievances filed about the two contracts that outsourced lawn service.
The settlement, signed by Hall and district officials, calls for the district to do what the district’s labor agreement called for it to do: give notice to the union when it plans to outsource work, outline the scope of work and allow the union time to decide if it wants to challenge.
Union officials complained that had not been done. “I think downtown is in control’’ of the union, said Haynes, who disagreed with both the settlement and any claim that it resolves two grievances he filed about district outsourcing work.
School district officials refused to provide Hall’s annual salary on Jan. 1, 2015 and on July 1, 2015 when she and union members received a union-district negotiated pay increase. Andrea Williams, executive director in the Office of Labor Relations, said the district only provides hourly rates for 10-month school bus drivers; Hall’s official job with the district on those dates was that of a 10-month bus driver.
An analysis of school district information, however, shows that as of July 1, 2015, Hall’s salary was $26,141 a year. Three months later, Hall’s annual salary jumped 60 percent to $42,000 after the administration changed her status to a 12-month school bus driver. The change put Hall on a more lucrative salary schedule.
According to Haynes, Hall’s salary should have increased only by about $1,600 a year under promotion provisions in the district’s labor contract with AFSCME.
Outsourcing followed union president’s big raise
In November 2015, two months after Hall’s salary hike to $42,000, the first of the two lawn maintenance outsourcing contracts was approved by the School Board. The five-year contract authorized 11 companies to provide lawn services totaling up to $1 million. The type of work includes tree, palm and shrub trimming, pruning and stump removal, according to board records.
The contract was approved two days after the union withdrew a related previous grievance and a request for arbitration. The union filed the grievance in June 2014 after discovering that a private firm was doing lawn service work at Krop Senior High School in North Dade.
According to documents provided by the school district, the district paid about $273,000 to the companies it contracted with to outsource lawn services the district contacted with as of Nov. 29, 2016. The union did not file a grievance at the time the contract was approved.
The other contract, for up to five years, was approved by the School Board on Feb. 3, 2016. Thomas Maintenance Service will be paid up to $800,000 to mow vacant lots and clear fence lines.
According to documents provided by the school district, nearly $82,000 was paid to Thomas Maintenance as of last November. The union did not file a grievance at the time that contract was approved, either.
Haynes accuses Hall of failing to take a strong stance against the district’s efforts on outsourcing. “It’s her responsibility to watch board items” and guard any actions detrimental to employees represented by the union, he said.
Haynes criticized the union’s withdrawal of the Krop High grievance. “She ordered the grievance pulled in a deal cut with Labor Relations,” he said.
“I told her not to pull it because it can result in a pattern,” Haynes said. “The grievance should never have been pulled because they may try to do it again.” And they did, he added.
In the interview months ago, Hall had a different version. She said that in November 2015 she ordered the Krop grievance withdrawn because she was given assurances from an official in Labor Relations that the union would be notified in the future of any outsourcing proposals.
It was “based on a good faith” promise, Hall said.
Update: Assistant Superintendent Vivian Santiesteban-Pardo told the Miami Herald that Hall was moved from a 10-month to 12-month bus driver position when she was elected AFSCME president “in order to provide parity with the 12-month position of the previous AFSCME president.” Santiesteban-Pardo added that according to the terms of the district’s labor contract with the union, AFSCME reimburses the district for the president’s salary including benefits.
Santiesteban-Pardo said she “immediately sought to resolve pending grievances related to outsourcing” when she was assigned to the Office of Labor Relations and Compensation Administration in July 2016 and that a settlement was reached in January 2017 “to ensure contractual procedures for outsourcing would be followed by all District entities.”
“The District’s actions and resolutions are unrelated and this issue may reside more appropriately under the union’s domain,” she said.
Florida Bulldog is a not-for-profit news organization created to provide investigative reporting in the public interest. Contributions are tax-deductible. www.floridabulldog.org. Miami Herald reporter Kyra Gurney contributed to this story.