With local elections rapidly approaching, there is one public agency where voters do not have a direct choice regarding who serves on the board of directors. Tahoe-Truckee Sanitation Agency (TTSA) is situated behind the Truckee Airport and processes wastewater for the entire North Tahoe area, including Truckee (TSD), North Tahoe (NTPUD), Tahoe City (TCPUD), Olympic Valley (SVPSD), and Alpine Meadows (ASCWD). The TTSA board is made up of a single member from each of these “member district” PUDs by board appointment; five in total.
Reading the candidate statements of TTSA board members up for re-election in their member districts, I noticed that they neglected to mention their important roles serving on the TTSA board, to which some, like TTSA board president Lane Lewis, have been appointed for decades. For anyone following the news about TTSA employees wishing to unionize under the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), you are likely to find more information about the issue reading Moonshine Ink than if you were to attend a board meeting at any member district. It is clear that board members are reluctant to provide any details about TTSA to their respective boards.
As someone who is currently employed at TTSA, I can tell you that since the hiring of the general manager, LaRue Griffin, things have not been good. In the last three years, five employees have been fired, eight employees have quit, and 10 employees have retired earlier than intended, adding up to roughly half the agency workforce. Despite a multitude of speeches to the board, employees petitioning the board, and many employees attending board meetings month after month, the employees’ concerns about mistreatment and low morale do not seem to resonate with these appointed board members.
In January of this year, after experiencing and witnessing a sustained campaign of harassment and intimidation, more than 10 employees filed formal complaints with TTSA’s legal counsel with concerns ranging from hate speech to pregnancy discrimination to retaliation for union organizing, and more. The board hired a third-party investigator to look into these issues. In March 2018, some of those employees received vague memos from board president Lane Lewis, denying any liability by the agency but admitting that personnel issues were mishandled.
In addition, the TTSA directors continue to decline a good-faith resolution to the ongoing disagreement with employees who want to unionize with IBEW. Many employees want to unionize under a simple, cost-effective, majority-based bargaining group. Instead, the board insists that the agency of 50 employees needs to be broken up into multiple bargaining groups. A multitude of Unfair Labor Practice charges against the agency have now been heard by the State Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) in Sacramento. In the presence of a judge, several employees took unpaid time off work and, under the glare of TTSA’s general manager, they gave evidence against the agency. Their testimony is now being considered by PERB. While the TTSA board could at any time have worked with IBEW toward appropriate representation, they have instead chosen to waste public funds in order to fight against and undermine the will of their own employees.
From June 2017 to September 2018 TTSA spent approximately $300,000 of public funds on legal fees paid to their board attorney, labor attorney, and the third-party investigator. If the board has taken any action to improve the current situation, employees are not aware of it.
Thankfully for the employees of TTSA, the voters have a choice this November. I ask you to pay attention to who represents you on your local PUD board of directors and vote for accountability, fairness, and transparency.
~ Submitted by a TTSA employee who, based on fear of retribution, wishes to remain anonymous.