Unit 15 arbitration win reinforces members right to wear hats at DGS
Custodians pushed back against arbitrary uniform restriction


Unit 15 custodians are wearing hats again at three state office buildings after an arbitrator ruled a DGS “no-hat” directive “overly broad and unreasonable.”

Custodians at state buildings in Los Angeles have a long standing practice of wearing hats with their uniforms. It makes sense for those working a sometimes-dangerous and often dirty jobs; hats keep heads warm in unheated buildings and prevent dust and particles from falling into custodians’ eyes. It’s a reasonable safety precaution. DGS branch directives are silent on the issue so custodians there have the right to wear hats.

Our custodians demanded respect and pushed back when management announced that hats would no longer be allowed. They circulated a no confidence petition against DGS management and used the grievance procedure as an organizing tool. Local 1000 pointed out that nowhere in the policies provided by DGS does it state that custodians can not wear hats and, furthermore,  our contract states that the union must be notified of any change in workplace policies.

Three worksites were affected by the new rule: the Ronald Reagan building, the Junipero Serra building and the CalTrans District 7 building.  An arbitrator ruled the directive was overly broad and unreasonable and ordered that it be withdrawn.

The arbitrator’s decision noted that such long-standing practices usually develop for a reason—signifying that our custodians know what they are doing when it comes to staying safe.

“We always fight for safety and respect,” said Maria Patterson, vice chair of Bargaining Unit 15. “And this is what happens when custodians stand together.”