Bargaining Unit 15 custodians in state buildings around the Capitol have organized to achieve a string of recent improvements in working conditions through their Joint Labor Management Committee (JLMC).

“We started the committee last year, and we’ve made real progress in the last several months,” said Local 1000 committee member Shavone Brown, a custodian in the state treasurer’s office. “We find that the JLMC is an effective way to work with management because it’s less adversarial.”

The workplace conditions that were at issue included health and safety and rodent abatement. Brown said that, through the JLMC process, custodians were able to get their issues addressed, including cases in which custodians were ordered to remove potentially toxic material or to perform work beyond regularly scheduled cleaning and building maintenance.

Brown and her coworkers were especially bothered by the presence of a smelly, rat-infested collection of uniforms in the basement of a state building near the Capitol.

“These were discarded uniforms that had been sitting there for years—untouched—and we saw rodents living there,” Brown said. “We had complained about it for years, but when I brought it up in a [JLMC] meeting, management said it would be removed right away. A few days later, it was.”

Local 1000 is using the JLMC process to provide upward mobility opportunities for Unit 15 members. Custodians at the Employment Development Department in Sacramento have secured computer access to upward mobility information at work. Unit 15 is working to obtain similar access for all custodians, regardless of their work location.

Local 1000’s member-led bargaining team expanded opportunities for the formation of JLMCs in 2012. Since then, members have organized committees to address departmental issues—such as classification studies—or to solve issues specific to a single worksite.

“It took some time to get everyone used to the idea of working with management in a more collaborative setting,” said Maria Patterson, vice chair of Bargaining Unit 15. “Once our members stepped up and committed to the process, the state began taking us seriously, and we started to see results.”