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AFSCME members secure state audit in latest step to fix problems with their employer

Photo credit: AFSCME Local 1902.
By Mark McCullough ·
AFSCME members secure state audit in latest step to fix problems with their employer

When the Los Angeles Times published an exposé into rampant sexual harassment at the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California in February, the findings were shocking. But for workers, many of them represented by AFSCME Local 1902, MWD has become a workplace known for lax worker safety, abusive work practices, sexual harassment, and bullying.

Now months of activism by members has paid off. The California Legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously on June 30 to conduct a comprehensive state audit of the district.

“The hardworking women and men of 1902 never quit in our efforts for a fair, equitable, safe and transparent workplace,” said Local 1902 President and AFSCME Vice President Alan Shanahan. “This audit is a critical step that we believe will result in an agency better able to deliver the quality services our communities depend on while respecting and supporting its workforce.”

The audit vote is the latest victory in a comprehensive outreach and media campaign that exposed poor working conditions rooted in what workers describe as a MWD’s broken workplace culture.

“The passage of this audit is the direct result of AFSCME members coming together to fight the injustices happening to our brothers and sisters,” said Sherri Barnes, a survey and mapping technician and a member of Local 1902. “Standing up for what is right is not always easy. Because three brave individuals initially stepped forward, hundreds followed and change is coming. Working together, we can make MWD a better place to work for all.”

A number of workers have suffered serious workplace injuries recently – a crushed hand, a broken leg are examples – underscoring the importance of changing business as usual at MWD. Workers say managers have used scare statics to prevent employees from coming forward with their concerns. And managers have incorrectly claimed that Local 1902 has no right to negotiate over health and safety rules or to be part of the committee that reviews workplace accidents and incidents.

“These changes are not going to happen overnight,” said Shanahan. “And we are going to be vigilant.”

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