Union co-president: Seven employees could be affected

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Between five and seven Blair County employees, one with as many as 24 years of service, are expecting to lose their jobs soon through a union-bumping process initiated by the sale of Valley View Home.

“Where’s the loyalty?” asked courthouse janitor Bob Miller, who has worked almost 20 years for the county.

“Why didn’t we know about this?” a fellow janitor with 10 years’ experience said Thursday. “Why are we just now hearing about this?”

The courthouse janitors are part of the Service Employees International Union, which represents the county highway and maintenance staffs, in addition to Valley View’s unionized dietary, housekeeping and certified nurses’ aides.

Because some Valley View union employees want to retain the county as their employer, rather than work for Valley View’s new owner, which started running the home on June 1, those employees have started indicating an intent to exercise bumping rights.

“The people who want to bump from Valley View to the courthouse are looking toward retirement,” SEIU representative and retired Valley View employee Dawn Porter said Thursday. “They’ve been working for the county for 25, 26, 27 or more years. One has six months to go before being eligible for retirement.”

Union co-president William Neely, who has 22 years’ service, said the bumping could go into effect sometime next week and leave as many as seven county employees, including himself, without jobs.

Porter said the bumping has to be done by seniority and by job qualifications.

“They need to understand that this isn’t something that’s occurring by choice,” Porter said. “It was the sale of the home that did this. Commissioner [Terry] Tomassetti and Diane Meling did this. Meling, she could have sided with Ted Beam [who opposed the sale], and none of this would be taking place. Nobody would be bumping anywhere, and nobody would be losing their jobs.”

Tomassetti and Meling, who voted in favor of selling Valley View to Reliant Valley, maintained that the action would be in the best interest of the county and Valley View. The sales agreement calls for Valley View to remain a skilled care facility through December 2023, something Tomassetti and Meling said the county could not guarantee. Meling also said the county lacked the money to invest in Valley View in a way that would allow it to keep up with other privately owned nursing facilities.

Tomassetti said commissioners have no control over bumping.

“It’s a union matter, not a sale matter,” he said.

“I don’t want to see anybody lose their jobs. In today’s economy it’s a tough situation,” he said. His concern extends, he said, to both Valley View and courthouse workers.

Those details of who is involved and how the process will work was being worked out this week by the county’s Human Resources Director Katherine Swigart and Porter.

Porter said those who lose their jobs through the bumping process will be put on a recall list, as required by contract. The county will need to use that list to fill future vacant union positions, she said, such as when someone retires.