The Merced County Board of Supervisors has approved the registration of Teamsters Local No. 856 as an employee organization for the county's correctional officers and security system workers.
In a recent 3-2 vote, with Supervisors John Pedrozo and Linn Davis voting against the resolution, the move gives the Teamsters official recognition in Merced County.
It could allow county workers who choose the Teamsters as their union to have the group take over day-to-day labor relations, including handling issues with supervisors and county policies.
"I think this is the first step in the right direction," Board Chairman Hub Walsh said. "It's part of the process that employees can go through, and it just gives the employees an opportunity to make a choice on whether they want to be represented."
Davis said he voted against the resolution because not enough information was given about how the Teamsters could improve working conditions.
"Based on the information that was provided to me, I did not see where it was going to be an advantage to the employees or constituents of Merced County," Davis said.
Pedrozo could not be reached for comment.
The county's correctional officers and security system operators are currently represented by Merced County Sheriff Employee's Association, which is affiliated with the Teamsters.
The Teamsters serves as the association's bargaining representatives and provides support with legal defense, according to Rudy Gonzalez, representative with the Teamsters Law Enforcement League.
But if Teamsters becomes the sole representative for those two groups of workers, then the employees can go straight to their Teamsters representative.
"The board action makes it official that we are a recognized organization by the county and have the ability to represent county workers in Merced," Gonzalez said.
"We've had the honor and privilege of representing correctional officers and security system operators," he added. "We think their work is important to public safety and the successful functioning of the Sheriff's Department, and we have no intention of leaving."
Gonzalez, who's been with Teamsters for four years, said local government deciding the fate of employee organizations is unusual.
"Merced (County) is the only employer -- both public and private sector -- that created a rule where the employer had any say in the legitimacy of an employee organization," he said. "Suppose Merced County had said the Teamsters were not a qualified employee organization. Would that mean that Teamsters don't exist?"
Merced County Human Resource Director Robert Morris said the county's official Employer-Employee Relations Policy requires employee organizations, such as the Teamsters, to file a request to represent county workers, and that Tuesday's action is only the first step in the process.
"It's just a process, and we're not at the point that they'll actually be representing the officers," he said. "They're still represented by MCSEA, and there's no change at this time."
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.