Peninsula Humane Society Whistleblowers

For Immediate Release : March 14, 2017                                                    

Contact: Tim Jenkins, (415) 275-0528, tjenkins@ibt856.org

One-Day Peninsula Humane Society Strike Announced


Animal Control Officers will strike against unfair labor practices and unacceptable shelter conditions

(San Mateo, Calif.) – On Tuesday, March 14, Animal Control Officers (ACO) at the Peninsula Humane Society (PHS) – members of Teamsters 856 – announced at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors that they will go on a one-day strike on Friday, March 17. The strike comes in response to unfair labor practices by PHS and PHS President Ken White, as well as their refusal to agree to a fair 3% cost of living adjustment for ACOs.

“In San Mateo County, Animal Control Officers work hard to get injured, lost, or dangerous animals off the street and into safety,” said Teamsters 856 Secretary-Treasurer Peter Finn. “Our members are doing their job, it’s time for Ken White and the rest of the PHS Board of Directors to do theirs. We’re holding them accountable for denying their employees fair compensation, and the deplorable and unsafe conditions of the facility.”

Animal Control Officers have blown the whistle on broken kennels for the shelter’s animals, dangerously high temperatures in the vehicles used to transport animals because of lack of air conditioning, and a crumbling roof inside the facility itself – to date, only the kennels have been repaired.

If PHS isn’t spending donor dollars and the $6 million it receives from San Mateo County to retain good staff and keep the animals safe, what are they doing with the money?

PHS President Ken White was paid $476,827 in 2014, while PHS Animal Control Officers make just $16.36 an hour. When asked about the outrageous amount of Ken White’s salary, PHS refused to provide the consultant’s report that justifies the amount. They’ve also tried to coerce and interfere with the vote on their contract proposal – all adding up to unfair labor practices.

“We’re not going to allow Ken White and the PHS Board of Directors to get away with unfair labor practices or unsafe conditions for the animals,” said Dylan Skiles who is an Animal Control Officer and member of Teamsters 856. “If Ken White deserves to pad his pockets every year, then we more than deserve a fair wage, so we can provide for our families. We’re going on strike to shed light on the secret society, known as the Board of Directors and show the public what’s really happening at PHS.”

Teamsters 856 is also asking the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to use their influence to end the unfair labor practices. The one-day strike will take place on Friday, March 17, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lantos Center, 1450 Rollins Rd., Burlingame. More information about PHS’s unfair labor practices and shelter conditions can be found at: http://www.phswhistleblower.com.

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Founded in 1949, Teamsters Local 856 represents more than 10,000 hardworking members in the San Francisco Bay Area, North Bay, Sacramento, and Central Valley communities.


Update:

For Immediate Release: February 13, 2017

Contact: Tim Jenkins, (415) 275-0528, tjenkins@ibt856.org

Peninsula Humane Society Teamsters reject management contract that would silence future whistleblowers
Proposal seen as potential threat to animal safety
Shortly after whistleblowers at the Peninsula Humane Society went public with concerns about animal welfare, PHS management proposed a new contract that would let management deny a cost-of-living increase to any individual without appeal, in the guise of what they claim is “merit-based pay.” After making the proposal, PHS management violated confidential mediation rules and labor laws in an attempt to influence the Union’s vote to pass the contract. This effort overwhelmingly failed, with 90% voter participation and a 3 to 1 vote against it. In addition, Union members have authorized a strike.

“Our members have the responsibility to speak up for animals in their care and we will use all the resources of our Local Union to protect them from retaliation,” said Peter Finn, Teamsters 856 Principal Officer.

On Tuesday, February 14, employees will be appealing to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to intervene to avoid a strike. San Mateo County provides $6 million out of PHS’s $12 million annual revenue for animal control services. The contract with the County provides PHS with 3% annual increases and employees are merely seeking the same cost of living increase: 3%.

Supporting Documentation:

View Unfair Labor Practice Charges filed against the Peninsula Humane Society here.

View the Peninsula Humane Society’s 2014 990 here.


 

Peninsula Humane Society employees are blowing the whistle on animals needlessly dying or being injured due to chronic short staffing and substandard facilities.

Please take a moment to sign our petition. We’re asking the PHS Board to meet with us to hear our concerns. We want to work together to resolve these issues. Thank you!


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Former PHS Captain of Animal Control urged management to install air conditioning in the vehicles for animals in 2009, and was denied her request:

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Full resolution video here via dropbox.
1. In October 2016, a dog was injured at the PHS’s Coyote Point facility when it tried to stick its head through a broken kennel. Employees had previously reported to management that the kennels were dangerous. On October 3 another dog had been injured in a similar incident and staff sent an email to management asking that all the kennels be inspected for damage. (Click here to see photo from that incident.)

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2. In July 2016 volunteers were inappropriately assigned to care for twelve medically fragile kittens. Staff reported concerns to management on July 4 and again on August 26 that volunteers were not feeding them properly. On August 27  the kittens were sent to foster care, where they all died.

3. Chronic understaffing led employees to speed up and take short cuts, resulting in dogs being erroneously euthanized in December of 2013 and December of 2015. Instead of addressing the root cause, management blamed employees.

4. Even after a dog died from overheating in a PHS vehicle last year, the vehicles still have no air conditioning in the back for animals.

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Thermometer gage showing temperature of 96 degrees in back of vehicle where animals are transported. 

5. Facilities are so poor, that many employees state they would not board their own animals there.

Why is this happening?

The Peninsula Humane Society spends far too much on executive compensation and far too little on caretaker compensation. The result has been 15 years of understaffing —  in the last three years,  PHS had zero weeks where it was fully staffed. See documentation here.

Here is how much more Ken White is paid compared to his peers (total compensation):
Ken White, PHS (source: 2013 990 tax returns): $692,301 and $513,502  for 2014 (990 tax returns)
San Francisco SPCA Co-Pres. (source: 2014 990 tax returns): $250,949
Silicon Valley SPCA President (source: 2014 990 tax returns): $226,476

Here is how much less animal caretakers are paid compared to their peers, resulting in a high turnover rate and difficulty recruiting. See comparisons with neighboring jurisdictions (Animal Control Officer):

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Unresponsive leadership. The President of PHS, Ken White, is known for responding to employee concerns by saying that everyone is replaceable. In fact, he refused to meet with whistleblowers and their representative which is why they decided to go public. On September 23, 2016, whistleblowers invited Ken White hear their concerns. He initially responded by saying he would meet with individuals alone in his office. After whistleblowers then extended an invitation to the Peninsula Humane Society Board of Directors, Ken White said he would meet with the whistleblowers, but only if their union representation was not present.

Photos:
Crumbling roof of PHS facility at Peninsula Humane Society. (Cat enclosures visible in the background.)

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There is no air conditioning in the animal enclosure in PHS vehicles, so staff put a dog bed in the cab of the truck to prevent animals from overheating and dying. (Dangerous animals cannot be kept in vehicle cabs, so they are subject to extreme temperatures on hot days.)

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