Financial Aid Specialist Rebeca Montalvan-Toth is protesting her release as a CSEA job steward, an action she claims was retaliatory.
CSEA President Andre Harris dismissed Montalvan-Toth based on “philosophical differences, lack of ability to work with the Chief Job Steward, misrepresenting her position as job steward, undermining CSEA authority, defiant and negative approach toward union leadership, and divisiveness approach within the chapter,” according to a February letter.
Harris said it was a decision he has the authority to make as a union president and it was made “in the best interest of the CSEA.” Harris thanked Montalvan-Toth for years of service to the union, but said he did not wish to comment further.
Montalvan-Toth said Harris’ reasons were vague and that she was released from her position following a series of disagreements with Harris.
“I feel that everything that was done and the action taken against me by his removing me is all retaliation,” she said.
Montalvan-Toth said she and Harris often disagreed over policy, including the Weingarten Rules, which govern a CSEA member’s right to representation. In one instance she represented three union members that Harris said had no grievance rights, she said.
Montalvan-Toth said the Weingarten Rules applied because the employees she was representing were told they would be disciplined.
“If an employee has a reasonable belief that discipline or discharge may result from what s/he says, the employee has the right to request Union representation,” read the Weingarten Rules.
Montalvan-Toth said she was trying to follow procedure.
“I’m going to go by what my training says,” she said. “If a member calls me and wants help, I’m going go. It’s not up to me, I don’t make that decision. It’s the employee’s decision.”
CSEA member Shironda Logan said she was thankful that Montalvan-Toth did not relent and fought for her, she said.
“I believe Rebeca was fired from her union-rep position because of her persistence and for challenging Mr. Harris by explaining to him that he couldn’t interfere and attempt to block members from receiving representation, violate member’s confidentiality or ignore complaints from members,” said Logan.
EOPS Administrative Secretary Veronica Cadena said she is disappointed that Montalvan-Toth was dismissed.
“Here is the one person in this campus that wants to make a difference and help,” she said. “Instead of being grateful for what she does, she’s being blackballed.”
More than 400 SWC classified employees are CSEA members, said Montalvan-Toth, and there are now only two active job stewards able to help them.
Montalvan-Toth has said she worked at Southwestern College for 29 years. She was a job steward on-and-off for 10 years, she said, and is “also the only fully certified and jacketed CSEA member at SWC.”
“I was wrongfully removed,” she said. “I did everything right. I was just trying to follow the process. I was doing the right thing.”