Integral Care Management: About That Union Drive …

Proposed changes to consultation policy weaken workers’ role, organizers say

Integral Care Management: About That Union Drive …

Integral Care employees working to unionize Travis County's public mental health agency fear that IC management is moving to neutralize those efforts by weakening the document that would establish the structure and powers of the union.

At a special called meeting of the agency's board of trustees on April 14, IC's general counsel Lisa Laky presented a version of the proposed Consultation Policy between the agency and United Workers of Integral Care that had been heavily revised by management. A redlined version of the document obtained by the Chronicle contained more than 150 revisions. Some are minor word changes that could result in outsized consequences; others would fundamentally change how the union interacts with management.

An example of the latter: a change that would require all policy recommendations discussed by the union and agency executives to garner consensus support before being forwarded to the board for consideration. As drafted by UWIC organizers with assistance from the Communication Workers of Amer­ica, the Consultation Policy stipulated that when the union and management could not reach consensus, each could present its case to the board. As revised by IC, the board would not have an opportunity to hear the workers' recommendation if management disagrees.

Another small revision that could have big consequences is in the "Basic Principles" of the Consultation Policy. The UWIC/CWA version identifies the Integral Care Con­sult­a­tion Committee, the working group tasked with negotiating workforce policy changes, as "the official body for employee consultation with non-Executive Management personnel," whereas the version revised by management changes this principle to identify the ICCC as "an official body." Union organizers fear this could open the door for IC to promote a management-controlled alternative to UWIC.

The proposed changes shocked union organizers; at a March 31 board of trustees meeting, Integral Care CEO David Evans and board Chair Hal Katz both said they were confident the Consultation Policy could be approved at the board's next regular meeting in late April. (In a subsequent interview, Evans told us he expected the policy to win approval with the possibility of "some minor modifications.")

Other edits proposed by IC management include holding ICCC meetings quarterly instead of monthly; changes to the range of topics the ICCC could discuss; and a requirement that union members receive approval from their direct supervisor before attending ICCC meetings. "I'm worried, but not surprised," Raven Rojas, a mental health professional and union organizer at IC, told us. "If they are implemented, it would significantly decrease the power and leverage the union would have and, in my opinion, it wouldn't even be worth having a union."

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