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Union Files Firing Grievance Against BOSS

—Matthew Artz
Friday April 30, 2004

One of Berkeley’s largest and most fiscally troubled nonprofits is back in hot water with its labor union.  

The California Professional Employees Union, Local 2345, filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board Thursday charging that Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS) illegally laid off an employee with just three days notice. The union’s contract requires a 30-day warning, but that can be suspended in the case of a fiscal emergency. 

“How in good conscience could BOSS take this insensitive position, while attempting to be an agency that provides services to homeless clients?” said Union Representative Christopher Graeber in a prepared statement. 

Last year the union, which represents roughly 90 workers at BOSS, filed complaints against the cash-strapped nonprofit for failing to meet its scheduled payday and implementing a higher health care co-payment. 

The two sides eventually reached a one-year contract on health and salary issues last fall. 

BOSS is currently running a $100,000 budget deficit, which is just the start of its financial woes. Last year a U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) audit found that BOSS owed the agency approximately $600,000 in invalid reimbursements it had claimed over several years. County and city agencies are working with BOSS on a plan to reimburse HUD without bankrupting the organization. 

BOSS Executive Director Boona Cheema said the organization’s fiscal crisis gave her no choice but to proceed with the layoff on short notice. 

“I had to make a cut and the union knows it,” she said. Cheema added that she had already reached an agreement with the employee to give her an extra week’s pay, a good recommendation, and assistance finding a new job.  

“This isn’t a story,” she said. “The story will be when we shut down and 90 people are unemployed. That’s where we’re heading.” 

—Matthew Artz