Applying the Pressure to Keep Members Employed

The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is one of the crown jewels of Miami-Dade County, enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. But after decades of providing committed service to their neighbors, employees are facing an uncertain future now that the county is moving management to a non-profit trust.

The workers, members of AFSCME Local 199, want to keep their benefits in place and, most importantly, want to keep serving their community as county employees. That’s why they turned out in force at a recent Miami-Dade Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee meeting and, supported by their union leaders and coworkers, urged the panel to push to retain them as county employees.

“We are here because we have a diverse set of skills and we know those can be of service in other parts of the county. You don’t need to get us oriented to county policies, get us through all the paperwork. The county has needs and we can help meet them,” said Karel Torres, a museum security officer. “We want to work. Simple as that. We want to do our job and are here asking you to help us wake up, go to work and help Miami-Dade County meet the goals we all have for this great place we call home.”

“Why is this county moving in the right direction? Because we never quit. You can be part of change or you can quit and let change roll over you. But I never quit and neither do my coworkers,” said Lynette McLeod, a concession attendant. “That is why I’m here today, because I have a whole lot of fight left in me and a whole lot of work left to do. I love working for Miami-Dade County. I’ve made a career of it. And I don’t intend to quit now. The people I work with, and the people I meet along the way, that is what I remember from these past 17 years. And I can’t wait to add to that in the coming years. So, don’t quit on me. Help me serve you, your family and your neighbors.”

Members stressed the need for personalized job placement help so their skills and job classifications could be properly matched with open jobs across the county. Thanks to years of building relationships with the commission and strengthening their voice through their union, Local 199 members found that several commissioners were ready to help.

Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava, Barbara Jordan, Jean Monestime and Xavier Suarez were outspoken in their disappointment that the workers were facing the situation and promised to push for a solution by the Parks Department leadership.

“We made clear that the Commission needs to hold the County Administration accountable for helping find these dedicated workers new positions in the county since most of them have given their careers to a worksite that required highlight specialized jobs and job descriptions,” said Se'Adoreia Brown, president of AFSCME Local 199 and an International Vice President for AFSCME. “The situation these workers face is not due to budget cuts or performance issues but a change in philosophy on how the property can best be run and maintained so they shouldn’t be penalized with the existing impersonal and highly ineffective place process.”

Staff from the county’s transition assistance program are closely monitoring the progress in connecting each of the 23 affected employees – museum security officers, visitor service coordinators, and the like – to new positions. The county commission plans to reexamine the issue in July.