By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
A Wildlife Conservation Society Local 1501 member won an immediate promotion and $9,000 in back pay after an impartial arbitration panel ruled that WCS violated the collective bargaining agreement’s layoff and recall procedures.
After working for six years as a WCS Supervising Maintainer, in February 2017 management told Rucauldeau Renondeau they had made a clerical error and demoted him to Maintainer and cut his pay retroactively. They also demanded he repay 28 sick days.
“The pay cut was so damaging it jeopardized my finances and my health — everything,” Renondeau said. “It messed up my whole life.”
“It was a shocking blow for management to unilaterally decide to reduce this member’s salary and title and recoup back wages,” said then-Vice President Marcy Wartell-Brown. White Collar Council Rep Norlita De Taza filed an out-of-title grievance to protect Renondeau’s higher title and pay. Wartell-Brown filed a grievance to protect his contractual rights in the layoff/recall process.
Renondeau started as a provisional Supervising Maintainer in 2011 at the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn where he installed water filtration systems, filling in at different times for full-time employees out on medical leave. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy decimated the Coney Island-based cultural attraction and WCS management eliminated Renondeau’s position. They offered him a Maintainer’s job at the Central Park Zoo in 2013, then moved the reliable worker to the Bronx Zoo. In June 2015, WCS moved him back to the aquarium as a Supervising Maintainer.
Wartell-Brown, new local president Raul Domenech, and Ralph Ramos, a Supervising Maintainer at the NY Aquarium, were relentless in protecting Renondeau’s rights. After a bit of digging, they found detailed and copious notes from previous labor-management meetings, including WCS forms that clearly indicated Renondeau received a “promotion/upgrade” and not a transfer or demotion.
WCS management failed to produce paperwork that said Renondeau worked at any time since 2013 as a Maintainer at the Coney Island seaside aquarium.
“This case underscores the need for reps to take complete, accurate notes and save their paperwork from all meetings with management,” said Chris Wilgenkamp, former white collar division assistant director, whose notes helped support the union’s charges.
Witnesses Mike Riggio, former Local 1501 president and retired White Collar division director, and Ramos gave testimony that boosted the union’s case.
The panel determined at Step 2 that WCS violated layoff/recall procedures and ordered them to make Renondeau whole and restore his Supervising Maintainer title and pay retroactive to 2017.
Renondeau said: “I am so glad Marcy, Raul, Ralph, Lei Lei, and Mike never gave up on my fight.”