NewsRegion Martin CountyHobe Sound


Dozens protest outside Martin County Tax Collector's Office over efforts to end union membership

'We as a union want all employees treated the same,' says a PBA member
Posted at 7:22 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 19:22:15-04

HOBE SOUND, Fla. — Employees with the Martin County Tax Collector’s Office will be voting on whether or not to keep their union representation.

Palm Beach Benevolent Association President John Kazanjian said nearly a dozen employees signed a petition to try to end the bargaining agreement. But, other employees say they are worried losing union representation will lead to unfair treatment inside the tax collector’s office.

Nearly two dozen people rallied outside the Martin County Tax Collector’s Office Wednesday, expressing their disappointment in Martin County Tax Collector Ruth Pietruszewski.

“We as a union want all employees treated the same,” said PBA member Cory Gray.

“She just wants to get rid of us all together,” said Kazanjian.

A former employee at the protest said she feels the union prevents Pietruszewski from promoting or demoting people out of favoritism. “She played favoritism with everybody,” said Christina Ozzi.

They say Pietruszewski has shown disapproval of the union and its members in the past, and she has faced legal action for it.

In 2019, a state commission found Pietruszewsk unlawfully fired a 25-year employee after the employee headed up efforts to create a union for employees. Pietruszewski was ordered to reinstate the employee and cease from discouraging union participation.

“We knew right off the bat it was discrimination towards her being a union member,” Kazanjian said.

Protestors say they feel she is continuing to try to do away with the union membership.

Pietruszewski would not do an interview or give a statement about her position on the union membership, but a letter was sent out to employees on her official letterhead, signed by the Chief of Personnel, Judy Friend, listing reasons why employees should vote against the union, calling the PBA a “complete failure."

Friend said employees have received fewer raises under union representation, no increase in holidays, insurance benefits, tuition, insurance, and only a minor modification of paid time off. The letter continues “Every PBA member must give up 3 hours of their PTO to be used by the Union representatives, probably so they can go to the PBA Christmas party. The PBA claims it provides attorneys and, as a result, the Tax Collector has also been required to hire attorneys. The money going to these attorneys could be coming to you. What have PBA attorneys done for you in the last 3 years?” The letter asked.

The PBA did represent the employee who was wrongfully terminated and helped her get reinstatement and back pay.

Kazanjian said he has fought for larger raises and wants to continue to negotiate raises for employees. He said ballots will be counted by Oct. 21.