The city of San Diego lifeguards voted today to leave the Municipal Employees Association and join The International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The vote completes a more than five-month long push to remove the lone public safety agency from the mostly white-collar MEA.

Lifeguards wanted more say in their affairs, said Ed Harris, a lifeguard sergeant who pushed for the change.

“We want to sit down at the table,” Harris said. “Under the Teamsters model, they don’t go to the city without the lifeguards being there.”

Harris is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against former MEA head Judie Italiano, who the MEA refered for investigation to the district attorney for personal use of union credit cards. In his suit, Harris contends Italiano misused union funds.

“Both the lawsuit and the move to leave MEA were for a desire to get better representation,” Harris said.

The vote splits lifeguards into separate supervisor and rank-and-file bargaining units.

Scott Chadwick, the city’s labor relations manager, acknowledged today’s results and said he planned to brief Mayor Jerry Sanders within the next couple days.

The contract MEA negotiated on behalf of the lifeguards could continue for up to two years, Chadwick said, but the city now is obliged to negotiate with lifeguards again. Chadwick said it was “too early to tell” if there would be changes.

“We look forward to working with the Teamsters and representatives of the lifeguards,” Chadwick said.

The lifeguards’ supervisory unit voted 14-5 in favor of joining the Teamsters, and the rank and file voted 37-28.


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