Cape Coral Q&A: Wally Ilczyszyn, President, Local 2301 International Union of Painters & Allied Trades

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With 570 members the union carries strong backing in Cape Coral. At the head of the union is their president Wally Ilczyszyn.

Wally has been a Cape Coral resident since the 1980’s. Raising a family here in Cape Coral, including son Michael, who following in his father’s footsteps in working for the city is the current City of Cape Coral Business Manager.

I sat down with Wally recently to get his take on the past, current, and future labor relations within the city.

Meeting Wally, you quickly realize he has strong opinions and is not afraid to voice them, which for me made a very interesting interview.

What are some of the things the General Union has been involved in over the years in regards to the community?

There are a lot of things we do community wise that we do not stand up and grandstand. We make a lot of donations to various city organizations Cape Coral Youth. A check went out today for the Youth Cheerleading organization. We do youth football, youth baseball donations. We contribute financially to our community.

Another thing that we do is a food drive at our union hall. We are gearing up for that right now. Right after the election we will go right into collecting canned foods and goods. We take them to those who need them. Cape Vineyards and the Cape Caring Locations are some we donate can food items. There are a lot of things we do as an organization that benefit the community behind the scenes. Some people just think we are the big, bad thugs or big, bad union guys. Union members in America, we bleed red, white and blue too we are still American citizens and taxpayers.

What are some of the challenges that your union is facing right now locally?

Honestly, I think the biggest concern of most employees is the fact that the current administration and the current Council rule through management by intimidation. People are afraid to speak out because they are in fear of their jobs. If you challenge the administration in any way, there's a price to pay. That is the way most employees feel right now.

When did your union agree to the 3% pay reduction and the 2% increase in benefits contract?

I believe we ratified it in April or May of 2011.

Recently your union was applauded by the Council and other members of the community for moving forward with ratifying that agreement when other unions have not. What is your take on that?

That is true, but looking at it from a Management 101 perspective, from the public employee side and even in the business side, the key element to make any organization a success has to be trust. Right now there’s not only a lack of trust between the employees and the administration, there is a lack of respect that comes from the dais, the leaders of the city a Cape Coral. We’ve been hammered down. They have villainized us for the last 10 months or so. I think that the average citizen has come to realize through a couple of different situations that have come up.

What are some of those situations?

Well, one they ran with real quick was when there was a sewage spill at the Everest sewer plant, and they said we contaminated the river. When all the facts came out they found through the DEP investigation, there was no sewage spill. But, we were told through some on the council that somebody should pay for this and people should be fired. They also said there was a great cover-up and the cover was like Watergate, which the cover was actually worse than the crime. When push came to shove, we have been accused and accused and villianized. In the end, nothing came to fruition. It was clearly of digital flicker on one of the computers that sent a false signal. Right away the employees were the bad guys.

Another one was Popeye Gate. People were screaming city employees were out of the city limits having lunch. They took the receipt tickets and timed it to people when they placed their order; got their order and left it was like 24-27 minutes. There was a thorough investigation. Members on the Dias said there are people that were reprimanded. I'm here to tell you as the union rep who sat in on the interviews and the thorough investigations that there was no reprimands because no damage was done.

Are you saying no one was reprimanded on that?

No one was reprimanded. A few employees were brought in to do an investigation or to give their side in detailed times and remarks. There was no reprimand. I am the union president, I sat in on the investigation and questions that was done by the professional from the human resources department, and it was found out through his summary, and findings that there were no violations committed. No one was reprimanded.

Were there other situations?

After that, the city employees were tree trimming. They blamed Brian Flanagan for using a city truck while soliciting business and putting out people's business cards to the public. They said, “Here's his truck. This is the truck that was called. This is who is doing it.”

Then when they did the investigation they found out Brian Flanagan had not been in that truck for three weeks. The person's card it was said he did not even know Brian Flanagan. He also said the people that handed out those cards were paid workers from his company. There were going house to house, putting them in the mail boxes and hanging them on the doors. So, that when away real quick.