UPDATE, 3:20 p.m.:
Hoping to find some clues to the identity of the anonymous email sender, the Outpost asked the county to conduct a search for the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Has anyone used that address before last week to communicate with supervisors — or anyone else with the county?
In a word, nope. Public Information Officer Sean Quincey responded to our California Public Records Act request in record time, saying the search had been done and, “The County has not located any records that are responsive to this request.”
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In the midst of tense labor negotiations between Humboldt County government and county employees unionized under the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1684, a threatening email claiming to be from the union was sent to all five county supervisors. The email, however, appears to be a fake — or at the very least unsanctioned by the union leadership.
With a subject line reading “We are coming for your jobs,” the email promises to “start negative campaigning” against the reelection bids of all supervisors save 3rd District Supervisor Mark Lovelace, who, the message says, was “excluded as he is pro working class and pro economy and pro America.” It came from an email address that would seem legitimate at a glance (email@example.com) but has virtually no prior presence online. Official email addresses from the local union use the domain “[name]@ca.afscme57.org.” The email in question is signed, “Solidarity and Unity, AFSCME LOCAL 1684.”
County supervisors and local blogs took the email as legit. Local AFSCME representatives, however, say the message was not sanctioned by the union and doesn’t represent their official position.
“I have absolutely no idea where it came from,” said Harriet Lawlor, AFSCME Local 1684 business agent.
The email, which you can read in full at the bottom of this post, arrived in the inboxes of local supervisors at 8:35 p.m. last Wednesday, Sept. 16, and it makes reference to a meeting purportedly held the previous night:
Great turnout. We have voted overwhelmingly to move forward to cast a strike vote if we don’t receive an acceptable contract. Have fun doing our jobs. But more interestingly, we will be starting exploratory committees to run active members and retired members for capture the offices you hold, as the trust fund baby crew holding office now does not understand the working class or America.
The local union affiliate did hold a general membership meeting last week, though it took place on Wednesday rather than Tuesday, AFSCME office secretary Joel Bolinger told the Outpost this morning. And at that meeting the local members did vote indicating that they’d be willing to support a strike vote if the upcoming mediation with the county doesn’t go well. “But that doesn’t happen overnight,” Bolinger said.
The county and the union are currently at an impasse in labor contract negotiations, Lawlor said. The union requested mediation, which was granted; the first mediation meeting is scheduled for Oct. 30. Lawlor called the unsanctioned email unfortunate because “the union enters negotiations in good faith to enter an agreement.”
Lovelace told the Outpost that when he received the email last week he assumed it was legitimate, as did 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn, who said he’s been told personally by union members that they’re “coming after” his position on the board (a stance he considers ironic given that he comes from a blue-collar family with plenty of union members). When told that the local union rejects the email’s purported provenance, Bohn said he figures it probably came from one of their organizers.
Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass said that when she received the email she figured it likely didn’t come through the official channels of AFSCME Local 1684. “It’s unfortunate that that’s the way it’s signed,” she said. “It’s probably [from] somebody who has a lot of passion and just wasn’t thinking clearly when they hit ‘send.’”
The email was reproduced yesterday on The Humboldt Consequential blog, whose anonymous author apparently took it at face value and proceeded to lambaste the union as “a bunch of whiny little f***s,” “idiots,” “assholes” and “entitled ingrates.” Bloggers John Chiv, Fred Mangels and Rose Welsh also weighed in.
So who actually sent the email? Lawlor said she has no idea. “But I can’t imagine anyone who was at our meeting the other night would be spewing forth that sort of thing while we’re taking measured steps.”
Bolinger said it’s not unheard of for non-union members to impersonate union reps. But regardless, he explained, no union communications are sent without authorization from the executive board or an official agent.
The Outpost sent an email to the address from whence the message originated but has yet to receive a reply.
Here’s the entirety of the bogus email:
From: AFSCME LOCAL HUMBOLDT COUNTY [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 8:35 PM
To: Bohn, Rex; Fennell, Estelle; Lovelace, Mark; Bass, Virginia; Sundberg, Ryan
Subject: We are coming for your jobs-
Mr. Lovelace excluded as he is pro working class and pro economy and pro America.
So AFSCME had another contract meeting last night. Great turnout. We have voted overwhelmingly to move forward to cast a strike vote if we don’t receive an acceptable contract. Have fun doing our jobs. But more interestingly, we will be starting exploratory committees to run active members and retired members for capture the offices you hold, as the trust fund baby crew holding office now does not understand the working class or America.
In addition, we will start negative campaigning against your reelections bids. So hopefully you have hidden all of your dirt. It will be exposed to the public in mass media campaigns, doorstep pamphlets, radio airings, press releases and TV commercials, to Betty Chinn center and Catholic Charities, to Redwood Empire Little League, to the neighborhood watch etc. We just got word we have the funding and backing of the broader AFSCME brotherhood as well as our local fund raising. Hope you like to fight.
It was also brought to our attention that Rex Bohn has the endorsements of our state assemblyperson and state senator, Mr Wood and Mr McGuire, who are Democrats, and we assumed are the allies of the working class of America. They have also been contacted with a similar message to opposition to there support of Rex Bohn’s reelection. Also included are statements made by Rex Bohn about not needing AFSCME votes, reported and documented facts about personal history, the fact he is a trust fund baby and does not understand the working class. We will also be sending members to Sacramento to let lobby and advise them that if they endorse Bohn, a stated independent, who but who really is an all out Tea Party Conservative, then they will also be campaigned against negatively by the local and by broader AFSCME when it is there time.
It’s time to play hard ball.
Bass and Sundberg will be the next focus.
Solidarity and Unity, AFSCME LOCAL 1684
Note: This post has been updated to include more information about the form of official union correspondence.