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LINCOLN HEIGHTS : Plaza Theater Staff, Board in Mediation

November 13, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

A federal mediator has been asked to help employees of the nonprofit Plaza de la Raza performing arts center and its board of directors reach a contract agreement after several months of failed negotiations.

The employees, who voted to join the California Professional Employees Union last December, have been working without a contract since then and fear for their job security, said union representative Chris Graeber. The six employees, all non-teaching support staff, decided to join the union because they worried that their benefits and wages would be cut as the organization tightened its budget.

"Plaza wants to reduce staff and their hours, and we have major concerns about that," Graeber said. "Management isn't doing much to solve the problems."

Lydia Lopez, board president and interim director, did not return phone calls last week. She replaced former director Gema Sandoval, who left in July to concentrate on her dance troupe.

Joseph Medine, who works for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, an independent agency of the federal government, met with both sides Thursday. He declined to comment on the negotiations, saying he wants to remain neutral.

The union, which represents more than 700 members of nonprofit organizations, has requested a three-year contract for support employees--not including teachers--increases in wages and benefits, and an updated personnel policy.

Graeber said the union requested a mediator two months ago when the board proposed reducing staff and hours before a contract was drawn up. Medine had held a meeting before Thursday's but no agreement was reached.

Plaza de la Raza's School of Performing and Visual Arts, an after-school program established in 1978, has an enrollment of 300 to 600 music, art, dance and drama students. The Plaza, located at Lincoln Park, also holds public performances at its outdoor stage and in the Margo Albert Theater.

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