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Monday, April 2, 2018

Question from California

The following is a question asked by a handler in California:

I am a new handler here in Northern California. In the short time I have been here, most of the handlers I have spoken with seem to be pretty happy with the way things are going, including getting a raise to $35.00/hr. The management over here has been very accommodating and there has not been any horrible issues that I have seen or heard of. That's not to minimize what is happening on the east coast, but I am concerned as to how unionizing affect us over here, and how effective would it be in achieving your goals?

Are there things I would like changed? Sure there are. I would like to be paid mileage for driving my personally owned vehicle long distances to and from job sites, to compensate for the wear and tear on the vehicle. I think we should be paid more for daily training, maintenance and overall upkeep of the dog which amounts to well over and above what the stipend currently is. But is unionizing the answer? My concern is that compared to the East Coast, we are a very small group and the work load is not even a fraction of what you have out there. Will unionizing ultimately hurt us and make us more likely to being laid off? Additionally, we have received a notice advising that LESOU also wants to represent us. What sets you apart from them and what are the main differences between what you offer and what they offer? I know I come across as not really being interested in unionizing, but that is not the case. I am just sending you an honest portrayal of what I see, and maybe feedback from you what to expect in order to make a informed decision.

Our response is as follows:

Good Morning,

We believe unionizing is the only way for MSA to make legitimate quality of life changes for the handlers. Several of us have worked for this company for over ten years. In that time, we’ve been bombarded by two of MSAs biggest slogans, “We’ll get better, we promise” and “If you don’t like it, quit.” This can’t be allowed to continue. Forming a union to represent our interests with the management of MSA is the best chance we have of improving our circumstances.

You’re absolutely correct, you should be paid for millage to and from job sites. Handlers in California have raised this issue to management in the past. You’re forced to transport company property sometimes hundreds of miles outside of the area you believed you’d be employed in yet many times you receive no compensation for millage. Justin Kelley, Vice President of Operations at MSA, was asked this question by several handlers in California. They used a recent lawsuit against MSA by a former California handler to ask if his claims for compensation for millage were reasonable. The handler was forced to drive to San Diego to work when he applied for and was hired to work in the Los Angeles area. Justin’s reported response was, “What does he expect me to do? Fill his gas tank for him?”

You’re also correct you should be compensated for daily training and maintenance of your K9. However, the stipend you receive has nothing to do with being compensated for the time you spend training and taking care of your K9. The stipend is a reimbursement for expenses you incur maintaining company property and which should be reimbursed fully. It can never be used as compensation for work you have performed. We have initiated lawsuits in federal court to ensure that handlers are paid back wages for work they have already performed and that MSA is ordered by the court to begin paying for off hours training and maintenance in the future. We will also be negotiating for an immediate increase of the stipend with automatic increases in the future.

We don’t believe anyone will be laid off if a union is voted in. From the contracts we’ve obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, MSA bills its clients several times the wages you receive. This is why we believe MSA can improve the compensation and benefits we receive and still make a profit. The only reason we can think of as to why they haven’t implemented drastic changes in response to the union effort is because we believe several executives stand to receive a bonus based on the valuation of the company when it’s sold. Increasing benefits and wages would bring the valuation of the company down by increasing operating costs thus impacting their multi-million-dollar bonus.

Law Enforcement Officers Security Union (LEOSU) will also be on the ballot to represent the K9 handlers at MSA. LEOSU is run by Steve Maritas. A google search of his name will show you his past tactics involving union organization. We believe the United Federation of K9 Handlers is the best choice for the sole reason that our leadership is made up of current and former MSA K9 handlers. Whatever benefits and compensation we negotiate for you is exactly what we receive as well. Our bylaws also state we’re not allowed to receive compensation for our duties. That means any dues that are collected will only be used for contract bargaining and the legal defense of our fellow handlers. Regardless of what LEOSU negotiates for you, Steve will continue to receive a salary from your dues.

Thank you for voicing your concerns. We had hoped that the ability for handlers to ask questions anonymously would encourage everyone to voice their uncensored opinions. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, ask us day or night.


  1. I today I recieved an email that appears to have been sent to all non-NYC handlers from Glen... if you have seen the letter could you please address its contents for us...if you have not seen it, let me know and I will get you a copy

    1. If you could download the attachment and send it to us from your personal email, it would be appreciated.

      Do not forward it to us via your MSA email to avoid retaliation.

      Thank you

  2. Another email in regards that the personnel involved are only in the NY area and the rest of us nation wide were not really involved or considered...how will this work if the union is based in the NY area and we are in the midwest?

    1. Good question. We made every attempt possible to involve as many handlers from around the country as we could. Unfortunately, the contact info available to us was limited. Now that the NLRB has mandated MSA to supply us with everyone's contact info, we're able to touch base with you and explain what we hope to accomplish.

      In regards to contract bargaining, everyone with the authority to negotiate a contract at MSA is at their HQ in NYC.

      For unfair disciplinary matters, all write ups and terminations have to go through Matt Whelen, the VP of Field Operations in the NYC office. The HR staff for the entire company is also located in NYC. The director of HR, Peter Deegan, is also included in disciplinary matters. In summary, anyone we would have to deal with is in the NYC office.

      The only outlier is Bob Benton, the director of operations on the West coast. Even though Bob is based in CA, he still reports to Glen Kucera in the NYC office and reports HR matters to the NYC office.

      That being said, we would love handlers from all over the country to step up and become delegates for their areas. The handlers are the eyes and ears of a union. We can only go after MSA for contract violations if they're reported. We had contacted handlers to become delegates but many were afraid of retaliation by MSA and rightfully so. Luckily, we have legal representation ready to defend anyone who is retaliated against.

      No one is being excluded, if you'd like to be involved in any way, just email nopaymsa@gmail.com.

  3. Thx for the reply. Do you know how much the union dues would be if we were union and how would it work if we were in a right to work state?

    1. Dues will be $10 per check for anyone who works less than 20 hours per week and $20 per check for anyone who works 20 hours or more. Our bylaws state none of us are allowed to receive compensation for our duties. That means the entirety of dues will go to contract negotiations and the legal defense of your fellow handlers.

      If you're in a right to work state, you're free to pay dues if you wish. We believe the amount is very affordable compared to the dues required by other unions but the choice is yours.

  4. Sounds good to me

  5. Just saw email about if we form a union and strike the property meaning our k9 can be taken and reassigned to another handler and they could lessen the benefits we have now while negotiating...

    1. We've seen it. We knew it was only a matter of time until they brought our dogs into this. Our response will be up later tonight.