The Ventura County SEIU Local 721
Campaign Against Workplace Bullying

Follow the story of a worker-driven push for change of a government workplace culture to drive out bullying. No ending yet. We support the unions whose workers deserve to be free from abusive conduct and retaliation. And we support the County administration that has the opportunity to turn a PR disaster into triumph and do the right thing.


As in all government institutions, bullying occurs. Of this we can be sure. 8,000 employees work for Ventura County, California. Using WBI national statistics, we can safely estimate that 720 employees at any given time are being bullied; an additional 2,080 have been bullied. It’s a mid-size corporation.

January, 2011

A group of employees complained to the County Grand Jury (GJ). In a role much like consultants, the GJ investigated complaints (in one of their roles in that county) about workplace bullying by current and former county workers. The GJ as investigator concluded that bullying is a problem and employees deserve protection from it. An investigation conducted by HR might have concluded differently (as it nearly always does). The GJ reported that HR procedures are not trusted.

May 24, 2011

Ventura CountyThe GJ issues its report confirming the existence of the workplace bullying problem. Read the original Grand Jury report The county HR director, John Nicoll, told the local newspaper “We do not tolerate employees being mistreated because they’ve filed a complaint.” This directly contradicted facts about retaliation and fear of it contained in the GJ report. Read the press coverage of the GJ report and response of County administrators.

May-Sept, 2011

SEIU local 721County employees are represented by several unions. SEIU Local 721 represents the majority of workers, numbering 4,500. The SEIU forms an Anti-Bully Committee. Meetings on the topic draw large crowds and several heart-wrenching stories from workers. The Committee conducts a survey of its members. Nearly 500 members responded. Read the SEIU Local 721 Bullying in the Workplace Report.

Some of the most compelling survey findings were:
60% of respondents have been bullied, compared to the 35% national estimate
– 69% have witnessed bullying
– Over 40% have been yelled at
– Over 40% have been retaliated against

Sept. 27, 2011

Gary Lowery, SEIU

Gary Lowery, SEIU, showing the County's Report Card with all F's

At the Ventura County Supervisors Meeting, SEIU members delivered presentations on the workplace bullying problem to Supervisors and the county executive, Michael Powers. SEIU also provided the Board with their comprehensive survey report. The union made five specific recommendations including the adoption of an Anti-Bullying policy, providing mandatory training for managers and supervisors, and the creation of an independent third party entity to field reports of workplace bullying. Read the union’s account of its presentations. And here’s the Ventura County Star coverage of the Sept. 27 meeting.

Highlights of Union Testimony, 4 min.

Watch the union’s slideshow about testimony day

The full record of Union Testimony on Sept. 27, 2011

The full responses by Supervisors & CEO M. Powers on Sept. 27, 2011