Buying Birthday Cakes for Employees Leads to Labor Complaint Against Miami-Dade Property Appraiser's Office

A union has filed an unfair labor complaint against Carlos Lopez-Cantera's office

Tuesday, Sep 17, 2013  |  Updated 5:13 PM EDT
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Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera

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Celebrating his employees’ birthdays has turned out to be no cakewalk for Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Not even close.

His office recently began buying birthday cakes for employees each month – but a union has filed an unfair labor complaint against his office for the practice, Lopez-Cantera said. The cakes are paid for with money from vending machines that employees use.

”The union says that I should have negotiated how we determined those dollars be spent. And the only thing those dollars are spent on right now is birthday cakes. And so it doesn’t make sense,” Lopez-Cantera told NBC 6. “It’s almost laughable that we would have to spend any time and energy on something as ridiculous as a complaint for the practice of birthday cakes.”

The complaint from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 199 says there should be no cakes or party decorations without its approval, The Miami Herald reported.

“Benefits have been awarded pursuant to the program, and the Employer intends to award additional bonuses or benefits in the future,” the union said on Aug. 29, according to the newspaper.

Just creating what’s called the Employee Recognition Trust Fund for the celebrations was complicated. It required the property appraiser to submit a three-page resolution and three pages of supporting documents to the Miami-Dade County Commission, and then obtain its approval, the Herald reported.

Lopez-Cantera said about $80-$90 has been spent on three cakes in three months so far, and forks and bowls – “so that they wouldn’t have to eat the cake with their hand.”

He said none of the employees have had parties have complained, which is why he was caught off-guard by the union’s move.

“Without sounding flippant, I mean, it’s icing on the cake, so to speak, on the type of things that we’ve been dealing with when it comes to the back-and-forth with these labor unions,” the property appraiser said.

He said celebrating employees’ birthdays is “a common practice in the real world.”

“There’s no taxpayer dollars being spent on this. In reality, they’re paying for it through their vending machine activities,” Lopez-Cantera said. “So it just doesn’t make sense.”

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