When I started at VA almost three years ago, I had a new employee orientation for three days, just like everybody else. One of the first speakers was an HR specialist who started his presentation by saying “before this year is out, I will fire some of you. I can fire anybody in a year.” I joined the union on the lunch break. That HR specialist is no longer employed by the federal government. And guess what? It took about a year.
Yesterday I started my Union Steward training. I’m a proud member of AFGE Local 2562. I have today and tomorrow. As a federal employee, I don’t have the right to strike, but we do bargain every single thing we can bargain, and we do lobby Congress and the White House separate from and in alliance with our parent organization, AFL/CIO. In addition to the various things the union does for me and my coworkers, we get some great financial benefits. If you have a union in your workplace, and you are a member of the bargaining unit, you really should join.
A big part of a Steward’s job is solving problems before they become issues for management. Stewards telling stories of having to pull employees aside and ask them to attend to their personal hygiene were very common, as common as stories of various bargaining demands and unfair labor practice complaints. Yesterday we also covered federal labor law, and were given a lot of homework–copies of VA regulations and so forth. We have had a lot of problems in our facility with less-than-stellar management until very recently so we fight every single time an employee comes to us for help with the discipline process. And because so much of our management is less than stellar, we win more often than we lose. But management is getting better, and that’s a good thing. The better management gets, the higher morale in the workforce becomes, and the better quality of care we deliver to our Veterans. Today we’re getting into the nuts and bolts of bargaining requests, unfair labor practice complaints, and the discipline process.
We have over 750 union members at our facility out of a bargaining unit of almost 2000. This is much better than it was when I got there and the union was only about 150 strong. We’re working very hard to get us over the 1000 mark and we do that by being very active and open. A huge part of our growth over the last two years has been being very very active and taking on management whenever and wherever we could. It’s harder here in Oklahoma and the south, where anti-union sentiment runs strong, but we do what we can. We’ve gotten good press (surprisingly) for the last couple of years, so that has been a big help.
United, we bargain. Divided, we beg.
This is also an open thread.