Solidarity Forever, For The Union Makes Us Strong!

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.

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79 replies
  1. 1
    Betty Cracker says:

    Kudos to you for being part of the solution, Sooner!

  2. 2
    IowaOldLady says:

    I used to hang around in automotive plants doing research on communication among engineers, and the funny thing is, I never heard a manager there speak of the union with as much scorn and hatred as politicians do. Maybe they were hiding their true feelings because I was there, but more likely they’d learned to get along.

  3. 3
    PurpleGirl says:

    Good post Sooner. And good on you for recognizing the importance of a union and participating at a more involved level.

    My father was a member of IBEW, Local #3. (In NYC, they were the royalty of union members.) Sad to say that many of the members forgot their roots and became Reagan democrats (idjits). One of the things that I benefited from as a union member child was a college scholarship — 50% of tuition and no grade requirements. (This was circa 1969-74.) There was also an arts program that I participated in, submitting geometric patterns I drew and colored in.

  4. 4
    HeartlandLiberal says:

    Having liven in Tennessee for 13 years back in the seventies into the early 80’s, I have been profoundly disappointed since to watch its politics devolve in the direction of my birth state, Alabama. I was really disappointed to see the obvious illegal and unethical pressure brought to bear by state officials to stop the union vote winning at the VW plant in Tennessee. This resistance in the face of the company WANTING a union presence. German companies and workers know that this is best for the workers, and best for the corporation, and leads to quality manufacturing and output. I do not drive a Mercedes E320 for nothing, I assure you. After buying American cars for decades that basically started to fall apart after two years, I still do not know if I could return to American models, even after the obvious improvements have been made in past decade or more.Problem it, the Germans keep improving their cars, too. And their workers reap their share of the benefits of the sales of those cars.

  5. 5
    Earl says:

    What Betty said!

  6. 6
    Betty says:

    Wonderful to hear about the success of employees caring about each other and making the workplace better for all. Keep up the good work.

  7. 7
    raven says:

    One of my good buddies, tracker in Vietnam, was the union steward for his local postal workers union. He took NO shit and did lot’s of good for the workers.

  8. 8
    AMinNC says:

    When I was in graduate school at The University of Iowa in the mid to late 1990s, teaching and research assistants unionized, primarily so we could collectively bargain for health insurance. As with the Northwestern football players, the University argued that our assistantships weren’t actually jobs, but part of our training (my paycheck seemed to argue otherwise).

    Those of us in the humanities were strongly behind the unionization effort, but those in the sciences were a much harder sell. I think part of this difference was the fact that most students in the humanities explicitly studied social power relationships, and frequently studied labor history itself, so we knew what unions were really about. I also think the fact that the sciences were dominated by upper middle class white-guys also played a factor in their general belief that collective, as opposed to individual, action was somehow illegitimate.

    It was a hard-fought campaign, but we did win the right to form a union, and for a number of years I was a proud, card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. And I loved the idea that a trade union organized us eggheads and fought for us to have health insurance.

  9. 9
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Central District Council, Local #2298, Rolla MO. Glad to have you with us.***

    ***Construction unions in the STL area are presently at each others throats as they fight tooth and nail over a shrinking pie. At this time, Carpenters are the most hated MFer’s on the job site, and not without reason. Some of the things the CDC leadership has done have been extremely controversial. Within the CDC. Unfortunately, the way the union is now constructed, rank and file have little say over these things. It ain’t perfect, but it beats the hell out of the alternative.

  10. 10
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    Congrats for contributing, and hello fellow union member of my husband, a federal lawyer with the FDA. Their first shop steward was a former lawyer member of the Teamsters. Yes, the lawyers of the FDA had a union so they could solve problems and not involve the ever revolving door of political appointees above them.

  11. 11
    EconWatcher says:

    “we fight every single time an employee comes to us for help with the discipline process”

    So you’re saying that, no matter how much an employee might deserve to get fired, you will fight it, because management is “less than stellar.” Great.

    That is the problem I had with our union (NTEU) when I was working in the public sector. They made it damn near impossible to fire anyone. We had a guy who made physical threats against the head of our office, and it took darn near a year to get him off the payroll. We had people who were essentially no-shows, and no one could get rid of them, unless they wanted to make the firing process their full-time job for an extended period of time, and neglect their regular job to get it done.

    And of course the no-shows meant more work for everyone else, who actually were trying to do their jobs. It’s just great for morale: People who actually care about the mission in effect get punished with more work. And by the way, this is the sort of thing that gives Republicans something to point to when they say government can’t do anything.

    I have no use for Walker or Kasich union-busting, but this “fight every disciplinary process” thing is completely wrong-headed. You can protect good workers without doing this.

  12. 12
    Fogeyman says:

    As a fellow member of the AFGE (and a fellow VA employee), thanks for stepping up to the job of steward. We have a good bunch here at the medical center where I work, too. They’re always keeping their eyes out for problems. Without the union, we would be in sad, sad shape.

  13. 13
    Emily68 says:

    I worked in an office at a big public university for many years. One of my co-workers was politically active and very knowledgeable about the history of the labor movement. When our boss retired, she received the co-workers highest complement. “If every boss were like Joan, there would have been no labor movement.”

  14. 14
    Soonergrunt says:

    @EconWatcher: Yes, we make management earn their pay and obey the agency’s regulations the law. We offer no apologies for that. This attitude comes from our recent past, where we had a steward confined on the 8th floor (the psych ward) for making threats she didn’t make. It comes from management assigning people unpaid overtime in the thousands of hours in the past. It comes from employees facing termination for chronic lateness after two infractions in five years.
    When management has their shit together (and they are making great strides in this since the new facility director came on board and cleaned house, to put credit where it is due) they can beat us. And when they beat us after we’ve fought, there’s really no question that this person needed to go, and most of their appeals are exhausted. Management wins when they do their jobs correctly and abide by agency regulations and the law. We are far more likely to settle (and encourage the employee to settle) for some discipline when the employee is wrong, than we are to go to the wall for those people. That goes to our integrity and credibility as an organization. But when management is wrong, and that happens many different ways, then yes, we’re going to jam them up, and as I said, we make no apologies for it.

  15. 15
    EconWatcher says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    You said you “fight every single time an employee comes to us for help with the discipline process,” no matter what. That’s consistent with my own experience. And that’s the part of public-sector unionism that needs to change, or the Scott Walkers of the world will change it for you.

  16. 16
    Squiregeek says:

    I’ve been both union and management. As a manager, I appreciated the union. Each of us knew the rules under which we operated and jobs got done. When inevitable conflicts arose, were were able to solve them with agreed-upon methods and disruptions were rare and morale was generally high.

    There is no inherent reason that a union would impair productivity or profitability in any way. Joint labor-management decision making and operation works.

  17. 17
    raven says:

    @Emily68: We watched Mr Selfridge Sunday and that is one of the story lines. It’s the brink of WWI and the union is trying to organize the dock workers. When the rep meets with the workers it becomes apparent that the company already provides what the union promises. I’m sure there will be more but it was interesting.

  18. 18
    Woodrowfan says:

    @EconWatcher:

    for help with the discipline process,”

    Yeah, God forbid an employee actually have access to due process. Just fire their ass if management wants to do so.

  19. 19
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @EconWatcher: Yeah, making management prove they’re following labor laws and company policies is a bad thing.

    Not.

    The union has no more reason to apologize for defending its members than a public defender needs to apologize for using every tool in his arsenal on behalf of a defendant.

  20. 20
    rikyrah says:

    Haslam Administration Linked $300M Offer To VW-UAW Process

    by Phil Williams
    Chief Investigative Reporter

    Were hundreds of millions of your tax dollars offered to Volkswagen — and then pulled back — to try to keep the United Auto Workers out of Chattanooga?

    For months, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has denied any connection.

    But documents leaked to NewsChannel 5 Investigates offer conclusive proof that the Haslam administration wanted a say in the automaker’s deal with organized labor — in exchange for $300 million in economic incentives to help VW expand its Chattanooga operations.

    Volkswagen opened the Hamilton County facility in May 2011 with great fanfare.

    Initially producing the midsize Passat, there were hints of more to come. It was located on a 1,400-acre site with plenty of room for expansion.

    http://www.jrn.com/newschannel.....l?lc=Smart

  21. 21
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @EconWatcher: It struck me that SG’s comment was meant to convey that the union acts the way a defense attorney would in a criminal trial. They provide the best defense possible given the facts of the case. I would guess that this sometimes means going to the wall for the person and sometimes it means things like negotiating a resign in lieu of termination agreement.

  22. 22
    EconWatcher says:

    @Woodrowfan:

    I suppose this is wasting my breath, but: When a very large man makes repeated physical threats against a petite woman in the workplace (who also happened to be the head of the office), in front of witnesses, do you think it should take almost a year to get him off the payroll?

    My old union, the NTEU, made sure it did. Why? Because they had exactly the same approach described by Soonergrunt: “we fight every single time an employee comes to us for help with the discipline process.” Same with people who were notorious throughout the office for being essentially no-shows. Getting rid of them was damn near impossible. NTEU made sure of it.

    In my opinion, this approach will help kill public-sector unionism if it is not changed.

  23. 23
    Woodrowfan says:

    @EconWatcher: yes, we should always make policy based on the absolutely worse case. I’ve seen the opposite, bosses lying about employees to get rid of them, and the only thing that protected them was the due process system. But I’m probably wasting my breath.

  24. 24
    NorthLeft12 says:

    I am a Chemical Engineer up here in Canada and have never been a member of a Union, but have worked with Union operators and technicians at a couple of plants. Personally, the company gets the management they deserve. If the managers don’t do their jobs well and treat their employees fairly, they will have problems with the Union. If they are fair and document and follow the laid out process, there will rarely be problems [in my experience]. I [and many other non-Union employees] enjoy a lot of benefits because of what Unions have negotiated, not only at my particular place of work, but what has been established around the world.
    I would not suggest holding my breath until businesses and governments introduce benefits and policies to protect workers. Recent history has also shown what happens to existing benefits and policies when there is no strong Union presence to offset businesses and right wing governments.

    In short; Thank God for the Unions! from a non-Union member.

  25. 25
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @NorthLeft12: Arrrrgghhh!!

    Personally, the company gets the UNION they deserve, not “the company gets the management they deserve” .

  26. 26
  27. 27
    PurpleGirl says:

    @EconWatcher: May I ask a question about the no-show workers? Who hired them? The union or management. Who supervised them? Who was in charge of assigning them work? Just wondering.

  28. 28
    Paul in KY says:

    Best wishes to you & your union!

  29. 29
    Paul in KY says:

    @HeartlandLiberal: Japanese make pretty good cars too.

  30. 30
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    @EconWatcher:

    I have worked at several non-union workplaces where it was “damn near impossible” to fire a nutcase or a no-show (often a crony of the boss, sometimes just institutional inertia). Some percentage of crazy/incompetent coworkers seems to be a fact of office life. So why is this always trotted out as the answer to “I hate unions because . . .”? Because every workplace functions so much better without them? Or is it because it’s the union’s fault if everything isn’t perfect?

  31. 31
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    @EconWatcher:

    Thank you for your anecdata.

  32. 32
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    May I ask a question about the no-show workers?

    That story sounds awfully familiar. Hmm, let me think. It couldn’t have been a right-wing meme for, like, ever, right? Why, I was hearing the same stories about the UAW back in the 1970s.

  33. 33
    Cervantes says:

    @EconWatcher:

    When a very large man makes repeated physical threats against a petite woman in the workplace (who also happened to be the head of the office), in front of witnesses

    Did anyone involve the police?

  34. 34
    Paul in KY says:

    @EconWatcher: I agree that if some employee does something completely egregious, in full view of evreybody, etc. etc. you (the union) must let this person go & not fight the disciplinary/firing action.

    The union bosses should actually agree & list (in an internal document, probably) what actions an employee would take that would warrant this ‘no help’ action.

    The bad press that helping an employee who (stole money from pension fund & then was seen taking a crap on bosses desk & then slugged a secretary, as an example) should not be helped due to what they did can destroy a union (IMO).

  35. 35
    Citizen_X says:

    @Cervantes:

    Did anyone involve the police?

    Exactly. And if not, why not?

  36. 36
    Paul in KY says:

    @Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism: Disagree here. Our adversarial system of justice is not going to disappear no matter what happens between defense attornies & their clients.

    Unions are on much shakier ground today & if there is some totally terrible action an employee takes that would warrant their firing if Mahatma Ghandi was the boss, then the union has to be cognizant of the current socio-political landscape & not allow the employee’s bad actions to hurt the good people in that union.

  37. 37
    Hal says:

    @EconWatcher: I’m a unionized worker in a hospital and have been at three different hospitals since 2005, and I can see where you’re coming from. I haven’t witnessed violence, but I can honestly say all of my coworkers who needed a union steward needed them because of their own negligence; always late, always calling in on a Friday or Monday, or just job incompetence. But, I’m of the opinion that the Union is doing it’s job, like a defense attorney.

    People opposed to unions don’t care what the situation is, they just want to get rid of the unions all together, so even if they only defended what might be considered legitimate cases of managerial abuse, I don’t think it would matter.

  38. 38
    Paul in KY says:

    @Woodrowfan: The ‘worst case’ can kill a union if the Repub scandal mongers get ahold of it & do their usual Goebbels-like shrieking.

    A union (IMO) has to have a procedure where a ‘worst case’ like the example above gets special consultation between the union & mangement to ensure no bad PR can arise & the bad apple is removed.

  39. 39
    RSR says:

    some April Fools union items; first is pretty tame, the second is definitely NSFW audio

    great pharma ad parody:
    Anti-Unionol, a revolutionary new anti-worker suppository
    http://www.anti-unionol.com/

    old school AFSCME ad parody:

    http://youtu.be/27kDtIoL1L4

    Solidarity!

  40. 40
    EconWatcher says:

    @Citizen_X:

    Yes, and a restraining order was obtained to keep him out of the office. Still took almost a year to get him off the payroll. (As far as I know he was never prosecuted, despite a complaint to the police.)

    I’m suggesting something along the lines of what Paul in KY suggested: I was a criminal defense lawyer at the beginning of my career, and I would defend anybody for anything, zealously. A criminal defense lawyer’s job is to fight for the individual to vindicate his rights, no matter how obviously guilty, and no matter how outrageous his behavior.

    I don’t think that’s how public sector unions should see their role. They represent all of the workers. If someone acts in a way that’s not in the interest of the other workers and the union, there ought to be some mechanism where reasonable judgment is exercised. It should not be, we fight no matter what. In my own experience, I did not see such reasonable judgment being exercised. You can call that “anecdata” if you like, but others above have had similar experiences.

    I don’t think that approach is in the interest of the other workers or the union, and in the end, as I’ve said, I think it’ll be the death of public sector unions if they don’t change it.

  41. 41
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @Paul in KY: Nope, gotta disagree. As Omnes noted above, a defense attorney will moderate his tactics depending on the facts of the case, but there does need to be a defense attorney.

    I might agree that going balls-to-the-wall all the time is a bad idea, depending on the facts of the case, but it’s essential that the union represent the employee in all cases, even if it’s just to review the case and help the employee line up a defense attorney. We should never want an employee to be at the mercy of management’s whims. Not even a bad employee.

  42. 42
    Rand Careaga says:

    @EconWatcher: My wife represented an NTEU member accused of dodging his drug test. His agency proposed to fire him, and the NTEU attorney just rolled over and told him “There’s nothing we can do.” The spouse took on his case and, in the course of discovery, uncovered material that, as she put it, “would have got [the employer] laughed out of court.” The agency backed down right smartly after she brought this stuff to their attention. Our two anecdotes suggest between them that NTEU representation probably varies according to local rather than being characterized by either pit bull tenacity or lapdog timidity across the board.

  43. 43
    EconWatcher says:

    @Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism:

    I don’t think criminal defense lawyer is the right analogy. While a CDL might urge a client to settle if he thinks the case is hopeless–because it’s in the client’s best interest–in the end, if the client does not want to settle, the criminal defense lawyer’s job is to fight the charges with every bit of zeal he can muster, no matter how obviously guilty the client is, and no matter what the crime. That’s as it should be. That’s what the Constitution contemplates.

    I don’t think that same approach makes sense for a public-sector union. If an employee commits gross workplace misconduct and does not want to go quietly, I don’t think the union should see its job as defending that conduct with every bit of zeal it can muster. The union is not there for just for one individual, the way a CDL is. It must look to the broader interests it must protect.

  44. 44
    fidelio says:

    Michelle Byrom will get a new trial. (Tom Freeland at North Mississippi Commenter has several posts about this case, in case you want to take a good long look at a train wreck, as does the Atlantic.)

    I am impressed that the MSC actually decided this was the right thing to do after all.

  45. 45
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @EconWatcher: Yeah, I think your background is carrying it further than I intended. We regularly hear of defense lawyers trying to remove themselves from cases when the defendant won’t take their advice.

    But the union does have to represent the members. Period. Sometimes, that representation should take the form of announcing themselves satisfied that all due process has been followed. That’s still representation.

    Regarding the specific anecdote you keep bringing up, is it possible that the lack of a prosecution is why it took so long to drop him from the payroll? I can easily see an organization’s due process making it difficult to fire someone for being arrested but not charged and convicted. I don’t think you really want that sort of thing weakened.

  46. 46
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Squiregeek:

    There is no inherent reason that a union would impair productivity or profitability in any way

    Herein lies the difference between theory and reality. Some industries cry out for unions (mining, retail, fast food), others don’t. Some managers are awful and employees need union protection; others are not. I deal with the stuff every day and, despite being a hardcore liberal, I don’t see unions as universally good. I see plenty of situations where they do get in the way of productivity and profitability. It really depends on the industry and the company.

  47. 47
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    And before I bail to grab the last of this week’s grocery bargains (yay, double coupon week!), the original reason I popped into this open thread:

    OkCupid Blocks Firefox Over Anti-Gay CEO

  48. 48
    RSR says:

    @Steeplejack (tablet):

    haha; reminds me of the people who demand education ‘reform’ and an end to seniority because they ‘know’ somebody whose kid once had a bad teacher somewhere at sometime

  49. 49
    James Parente says:

    Congratulations for joining the good fight. Unions aren’t perfect but they are the best tools that we have to insure justice and fairness in the workplace.
    As a Shop Steward, you will find dealing with your members sometimes resembles the process of herding cats, challenging but rewarding.
    Solidarity, IATSE local 100, NY Metro.

  50. 50
    Paul in KY says:

    @EconWatcher: It’s a union, not a gang

  51. 51
    Paul in KY says:

    @Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism: Certainly agree that ‘balls to wall all the time’ is a stupid policy. Maybe in a terrible case, the union just helps them line up a defense attorney & helps them move their stuff out & shows them how to file for unemployment.

  52. 52
    Paul in KY says:

    @Rand Careaga: That example is not the crazy, egreigious kind I was using. In that case, certainly the union needs to step up to plate & see what the true particulars are.

    My examples were things that are completely irrefutable, as there would be numerous eye witnesses to outrageous conduct.

  53. 53
    Linnaeus says:

    @EconWatcher:

    there ought to be some mechanism where reasonable judgment is exercised. It should not be, we fight no matter what.

    A union has to be very careful about this. Introducing an ad hoc mechanism in cases of employee discipline or termination could 1) encourage management attempts to erode contractual protections and 2) open up the union to legal actions on the grounds that it failed to provide adequate representation to a worker. Whether or not I would agree to a particular special mechanism for these situations, I do think it would need to be brought up doing contract negotations.

  54. 54
    Paul in KY says:

    @Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism: This is fine for the egregious situations I was contemplating:

    ‘But the union does have to represent the members. Period. Sometimes, that representation should take the form of announcing themselves satisfied that all due process has been followed. That’s still representation.’

  55. 55
    kideni says:

    I’ve never been in a position to be in a union, but unions are vital for a strong working and middle class, and I stand in solidarity with all union members and all who want to unionize. You have a tough road in Oklahoma, but it’s not great here in Wisconsin these days. It sounds like you’re making great strides!

    They say our day is over, and they say our day is through. They say you need no union if your collar isn’t blue. Well, that is just another lie the boss is telling you, for the union makes us strong!

    They divide us by our color. They divide us by our tongue. They divide us men and women. They divide us old and young. But they’ll tremble at our voices when they hear these verses sung, for the union makes us strong!

  56. 56
    Mnemosyne says:

    @EconWatcher:

    Can I make a possibly unwarranted guess and ask if you’re in New Jersey? It seems like 99 percent of the “horrible union” stories I hear come from New Jersey.

    ETA: Member of a private sector (entertainment industry) union here. “Teamsters” are something totally different in California than they are in Jersey.

  57. 57
    RSR says:

    If a union fails to adequately represent its member, and ensure that due process was followed, wouldn’t that be akin to malpractice? Wouldn’t the member then have a right to file suit against both the employer and the union for failing to follow the contract?

    If someone is a threat and/or a criminal, and they’ve been removed from the work environment, I don’t have a problem with it taking a year for due process to shake out. I don’t even have a problem with them being paid if that’s what the CBA stipulates.

    If management wants to be able to suspend employees without pay for certain infractions, bargain it into the contract. The contract is a binding agreement; you can’t just pick and choose when it’s applicable and to whom. Why do so many people have a problem understanding that?

  58. 58
    Anna in PDX says:

    Our local government bureau just unionized a couple of years ago, now I am a proud member of the AFSCME local 189. One of the other unions, also under the umbrella of the AFLCIO is just considering going on strike over the issue of hiring consultants when staff can do the work. Always been very pro union. When I was in the foreign service I was a member of the professional association (AFSA) – not a union but the next best thing, and they helped me so much when I had to grieve being denied tenure, they were absolutely the best support I could have had, and I won. Hats off to union staff who help the members so much with their expertise.

  59. 59
    IowaOldLady says:

    The issue isn’t that unions are perfect. Power in any form can corrupt. But workers need a balance to the power of management. They can’t rely on people of good will putting their well being ahead of profits.

  60. 60
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Paul in KY:

    I’m guessing that in the egregious-seeming case above, no one in management was documenting the discipline the guy had been getting, so from a paperwork POV, it was his first offense. Sucks for the company, but it should be an object lesson to management that you need to document everything if you want to get rid of a problem employee.

  61. 61
    Mnemosyne says:

    @fidelio:

    Ugh. That sounds like yet another case where the person who didn’t know anything and therefore didn’t have any information to plea bargain with got completely screwed. And it seems like 90 percent of the time, that person is a woman (see also the women who went to jail for 20 years or more for “conspiracy” in drug cases while their husband/boyfriend did minimal time because they had knowledge they could bargain with).

  62. 62
    Linnaeus says:

    @RSR:

    If a union fails to adequately represent its member, and ensure that add due process was followed, wouldn’t that be akin to malpractice? Wouldn’t the member then have a right to file suit against both the employer and the union for failing to follow the contract?

    It is a risk, and even anti-union organizations have tried to take advantage of that.

    If management wants to be able to suspend employees without pay for certain infractions, bargain it into the contract. The contract is a binding agreement; you can’t just pick and choose when it’s applicable and to whom.

    I agree here. Mechanisms for dealing with employee discipline need to be spelled out in the CBA.

  63. 63
    JimV says:

    Every case is different and who knows the complete story – not me – but as long as we’re anecdating:

    At the GE plant where I worked for 35 years the factory workers had a union and the office workers did not. There was a secretary – this was back in the days of typewriters – who would split and hyphenate the word “the” at the end of a line. Her philosophy was, when the “ding” sounds, heck with it, I’m hitting the hyphen and then pulling the carriage return. She had all the engineers in her office trained not to bother her with filing and to use hand-written letters whenever possible. I worked in another building and knew about her, such was her fame. She eventually got fired after about 20 years of this when management finally noticed she was stealing expensive office supplies. I can think of several other examples, including a case where a person like that actually got promoted. My point being, even when there is no union involved, somehow some obnoxious and/or incompetent people find ways to stay employed long past their just deserts.

    My larger point is that sometimes it’s the union’s fault and sometimes its management’s fault because like soylent green both are composed of people. If everyone would just listen to me the bad people would get fired in a hurry and the good people would get promoted, or maybe I would make mistakes too. Anyway, there might be a flaw in the reasoning that since some organizations have people in them who have bad judgment then it follows that we should get rid of those organizations – not that anyone here is saying that exactly (but I think they are saying that others might say that).

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    burnspbesq says:

    @EconWatcher:

    Don’t let me get started about NTEU. As a former IRS Chief Counsel lawyer, I won’t stop for a good little while.

  65. 65
    Paul in KY says:

    @RSR: The union has to look out for the union. If what I’ve suggested needs to be bargained out at contract time, then it should be bargained out.

    You can’t let one situation with terrible optics be used by the enemy to demonize the whole union. Cause that’s what they will do when given any chance.

  66. 66
    Paul in KY says:

    @Mnemosyne: Good point.

  67. 67
    Nellie in NZ says:

    My dad came through the depression at the very bottom – young immigrant, supporting a family consisting of his much older parents and a brother made frail by famine (well, and two sisters but they died quite young), no one willing to pay for his work but very willing to sanctimoniously take advantage of the desperate situation (rural Mennonite community). So he took to the rails to get out and find work and send money back (people in that community made comments to me in the 70’s, indicating that they thought he skipped out and abandoned his family and frail brother. No. He wouldn’t make them dependent on the poor financial treatment of the righteous brethren). So, in the 40’s, after the war, he became a carpenter and joined the union. When he died, he was still an active member of the Mennonite church (most of whom looked down on unions). He instructed me to have the union steward as one of his pallbearers and I stood in that Mennonite church and thanked the union steward and the union for their part in our life. A little cognitive dissonance for the brethren.

  68. 68
    Nellie in NZ says:

    My dad came through the depression at the very bottom – young immigrant, supporting a family consisting of his much older parents and a brother made frail by famine (well, and two sisters but they died quite young), no one willing to pay for his work but very willing to sanctimoniously take advantage of the desperate situation (rural Mennonite community). So he took to the rails to get out and find work and send money back (people in that community made comments to me in the 70’s, indicating that they thought he skipped out and abandoned his family and frail brother. No. He wouldn’t make them dependent on the poor financial treatment of the righteous brethren). So, in the 40’s, after the war, he became a carpenter and joined the union. When he died, he was still an active member of the Mennonite church (most of whom looked down on unions). He instructed me to have the union steward as one of his pallbearers and I stood in that Mennonite church and thanked the union steward and the union for their part in our life. A little cognitive dissonance for the brethren.

  69. 69
    Paul in KY says:

    @Nellie in NZ: Cool! Your father sounds like he was a great & proud union man.

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    Fuck The Union says:

    Unions are ok because they throw money at candidates theoretically attempting to defeat Republicans. But what they do to the Dem agenda in stiffling progress is revolting. I have worked in a union workplace. They literally do nothing to help self-sufficient employees. They are the assholes who make employees who aren’t very heterosexual or very cisgendered, or people who aren’t basically average and kind of dumb. They are like a bad boyfriend. They need to be needed and will fuck up and intrude on your life if you don’t need them to their satisfaction. If you are a middling average person, go union, if you are a stand out, fuck em they are worse and more up in your business than management. So yay ordinary average assholes of the world flex your power and your ability to slow down anyone stuck within your sphere of influence because you are a socially conservative institution at heart.

  71. 71
    Another Holocene Human says:

    Congratulations, Soonergrunt, on becoming an AFGE union steward, proudly affiliated with AFL-CIO. I suggest you get involved with your CLC and State Fed as well, since you care about this politics stuff.

    AFGE is a very challenging union to work for with the wide and vast difference in professions and crafts covered. You have to learn how to talk to all of them.

    I hope you have an Executive Board that functions well–if not, being a union steward can be hell!

    The strike is and was a very effective tactic (also sitdowns, slowdowns) but it isn’t the be-all and end-all as millions of public sector union members are barred from the strike and still succeed in advancing the working conditions of their members.

    The Union makes us strong! Welcome, brother!

  72. 72
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @PurpleGirl: Not just in NYC. IBEW kicks ass.

    It wasn’t just electricians–a lot of construction trades were reactionaries. In the South, the perception that the unions are not for non-white, non-males persists to this day. The result is that Black tradesmen often make far lower wages. (To say nothing of the Hispanic, often immigrant, often refugee labor.) The racists succeeded in breaking the labor force into fractious bits and everyone suffers.

  73. 73
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: The 1% want anything but union democracy.

    Pages and pages of financial disclosures but not a word about union democracy.

  74. 74
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @EconWatcher: More like, the managers aren’t really managers or just have no clue what they are doing. Even just cause allows you to fire–for cause. Maybe there was more to that situation than you realize.

    I’ve seen managers in non-union workplaces fail to fire because they were scared of lawsuits and their own asses. If someone isn’t doing right you acknowledge, address, document. Pretty soon they are buried or back in line because they want to keep their job. Some freak who makes criminal threats should have been arrested and charges pressed. And suspended without pay.

    Go ahead. Take that shit union to arbitration. Let them bleed out members’ dues on assholes. Either the union is going to throw out the bums or in a RTW state members are just going to quit.

    But sit in your cubicle and fret, doesn’t matter if there is a union or just a labor lawyer in the wings–you’re effed.

    Managing people is not for everyone. It sucks. You aren’t going to have friends. That’s the honest truth.

  75. 75
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Soonergrunt: Very well said, Sooner. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I will say, some employees at any organization will have a pollyannish view of management and have no idea of the details of what really happened. Part of what sucks as being a visible part of the union is that they will spout rumor or a management line or what they experienced at you when you know the truth, and that can be hard to communicate without violating people’s privacy or using a degree of discretion.

    Of course, you do need to communicate. Union leaders who keep everything close to the vest and stonewall members are cutting their members’ throats along with their own.

  76. 76
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Paul in KY:

    The bad press that helping an employee who (stole money from pension fund & then was seen taking a crap on bosses desk & then slugged a secretary, as an example) should not be helped due to what they did can destroy a union (IMO).

    So, in union disputes the ultimate judge in the United States will be an arbitrator. Arbitrators must be fair to both sides. No arbitrator would rule in favor of an employee who did such things (absent any factors we could imagine that simply weren’t part of your scenario). Not only that, but I’m sure there would be legal proceedings over the assault and the defalcations.

    There are union locals who will take losing arbitrations repeatedly just to give management the middle finger, but you can only do that for so long.

    Nor does the duty of fair representation (DFR) than an employee can invoke against their union cover cases without merit.

  77. 77
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @EconWatcher: I’m glad you’re not a lawyer, because you’re advising union stewards to ignore the Duty of Fair Representation.

    And that is a big no-no.

  78. 78
    jamick says:

    good for you, sounds like you guys are doing good stuff down there

  79. 79
    Paul in KY says:

    @Another Holocene Human: Thank you for that info.

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