CWA Local 7800

December 2013

Greeting’s all. As the year comes to a close it’s time to reflect a bit and plan a bit…. In 2013, locally we were able to conclude bargaining for two of our units- MV Transportation and IATSE Local 15. Our MV contract included improved language for grievance time frames to reduce the amount of time it takes to get through the process. We were able to achieve a “Safety Bonus”. We also changed how PTO time and vacation time would be scheduled and granted so the process would be the same for both part time and full time employees. We had a problem when people transitioned from part time to full time, ending up not having any paid entitlement time for a year while completing their one year of full time continuous service to be eligible for vacation time. We also had problems with the use it or lose it times since they were not standard, it several folks lose earned entitlement time and now we feel by moving that to the end of the calendar year for everyone it will prevent that from happening.

We did the ballot vote by mail. I will have to say, I was a bit disappointed about the number of members who returned their ballot. I would hope that folks understand this contract is about their livelihood and quality of work life, so more people would have participated. Of those who did vote 96% voted yes. That was a huge signal to us that the members were happy with it. Now of course some may argue I should not make such an assumption but I have never seen a contract vote 96% and really the numbers are what they are and 96% is very significant. Out of over 350 members we did hear from about 10 members who indicated they did not receive a ballot and we mailed them a 2nd ballot. I want to thank Nancy Dee O’Brien and Chuck Miller for their help in bargaining. They were very helpful in regards to explaining the situations in the workplace as they have experience firsthand, so they had the best knowledge. They also understood what their peers were asking of us to accomplish. While we did not get everything we wanted, we did make some progress and folks were able to come out ahead financially in the end. The contract is for 2 years and retro back to last July, so we will be doing this all again in the next 18 months or so.

I want to take a moment and remind you all, particularly at MV, because it seems people don’t take advantage of their rights with belonging to a union. The first most important right is the Weingarten rights that allow a member to talk with a union Steward and have a union Steward assist during any investigatory meetings with management. The only thing the member has to ask is “Can this meeting lead to discipline?” and if the answer is yes then the member should simply say “I request a union steward” and not say another word until a union Steward arrives. It is your right and you should exercise it. Other things to remember in those meetings, is it is always best to be 100% honest. If someone has done something wrong then let’s address it and work with it and see what can be done. I’ll be honest, sometimes there is not much of a change but sometimes there can be. But if an employee is thought to be dishonest with their employer, then that only makes matters worse.

I also want to say documentation is key. We hear a lot of things going on out at MV but we hear it sometimes third hand. We can’t work with third hand information. We need statements with dates and times and actual quotes in order to argue effectively for the membership. So many times I pose the question to management “I understand this took place…..” only for management to say no this is what happened…. And then I have nothing or no one to go back to for verification. So we really need every member who has a concern to write it down include who, what, where, when, so we have the information and provide that to us. Many times what we hear is Jack said this to Mary and she told Jim who told me and now I’m telling you…. Frankly that just isn’t going to work. We need to hear from Jack directly.

There is also some misconception at MV about returning to the yard prior to their shift ending and clocking out. It has been many times that, Senior management has indicated as long as drivers are not late getting back, then they won’t be asking questions. Inferring that it is ok to stop or stall until you get to the scheduled route end time. That very well may have happened but at the same time the company has and will investigate if it comes to their attention a vehicle is parked in an unauthorized area for a period of time etc… We have had folks disciplined for stopping for coffee along their route. It’s prohibited in the rules. But I have has others tell me management knows about other employees doing it and they don’t do anything to them… Again it doesn’t matter. Unless we can prove management is aware and choose not to do something (almost impossible) it doesn’t matter if they choose to discipline you. And even if they did have a tendency to look the other way they can change their mind at any moment putting everyone at risk for discipline.

Now we have many members stopping for restroom breaks and management questioning them and several members disciplined for using the restroom. Management’s position is, the time folks are taking is unreasonable therefore stealing time from the company and stealing time is a terminable offense per the company policy. The members of course are saying they are using a restroom that is convenient and needed at the time. This is still in the grievance process so won’t discuss much, but will say if members need to use the restroom they should call in a 10-1 and get approval and document who you spoke with and note the time in case it comes up. It could be quite useful in preventing an investigation and/or discipline. Under the law the company can’t prevent people from using the restroom, however if the company believes you are doing it to somehow get more paid time on the clock, they can attempt to say a person is stealing time. That is not the position our members want to be in, because it can lead to immediate termination. So again I urge everyone to call it in, take good notes of time, and date etc… in case it is needed later.

The IATSE contract is a very small unit and proved to be difficult to reach their first contract. We have discussed this for many months as well, so I won’t get into it much other than to say the vote on that contract was 100% Yes. I want to thank Craig Dameron who really was tasked with 95% of the work related to this and heavily relied upon for the research on the contractual arguments and communicating with the company. We also had a lot of help from the Bargaining Team member’s Ashley Rolph and Leah Harris so I want to extend thanks to them as well.

I didn’t list CenturyLink on the list above when I said we concluded bargaining because that bargaining was done by District and from a local perspective, in terms of actual bargaining, we were not at the table. Although I will say we spent a lot of time and effort to ensure our folks in the CenturyLink unit were informed. We held contract explanation meetings in various locations; we met with the retirees to go over the healthcare changes as well, so it was a lot of work in that regard. I have written extensively throughout the year regarding the CenturyLink Contract the outcome and so forth I think everyone understands my thoughts on that.

Moving forward into the New Year it will be imperative that all of us-Members, Stewards, and Officers work diligently at enforcing the terms of all the contracts. If a member sees something they do not think is correct they should contact a Steward and let them know so the Local can follow up. There are many changes at MV and holding management responsible in that work group, I will be blunt, has been difficult but I don’t think it an understatement that the members and union leaders are at a point where enough is enough and to see some accountability. At CenturyLink we will need to do the same, hold them accountable to the 49th hour. I mentioned it before but will mention it again; we have one garage who all techs are working together and forcing management to make all overtime as mandatory, they are not volunteering. If members want relief from having 8 to 10 jobs a day this practice should encompass all the garages. It will need to impact the company before they take a look at being cooperative with the employees. I again applaud this effort and hope to see other groups coming to the same conclusion and telling their management team they expect to be off on time.

I also want to stress that given the lessons we learned regarding bargaining power and the laws that are skewed against workers, it’s imperative we start taking positions on laws that affect us and be supportive in other places as well when legislatures are trying to limit working people’s rights. We have two elections between now and the time CenturyLink bargains again, so we really need to look at folks who support working people and are willing to push legislation beneficial to us.

I hope to see in the coming months many members who want to reengage with the Local and help out when needed. We will have a lot of things coming up in the next few months and will need as many people to participate as possible. Let’s make 2014 a positive year and work for change for the working class.

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