4 Not-So-Obvious Reasons Why Grievances Are Valuable in the Union Workplace

Virtually every union contract contains a grievance/arbitration procedure, which is the way the union and the employer tackle disagreements about workplace rights covered by the contract.  Filing a grievance is the equivalent of starting a lawsuit: you put in writing what you believe another party has done that is contrary to the law, and what action will be necessary to correct the situation.  If after going through a series of procedural steps the dispute is not resolved, ten the last step of the grievance process – arbitration – is the equivalent of appearing before a judge to argue the case out and obtain a final resolution, one way or the other.

Why Grieve?

The natural inclination is to think about pursuing a grievance only if it looks like it has a reasonably good chance of coming up a winner.  Why file a grievance in the first place, unless your union is determined to take the case all the way to arbitration if the employer doesn’t back down?

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There may be lots of good reasons for a union to file a grievance that doesn’t expect to “win.”

1. Fire a Warning Shot
There are times when it doesn’t make sense to think about fighting the employer to the death on a particular action.  It may just not be worth it to arbitrate a relatively minor erosion of existing working conditions, or what looks like a one-time event.  At the same time, rather than do nothing, a group grievance could serve to put the employer on notice that its action has not gone unnoticed, and that if it tries the same maneuver again, it may well have a serious fight on its hands.

2. Shine a Light
One of the most frustration experiences in the life of a union representative is to hear and employer say; “That’s just you complaining, none of the people you say you represent even care.”  Sometimes it takes a grievance filed by an employee – or two or three or more – to get the employer to acknowledge that a particular problem is real and needs to be addressed.

3. Build a Record
One not entirely humorous definition of paranoia is “a heightened appreciation of reality.”  Sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw a line between an isolated memo taking you to task for something and the first deadly serious shot in your supervisor’s war against you.  If there may be a suspension or termination action looming in your future, sometimes the wisest course of action is to begin to build a written record in your defense right away.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Grievance Manager Custom Software for Your Union

4. Forge Employee Unity
It may well be that, for one reason or another, an immediate practical resolution of a particular problem may not be in the cards.  But a grievance – particularly a group grievance – might be just what is needed to start building solidarity among those wronged by a particular supervisor or policy.  If you and others can organize and take a small action, like filing a grievance, this may be the first step toward you and your co-workers later doing whatever it takes to fight – and win on this or a bigger issue.

RELATED: Automate Your Grievance and Arbitration Management Process

YOUR TURN

How have you used your right to file Grievances in the workplace?  What experiences can you share with other Union members?  We want to hear from you… sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds.  And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

The Pros to Joining a Labor Union

Thanks to labor unions, wages have improved, the workweek is shorter and the workplace is safer.

However, employers sometimes complain that unions are harmful to business and to the economy. From an employee standpoint, is being a union member beneficial? Here are some pros of union jobs.

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Better wages. The median weekly income of full-time wage and salary workers who were union members in 2010 was $917, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For nonunion workers, it was $717.

More access to benefits. Some 93 percent of unionized workers were entitled to medical benefits compared to 69 percent of their nonunion peers, according to the National Compensation Survey published last year by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survey represented about 101 million private industry workers and 19 million state and local government employees.

Unmarried domestic partners — same sex and opposite sex — also had access more often to these benefits if they were unionized. Workers with union representation also had 89 percent of their health insurance premiums paid by their employer for single coverage and 82 percent for family coverage. For nonunion workers, the comparable numbers were 79 percent and 66 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And 93 percent of unionized workers have access to retirement benefits through employers compared to 64 percent of their nonunion counterparts.

Job security. Nonunion employees are typically hired “at will,” meaning they can be fired for no reason. There are exceptions. Employers can’t terminate a worker for discriminatory reasons such as race, religion, age and the like. Nor can they fire an at-will employee for being a whistle-blower and certain other reasons.

However, workers with union jobs can only be terminated for “just cause,” and the misconduct must be serious enough to merit such action. Before an employee can actually be fired, he or she can go through a grievance procedure, and if necessary, arbitration.

Workers who know they can’t easily be fired, will be willing to speak up freely.

Strength in numbers. Unionized workers have more power as a cohesive group than by acting individually. What you gain is the muscle of collective action. Through collective bargaining, workers negotiate wages, health and safety issues, benefits, and working conditions with management via their union.

Seniority. Rules differ among collective bargaining agreements, but in the event of layoffs, employers usually are required to dismiss the most recent hires first and those with the most seniority last — sometimes called “last hired, first fired.”

In some cases, a worker with a union job who has more seniority may receive preference for an open job. Seniority also can be a factor in determining who gets a promotion. The idea is that seniority eliminates favoritism in the workplace. Ultimately, the chief advantage of seniority is it is completely objective.

YOUR TURN

What benefits do you see in being a Union Member? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page, on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds and don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Union Built PC and Bargaining Power Announce Strategic Alliance to Empower Labor Unions

Press Contact:

Pete Marchese
Union Built PC Inc.
877-728-6466
pete.marchese@unionbuiltpc.com
www.unionbuiltpc.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Technology, Labor and Unions:

Union Built PC and Bargaining Power Announce Strategic Alliance to Empower Labor Unions

Agreement will empower Labor Unions with Digital Tools for Projecting Costs at Collective Bargaining & Real Time Grievance & Arbitration Tracking

NEW YORK, NY (PHANTOM POWER MARKETING) OCTOBER 18, 2016 – Union Built PC Inc. and Bargaining Power Inc. have entered into a Strategic Alliance Agreement with a goal of providing the Labor Industry the necessary tools to effectively represent their membership by Projecting Costs at Collective Bargaining and enabling Real-Time Grievance and Arbitration Tracking.

Union Built PC Inc. and Bargaining Power Inc. are the leading experts in Projecting Costs at collective bargaining and Grievance and Arbitration Tracking Labor Software. In combining the skill-sets of their respective teams and product offerings, we will enhance Labor’s ability at the bargaining table.

This partnership also provides an opportunity for Union Built PC Inc. and Bargaining Power Inc. to work collaboratively on product development, marketing and software sales.

“We at Union Built PC Inc. are constantly searching for software that will help Labor Excel. Bargaining Power Software is an extremely powerful Tool that will aid unions in analyzing costs and effectively representing their membership,” says Pete Marchese Director of Operations of Union Built PC Inc.

Bargaining Power Inc. has developed Bargaining Power® Software, which saves Labor Unions time and money as they conduct all of their cost analyses, whether for collective bargaining or arbitrations. First developed by a Labor Negotiator over 20 years ago, the software is continually enhanced by the experience and expertise of hundreds of customers, including the UFCW International and IBT, IAFF, IUOE and UFCW locals.

Bargaining Power is a unique product that gives labor a software solution that provides enhanced insight and is faster and easier to use than any spreadsheet model. It instantly allows unlimited proposals to change compensation, benefit, time off-allowances and work rules. Also, it automatically takes into account turnover rates and changing lengths of service.

“With Bargaining Power, unions can be confident they’re capturing the true costs of potential settlements. They can instantly compare all scenarios under consideration assuring they’re making the best possible decisions at the table,” says Betsy Cagan, President and founder of Bargaining Power Inc.

Union Built PC Inc. developed their Grievance Manager® Software in 2006, enabling the Labor Industry to track their Grievances, Arbitrations and related documents in Real Time.

As an immediate result of this alliance, Union Built PC will resell Bargaining Power and integrate it into our present suite of Software to automate Labor’s everyday tasks.

For more information about how Bargaining Power can help Labor Unions and International Organizations bargain and represent their membership more effectively, contact Pete Marchese at 877-728-6466 or pete.marchese@unionbuiltpc.com.

# # #
 

For more information:

About Bargaining Power Inc.
Betsy Cagan founded Bargaining Power Inc. in 1991 to develop the software she wished she had when she was a labor negotiator for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York and Stop & Shop in Boston. Responsible for all economic analysis in both positions, she built complex spreadsheet models, but knew only compiled software could answer all her questions. Betsy is particularly interested in working with unions. She holds a BA in English Literature from Connecticut College and an MBA from Columbia University

Bargaining Power Website
Download the Bargaining Power Brochure

 
About Union Built PC Inc.
Union Built PC Inc. has been serving the IT needs of Labor since 2001. Union Built PC’s mission is to “organize” Labor and help them “excel in everything they do.” Union Built PC believes their success is based on products and services that have been developed by Union Members and customized to meet the specific needs of their Labor Union Clients. That’s why every member of the Union Built PC team is a Union Member. Currently, UBPC is organized by CWA Local 1101

Union Built PC Website
Download the Grievance Manager Brochure
View the Grievance Manager Demo Video
Union Built PC on Facebook
Union Built PC on Twitter
Union Built PC on LinkedIn
Pete Marchese on LinkedIn

Learn the Common Topics in Most Union Contracts

Every union contract is different. Workers decide how issues are addressed and negotiated with the company. Union members decide what makes sense for the them. Contracts are also called Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) or Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs). Contracts are negotiated for a period of time, usually between 1 and 6 years.

Negotiator’s Advantage: Comprehensive Software to Manage the Collective Bargaining Process

Common topics in most union contracts include:

Just Cause (protection against unfair discipline or firing) is one of the most important protections workers get from a union – protection against unfair discipline or firing. It says that you cannot be fired or disciplined without “just cause.” It means that a boss has to prove that there was a good reason to fire or discipline you.

Seniority sets how decisions are made when more than one worker wants a shift or job assignment, wants to work overtime (or when no one wants to work overtime), etc. For example, the contract may state that if there are layoffs, the newest workers must be laid off first. Different contracts have different types of seniority clauses.

Pay Rates and Raises The contract will set rates of pay for all workers, including when workers get paid a “premium,” for overtime, shift and weekend differential, working in a higher classification, or being on-call. Workers often negotiate for a minimum number of hours of work, so they can’t just be sent home with no pay if there’s no work. Workers know when and how much raises will be during the contract.

Time Off and Benefits includes what holidays and how many sick and vacation days workers get — and fair rules for taking them. It can also set an employers’ payments to health and welfare and pension funds. Benefit levels may be set by the amount of time you have on the job.

Bargaining Power Inc. has developed Bargaining Power® Software, which saves Labor Unions time and money as they conduct all of their cost analyses.

Grievance Procedures makes sure that workers get a fair hearing by setting how problems will be worked out. Usually, grievances are filed when the boss has broken a contract rule, violated your rights under the law, ignored a company rule or procedure, or changed a past practice (what has always been done, if it’s a bad change or not done fairly for everyone). Grievances can also be filed for any unfair situation that management has the power to correct, even if there is no contact language, law, or company procedure. When a grievance or discipline cannot be worked out, most contracts say that an independent arbitrator (like a judge) will make a decision which both sides have to live with.

It is important to file grievances quickly. The contract will have timelines which must be followed. Usually the deadline is a certain number of days from when the problem happened – or when you (or the union) knew about it.

grievance-manager-union

Grievance Manager: Custom Grievance and Arbitration Software to Manage the Grievance Process Quickly and Efficiently

Fair rules for many situations are negotiated so that scheduling, job bidding, vacation bidding, and many other issues are done fairly. Common examples include if a worker bids into a new job, a rule that says that he can go back to his old job if it doesn’t work out; a fair system for scheduling, including posting the schedule in advance; how vacations are scheduled; “reporting pay” – a minimum number of hours you must be paid if you are called in to work; posting of empty jobs so that interested workers can bid for them; making sure workers have the equipment and supplies to do their jobs well and safely.

Legal Protections which are also law. These protections are included in the contract because it is often easier and faster to enforce the rights under the union contract.

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The Steps of a Union Campaign

Do you and your co-workers want change? Do you believe unionizing will be to your benefit? Well, each work place is a bit different, but when workers want to build a union, there are common basic steps to take.

First it is helpful to have a true understanding of how organizing can benefit you and your co-workers.

Understanding the Benefits of Union Membership

Union members – workers like you — benefit from the union’s collective bargaining power to negotiate with employers on their behalf. This basic right gives you as a union member more power than if you tried to negotiate as an individual. There is strength in numbers.

  • Union employees make an average of 30% more than non-union workers
  • 92% of union workers have job-related health coverage versus 68% of non-union workers
  • Union workers are more likely to have guaranteed pensions than non-union employees.

Unions help protect employees from unjust dismissal through collective bargaining agreements. Because of this, most union employees cannot be fired without “just cause.” This is unlike many nonunion workers who are considered “at-will” employees and can be fired at any time for almost any reason.

Union members also benefit from having the collective power to go on strike. A strike is when a group of workers stops working either in protest of labor conditions or as a bargaining tool during labor/management negotiations.

benefits-of-joiing-a-union

Second, do a bit of homework…

  • learn about building a union
  • understand the differences unions can make at work
  • find support among all work areas and kinds of workers

Third, deep dive into the steps of a Union Campaign!

1. Do workers want a change?
Workers talk among themselves to see if most people have issues that they want to change. The first step to building a union is figuring out if your co-workers want a union. Typically, a small group of workers who trust each other start to talk about what’s going on at work, what they can do to build a union, and what union they want to represent them. Workers need to be discreet – it’s too early for the boss to find out that workers are starting to think about getting union protection and a voice.

2. Gather information about your work place.
It’s important to map out all of the departments and where people work. Posted lists of workers and schedules will disappear when the company knows about the campaign, so collect them now. Home addresses are especially important, so workers can talk freely away from work.

3. Call a union, or a couple, to find one that you feel comfortable with.
Ask union members in your community if their union would be a good fit. Don’t worry too much about the name of the union – some unions represent workers who are in many different jobs. You can also decide to build a union that is “independent” – not affiliated with any national union (although it is often more difficult when workers don’t have support and resources from a national union).

4. Find the leaders who workers respect.
The union committee has to represent all of the workers (from each department, shift, job, and group) to be able to keep workers together during the campaign.

5. Learn how having a union can help with your problems.
Workers also need to know what to expect from the company during the union campaign.

6. Sign union cards when workers have enough information about the union and are ready for everything the company will do to try to stop them.
To win a union campaign, workers need to be strong and unified, with a big majority supporting the union. Signing a union authorization card means the worker wants the union to represent him or her to bargain with the company. The labor board will run an election when 30% of workers sign cards, but usually workers have a large majority before they ask for an election.

7. Workers show that they want a union.
A company can agree to have a neutral person from the community review the cards to see if a majority of workers want the union (“card check”). More often, the cards are used to have the National Labor Relations Board (or other agency) run a secret ballot election. The workers and the company have to agree on which workers will be able to vote and be represented by the union. Sometimes the company delays the election with labor board hearings. Once the bargaining unit (who is eligible to be represented) is decided, the labor board sets the date for the election, usually a month later.

8. The company tries to stop the workers from having a voice.
Companies want to keep all the power and don’t want to have to deal with workers who have protections, rights, and a voice. The time before a union election can be unpleasant – but it doesn’t last forever. Workers can overcome the company’s tricks if they stick together and keep talking among themselves.

9. Election day!
The labor boards runs the election and makes sure that the rules are followed. Workers vote in secret. The ballots are counted in front of the workers and company as soon as the election is over.

10. Negotiations.
This was what the whole campaign was about – for workers and union representatives to be able to sit down with the boss and negotiate for fair rules and better working conditions. Workers decide what to negotiate for. For the union to be strong, the company must see that workers support the negotiations. Workers vote to approve the contract before it becomes final. Sometimes, workers ask community members, like religious leaders, to be observers during contract negotiations.

11. Protecting your rights on the job.
After there is a contract, workers have to make sure that the rules are followed. Active union members know that they have to be involved for their union to work.

Looking to organize on the job? What challenges have you faced? What successes can you share that may help others? Sound of on the Union Built PC on Facebook Page, or on our Twitter and LinkedIn feeds and do’t forget to subscribe to the Union Built PC monthly email newsletter for Union News delivered straight to your inbox.

A Bigger Lesson Learned: The Verizon Strike and the U.S. Economy

For the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), as well as Verizon management – at least on the surface – there’s been no bigger story this Spring.  The unity of the CWA and IBEW, other Unions who’ve rallied around Verizon Workers, and even the public reflects how normal cuts have become and how unusual resistance on this scale is in the United States of the 21st century.

For working women and men, and retirees in the US, there is little structural economic support.  We can pretend otherwise, but look at nearly every other industrial democracy, where high level and cost effective health care is the norm, retirement security means much higher income replacement, public policy supports retaining jobs in key industries and most important, there is widespread public and political support for collective bargaining.

We are in an economic free fall.  Pretending that we are consumers and not working Americans first will not fix it.  Tax cuts will not fix it.  Attacks on working Americans and their rights will make the landing even harder.

We need to restore workers’ rights in a meaningful way so that we all can negotiate and engage our employers in a meaningful way. Human resource leaders at major US based employers should be ashamed of looking to cut costs at every turn, then collaborating with multi-billion dollar political machines to fight every political attempt to restore balance through public policy.  For example, nearly without exception, US management opposed federal legislation mandating that all employers pay for quality care.   Even those employers like Verizon that provide decent health care end up subsidizing employers that are health care deadbeats by ensuring spouses who work for those companies.

RELATED: 5 Key Reasons to Back the Working People at Verizon

Collective bargaining can make a difference.  Look back to 1938, when the United States still was gripped by the last of the recessions that made up the Great Depression. Well known economist John Maynard Keynes wrote to President Franklin D Roosevelt, stating that the jobs program and financial regulation were important, but “I regard the expansion of collective bargaining as essential.”

union-labor-Franklin-D-Roosevelt-economy

Keynes was not particularly a union supporter but he understood, as did economists for decades to come, that collective bargaining is a critical engine to fire up the demand curve and enable workers to improve their conditions in discussion with management, thus improving the economy. We will never have an economic recovery in this country if instead very profitable employers automatically cut wages, cut benefits and ship more good jobs overseas because their colleagues at other firms are all doing it.  That remains a race to the bottom.

We can’t have a recovery based on a “dollar store” economy. Unless workers can truly use bargaining rights to better their conditions, that’s exactly where we’re headed.  The strike at Verizon demonstrates the severity of the problem, but it will take a majority based political movement to fix it.