Work Conditions Improve in an Environment Where There is Mutual Trust and Respect

Recently, I had a brief exchange with a fellow worker who asked me what was going on with the union. I informed the worker that I was filing a class action grievance on behalf of workers negatively affected by reported violations of Article 9 Section 3A of our contract requiring the employer to post work schedules 14 days in advance of their effective date. Without going into detail, my fellow worker’s response made it clear to me that there is a need to engage our union members in discussion on the importance of upholding the existing rights of workers as outlined in our contract.

It should matter to every worker that contract language is upheld and not violated by management. Outside of state and federal labor laws, the contract is the most important set of legal guidelines defining employer/employee relations. When management wantonly ignores or alters existing contract provisions, it only serves to erode the trust and respect necessary for cooperatively navigating future change. Management has every right to direct this change, but its business practices cannot violate our agreed upon contract language.

Management has habitually failed to adhere to the 14 day schedule posting requirement outlined in our existing contract (expiring at the end of 2011). The work climate is such that one supervisor was comfortable stating that she did not have to comply with the 14 day posting. She further suggested that the ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) system only required a 7 day schedule posting.  It is important to note that it is the duty and responsibility of all supervisors to uphold union contracts. New management practices and team agreements cannot violate union contracts or wage and hour laws.  It is the duty and responsibility of the union to identify such transgressions and grieve these matters. Unanswered transgressions on the existing contract devalue the contract and threaten any gains/protections brokered by our union contract negotiators.

The repeated failure to adhere to this contract provision leaves one with the impression (right or wrong) that management has no respect for the workers and their lives. Workers struggle daily to juggle work, family and life. When management complies with the 14 day provision, workers can more easily plan their lives. Some supervisors are sensitive to the time demands on workers lives and post schedules for several months out well in advance of the 14 day post requirement. These supervisors are to be commended.  Workers in these departments find it much easier to identify opportune times to schedule medical appointments, attend school events, or plan family activities. For less fortunate workers, the union has negotiated the 14 day minimum requirement.  It is imperative that Hennepin County Labor Relations uphold and enforce adherence to the collective bargaining agreement.

Union workers across this country have suffered great financial loss in recent years. We are presently working under a wage freeze. The financial losses suffered should not lead us to conclude that we cannot have some say on day to day work conditions.   It is most important that we vigilantly defend the past gains and protections reflected in our present contract. Work conditions will only improve in an environment where there is mutual trust and respect. 

~ Respectfully, Lynne Kincaid, Local 34 Steward