The Shop Steward Is One of You

Your shop steward does the same job as you. Your shop steward is someone you know. He or she understands the job you do, the management you report to, and the particular complexities of your job. He or she makes the same money as you or is at least on the same pay scale. The shop steward is protected under the same contract as you.

Shop stewards get it. They understand the challenges your job brings.

Your shop steward probably knows you too. Chances are you’ve had a conversation at some point. He or she may be someone you consider a friend at work. Your shop steward may know your spouse’s name. He or she may know your kids’ names too.

The point is this: your shop steward is one of you.

Don’t forget that.

You may not have taken the time to sit down and study your contract inside and out, but you can bet your shop steward has. Chances are, your shop stewards keep a copy of your contract on their person whenever they are at work. They probably keep a copy at home too.

Shop stewards also undergo training to ensure they are equipped to process grievances. Many stewards become active in their locals and become stewards because they have experienced unfair discipline and they know what it is like.

Again: your shop steward is one of you, so they understand what you experience on a daily basis as well as or better than anyone else. They are there to help you because they know the importance of quality representation when dealing with the company.

Understanding Garrity: Consider Yourself Warned!

Understanding Garrity is important since public-sector employees can find themselves in complicated situations, and not just police officers. Code enforcement, alcohol beverage control officers, animal control, and many other types of public-sector works can put members in situations that could lead to them being questioned. It could be something as simple as a code enforcement officer stepping too far on a property for a citizen to state their rights have been violated and seek action against that officer.

This is when Garrity becomes important.

For some reason, there seems to be some confusion there, so let’s clarify. When we talk about Garrity, we are referring to a public-sector employee’s right to not self-incriminate. The term comes from a Supreme Court Case in 1967: Garrity vs New Jersey.

In the case, six police officers were asked to give statements. Though they were warned their statements could lead to prosecution, they were also told, if they didn’t answer the questions being asked of them, they would lose their jobs. The majority decision by the SCOTUS was that the officers were coerced to make statements and incriminate themselves and not afforded their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment protections.

So how does this apply to you? Chances are, it doesn’t. Keep in mind though, the CIC has members in public-sector jobs. This absolutely applies to them. A public employee cannot be compelled to make self-incriminating statements as a result of this decision, named after one of the officers involved.

Garrity should not be confused with Weingarten Rights.  As public-sector employees, union members who work for governments are not protected under the NLRB which would include Weingarten; however, most municipalities do in fact extend Weingarten Rights to public workers.

It gets complicated, but if a public-sector employee is being questioned in a manner that could lead to legal action, he or she should be given a Garrity Warning first, typically in writing.

Knowing your rights is essential. Knowing your rights at work are part of being a well-informed worker. If you are a public-sector, make sure you are aware of your Garrity Rights.

Happy Labor Day

Labor Day is the only holiday dedicated to the American worker. It is a reminder that Americans are workers and the labor movement was an essential part of building this country. Furthermore, it goes to show that power of workers when they organize and just how strong we are when we stand together.

Many believe that the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners was one of the originators of the holiday. This occurred in 1882 when General Secretary Peter J. McGuire suggested there should be a holiday to celebrate laborers. Others stated it was other brothers on the early forefront of the labor movement who conceived of the holiday.

What is known without a doubt is that Labor Day has become a testament to the strength and endurance of the American worker. Every year workers pause from their labor to celebrate that which makes both the American worker and America in general truly magnificent. No matter the trade, the American worker has shown themselves to be a force to be reckoned with.

Though this Labor Day is bittersweet, knowing that we have brothers and sisters struggling through the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, we continue to stand united as union brothers and sisters to further the cause of the labor movement and to remind the world that we stand Union Strong.

Charter Schools: Your taxes, Their Profits

Shopping for school clothes and supplies is a rite of passage for most children and a signal that the summer vacation is coming to an end. Soon the children will be boarding buses and waiting in drop-off lines. When they arrive at their schools they will be greeted by smiling and friendly faces.

Those faces belong to teachers who have dedicated their careers to educating the children that fill their classroom. When it comes to public schools, those teachers are union brothers and sisters, who work with the security of a collective bargain agreement.

Teachers at private institutions rarely work under a collective bargaining agreement, but those institutions do not receive public funds. Their income comes in the form of tuition paid by students and donations from private entities.

However, there is a hybrid to our current education model: the charter school.

Charter schools are private schools that receive public money to function. Typically students will receive a voucher from their state government to pay their tuition to attend the school. This voucher may pay the entire tuition; if not, the student’s family is required to pay the remainder of the bill.

Charter schools typically employ teachers who are not protected by a collective bargaining. Without a union, these teachers are subject to the whim of administrations or corporate boards. Though many of these charter schools are structured as non-profits, it is important to remember that executive salaries are not considered profit. Even if a charter school is structured a non-profit, they may still pay their employees lavish salaries. These salaries would rarely go to the teachers or support staff.

A considerable amount of charter schools operate on a for-profit model.
There seems to be a sense of hostility towards unions among the owners and operators of charter schools.

When teachers enter their classrooms, their focus should be on teaching. Collective bargaining agreements and the protections a union provides allows teachers to work with a sense of security and to focus on providing students with the highest quality education possible.

When teachers start educating in a manner focused on profits and making sure corporate metrics are met, children suffer. Schools should answer to parents and the community, not corporate executives. The goal of a school should be a quality education, not profit. The US educational system, especially K through 12, must not be turned over to private, non-union companies. If this is allowed to happen, we can rest assured a hard lesson will be learned.

The Burger of the Future

There is nothing more American than sitting down to the table and enjoying a good burger. They’re entrenched in our culture, and the institutions that make them are part of our landscape. They are iconic. When someone says Big Mac or Whopper, you know exactly what the mean. There have been some duds along the way (Do you remember the Arch Deluxe or the McDlt), but the burger remains an ever-popular offering on the American dinner plate.

In previous articles we discussed the plight of minimum wage workers and how automation (such as self-scanning checkouts) threaten modern jobs; however, there is a new threat arising and it has to do with how we get our burgers.

There is a current push within the fast food industry to automate the ordering system. Instead of entering a restaurant and walking to a counter where an actual person takes your order, the industry is testing and implementing self-service, touch-screen systems.

While the self-scanning checkouts were marketed as an improvement to customer service (though the author thoroughly disagrees with that marketing statement), the self-service ordering systems are a direct response to the service industry’s struggle for a living wage.

Workers rise up together. They fall down together, too. Over the last few years, minimum wage workers have been embroiled in the struggle for a living wage. It looks like the response from the corporate boardroom is not to come to the table in the spirit of negotiation. Rather: the executives in these industries seem to be more determined to silence these workers by eliminating their jobs.

If you want them to hold the pickles or a little extra ketchup, it is easy to just let the person behind the counter know. Also, if the fast food industry is able to cut cost be eliminating workers, are you going to benefit from that as a customer? Are they going to give you a discount for your burger in exchange for you doing the work to order it?

There were no discounts given in grocery stores for using automated checkout; don’t believe for one second that these automated ordering systems in burger joints will do anything to save you a buck or two. In fact, the most likely result of these new ordering devices is people losing their jobs and more money in executive pockets. The burger of future needs to be made by human hands. If automated ordering becomes your only option go to your backyard and fire up the grill.

Everyone Was a Newbie Once

“Hey, is that the new guy?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“What’s his name?”

“Can’t remember.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

“Who cares, right? He probably won’t last anyway.”

We all know that scenario.

When you are the new person at work, some good-natured ribbing from your new co-workers is expected. It is a time honored tradition. It allows both the old workers and new workers to get to know one another. Also, it allows both sides to find common interests that may extend outside of the workplace. Keep this in mind though: this new worker will also be your new brother or sister within the local union.

Also, we all remember our first days on a new job. It can be awkward and it can be intimidating. Having someone approach you and welcome you to the team or the job site can make all the difference.

Another important aspect to consider is the fact that new employees in right to work (for less) states may not have made their mind up as to whether or not they are going to sign a dues card. Having someone from the union approach them – not only as an active member of the local – but also as a warm, inviting, and friendly face could be what helps them decide to pick up a pen and sign that card.

Whether we like it or not, very often the first months of employment can be a push and pull between alliances. Especially in RTW states, having a positive presence from the union could be the difference between an engaged, dues-paying member and a free rider. We all know how hard the first few days on a job can be. Why not be the person who helps the new people move from newbie to member of the team? And – while you’re at it – why not make sure they become a brother or sister as well.

Happy Father’s Day

On Father’s Day, let’s take a few minutes to think about what Union membership does for dads. Every father in America wants to get up in the morning and go to work, so he can support his children.

There is a good chance he is one working person in a two-income family, and he wants his work to – not only contribute to the well-being of the household – but also be an example of what it is to be a working person to his children.

One of the most important lessons that fathers can teach their children about work is pride. Working union makes us work with pride, knowing that our work is part of something bigger than ourselves.

When a father works union, he also shows his children that dignity is an essential component of work. Working union shows us that we are to be respected when we are at work. We both give and receive respect.

Another aspect a father wants to show his children is strength. When we work Union, we are working together with an unstoppable level of strength.

When a father has a daughter, he wants her to know she deserves equal pay for equal work. Unions have long been an assertive voice for fairness in the workplace and have sought to bring equality to the working world.

Happy Father’s Day to all those dads out there who work to provide for their children and show their kids the value and honor of work. A special thanks to all those dads who work Union Strong.

The Protections in Place

Accidents happen. They often happen at work. Sometimes people get sick due to conditions at work or because of something they’re exposed to while on the job. This is just part of how the world works. It happens. When it happens at work, there are protections in place to help workers to get well from their injury or sickness, but when the situation becomes permanent it is important for workers to know what their options are.

One of the most important aspects of this is as follows: Workman’s Compensation and the American’s with Disabilities Act are not the same thing.

Workman’s Compensation deals with the treatment of the injury. This act is in place to assist those who have been hurt at work or are suffering as a result of their job. The purpose of the act is to get workers treated and back into their jobs. It covers doctor’s visits and treatment for the situation the worker is experiencing.

If the injury or sickness becomes permanent, the employer is still liable to pay for the worker’s medical costs for the injury or illness, but they are not obligated to continue the worker’s employment.

That’s right. If someone is hurt on the job or becomes sick as a result of their job, Workman’s Compensation does not protect his or her job. In fact, the employer can fire the worker if he or she is no longer capable of doing his or her job as a result of their sickness and/or injury.

Once the illness or injury becomes permanent, it could possibly be covered under the American’s with Disabilities Act or ADA. If the worker is able to get approved for an accommodation under the ADA, the worker’s job would be protected. It may not be the same job he or she was doing before, but the worker would still have the ability to make a living.

Accidents happen, but the fallout from those accidents can get complicated. It is important that workers know what protections are available to them and that the protection may change as the situation does.

When you are hurt or sick, the last thing you want to worry about is your job. Ideally, we would just all know that our job is there and waiting for us when we get well, and one way for workers to make that possible is to know their options and the protections provided to them. It is also important to know the difference between the various programs available.

The Ghost of May Day Past

Another May Day has come and gone.

Time to take down the May Day decorations and throw out that last container of May Day dinner leftovers. Take a deep breath and sigh that the kids have already stopped playing with their May Day presents. There is nothing left to do, but sit back and reflect on the true meaning of May Day, and that is this: people literally died for the privileges many workers take for granted today.

May Day, as it is celebrated today, originated in 1886. It is in direct reference to an event commonly known as the Haymarket Affair. At the beginning of May 1886, a national labor protest was occurring across the country to fight for the eight-hour work day.

Most of these protests were peaceful. This was not the case in Chicago. When a group of scabs under armed protections exited a workplace that was the center of one of the Chicago protests, shots were fired and people were killed.

The details are not going to be discussed at length here. There are many resources that provide information about all of the events of the Haymarket Affair. The truth and most salient point to be made, however, is the events of the Haymarket Affair led to a holiday that is still celebrated around the world.

In some locations, it is marked with parades and feasts to honor working people. In others, it is honored with peaceful protests. In some places, it is all but ignored.

It is an important day in the history of the labor movement. It is a day all union brothers and sisters should remember and keep with them.

Just as Mr. Scrooge was encouraged to keep the spirit of Christmas with him all year long in his dealings with his fellow human beings, perhaps we should keep the spirit of May Day with us in the work that we do and in the way we treat our fellow union members.

TGIF: See You at Work Tomorrow

It is often stated that if you are enjoying your weekend, you should thank a labor union. We see this sentiment displayed all over social media these days, especially around Labor Day. Of course, the history of the weekend and the 40-hour work week is also subject to debate. Many anti-labor voices want to take credit away from Unions when discussing weekend, the 40-hour work week, paid holidays, and other rights and protections enjoyed by today’s workers; however, the truth remains: if not for the persistence, lobbying, and diligence of Labor Unions, many things modern workers take for granted would not exist, such as the weekend.

Labor Unions were fighting for the eight-hour work day and the 40-hour work week as early as the late 1800’s. Before their efforts, most workers could expect a six-day work week. Furthermore, workers were lucky if their shift was ten hours long. Most workers could expect their work day to be at least twelve hours or longer.

It is true that Henry Ford did implement the 40-hour work week and the eight-hour work day for his employees. He did this to attract and keep workers and to ensure the quality of the products they produced. He did so in a very public fashion, but he was not the first employer to implement these practices.

Also, the protections provided by Ford were at his pleasure and not a guarantee for workers. In other words, it was not law.

Labor Unions continued their efforts to bring these protections to workers for decades before it was finally signed into law. That law that ultimately resulted was the Fair Labor Standards Act, which provides protections to workers to this day.

This act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt, and it established the 40-hour work week and the eight hour days as the standard for all American workers. It also asserted time and a half for overtime, the minimum wage, and a plethora of other protections.

The push for this type of legislation took decades to pass. Though a few employers, such as Ford, had implemented similar practices for their workers, it was the Labor Movement that kept the fire burning for works resulting in actual legislation that governs all workers in America.

Let us remain steadfast to prevent these rights and protections from becoming a thing of the past.