MRC Updates

MRC Update 12/12/2014

More than just talk: Tools and Tips for Stewards from the Member Resource Center

A Lack of Response Can Constitute Denial

Steward: Micki Varney
Location: ODFW Salem

Working from home, or telecommuting, is on the rise and is a common occurrence at the ODFW office where steward Micki Varney is employed. So it was surprising to learn that over a two-year period, four different requests to management for telecommuting consideration by a co-worker had been ignored or postponed to a later date.

Micki immediately set up a meeting between herself, her co-worker and his immediate supervisor, but the attendees grew to include the HR Deputy Administrator and the ODFW sub-local union president. Quoting the language from a Letter of Agreement from contract negotiations the previous year, Micki let them know that kicking the request down the road to another supervisor or later date had become a “reasonable denial of the application” and was in violation of the LOA that states, “no request to telecommute or telework shall be unreasonably denied.”

Management’s response was a recommendation for her co-worker to reapply when his new supervisor arrived in a month or so. Having already experienced postponement of a decision on his application due to a supervisor retiring, two supervisor changes and two applications that were just ignored, the Union wasn’t willing to let them use management changes as an excuse any longer. A grievance was filed on the worker’s behalf.

Part of the remedy for the grievance included the outgoing supervisor conveying to the incoming supervisor that the worker’s job profile was suitable for telecommuting under both DAS policy guidelines, the LOA and agency policy. Management denied the grievance, in part because of the supervisor change, though the current supervisor did agree to speak to the incoming supervisor. To ensure open lines of communication, Micki also included the incoming supervisor in the process through periodic updates.

When Micki appealed the grievance to Step 2, management argued that the grievance should have been filed with DAS Labor Relations. This left Micki with two choices—argue that her interpretation of the language in the LOA was correct substantiated by the fact that the grievance had already been accepted by the agency or file with DAS Labor Relations. With the MRC behind her decision, she chose the first option.

ODFW management then requested clarification on interpretation of the contract language in dispute from their representative at the bargaining table. Micki’s interpretation was upheld. Throughout the process, Micki kept in touch with an MRC organizer to first confirm the LOA language interpretation, and then for advice and guidance. Micki, who took the lead on the grievance, was fortified by the MRC’s encouragement and support.

At the Step 2 meeting, Micki and the grievant met with the Interim Director and the HR Deputy Administrator to attempt to come to a resolution. Micki explained that the grievant had met with his incoming supervisor the day before, and after a cooperative discussion, his new supervisor had accepted and signed his telecommuting agreement. Micki also pointed out that this outcome was mutually satisfactory for the worker and his new supervisor. The Union agreed to withdraw the grievance once the application received all six necessary approval signatures. The following week, motivated by pressure from grievance timelines, all signatures were obtained. Micki credits continued pressure and follow through as a means to a successful result.

Following this event, Micki received a completed bargaining survey from the grievant, one of the first Union activities in which her co-worker participated. He also sent her an email stating that without the assistance of the Union, he doubted that an agreement would ever have been reached. Building activists one worker at a time is gratifying to Micki, who knows the worker now has a clear understanding of the power and importance of contract language and the Union in our daily work lives.


Keeping Background Checks in Check

Steward: Larry Williams
Location: BOLI in Gresham

When Larry Williams’ co-worker was hired at BOLI three years ago at salary range 19 as an Administrative Specialist 2, based on BOLI policy, a background check was not required. It wasn’t until his promotion to a salary range 23 position as a Wage & Hour Compliance Specialist that BOLI, in violation of the contract, ran a background check and because there was a misdemeanor on his record, the co-worker’s trial service was terminated after two months in his new position. In accordance with contract language regarding promotional trial service, he was returned to his previous position at salary range 19.

Even though BOLI followed the contract in one article, the background check violated BOLI policy and a change in this policy violated another area of the contract. The affected worker, a steward himself, contacted the MRC for direction. They recommended he work with another steward to help resolve the dispute. Larry Williams took the case and Larry enlisted the MRC for help in drafting the grievance, which was filed at Step 1. The background check and pay reduction were indisputable violations of the contract and BOLI management quickly opted for a settlement.

During the time it took to process the grievance, management had filled the vacated Wage & Hour Compliance Specialist position, leaving the grievant without the option to be reinstated into the promotional position. His only option was to remain in the Administrative Specialist 2 position, which was in a lower salary range. To make him whole, BOLI agreed to keep paying him at a comparable salary—step 5 of the Admin Spec 2 range which was slightly higher than Step 1 of the Wage & Hour Compliance Spec salary—and to pay him back wages for the difference between SR19 and SR23 from the time he was removed from trial service to the time of the settlement.

This remedy was satisfactory to the grievant and the Union. The take away? Know your contract and whether or not background checks are appropriate. Remember to keep those background checks in check!

BOLI is now planning to change its policy on background checks; since the contract prohibits a change in the policy without bargaining, the Union is now exploring next steps in this process.


Tip of the day: When not to file a grievance

Here are some grievances that cannot or should not ever be filed:

Filing a grievance against another worker instead of management: it is simply not possible for a worker to file a grievance against another non-management employee. The collective bargaining agreement is a legally binding contract between the workers as a group (the Union) and the employer (management). A grievance is a complaint that the contract between labor and management was broken.

Sometimes, unfortunately, co-workers can treat each other badly, but this is not a violation of the contract between labor and management. In most cases, the best approach is for the workers to try to resolve the issues directly with each other. Sometimes a mutually respected co-worker can mediate, but if the problem cannot be resolved directly between co-workers or with such mediation, the issue can be brought to your HR department, especially in cases of harassment and discrimination. Remember, though, “divide and conquer” has been a long-used and successful management tactic, so always try to resolve differences directly first. In cases of discrimination between workers when one or some of them belong to a legally protected class, management does have an obligation to investigate, and if discrimination is found, to act. Management’s failure to do so may then result in a grievance against management.

Filing a grievance to break the contract in a way that would hurt other workers: for example, a worker had resigned and was then rehired after three years. The worker’s hire letter stated that the worker’s vacation accrual rate would be the same as it was when she resigned, even though the union contract said that after two years away from the employer, a re-hired employee would have the same vacation accrual rate as any new employee. When the worker realized she was accruing vacation at the rate of a new employee, she worked with a steward to pursue a grievance, which ended up at arbitration screening. The arbitration screening panel was sympathetic to the worker, who had taken the job with the understanding that she would have a much higher vacation accrual rate, and even had a letter saying so. In the end, however, the case was turned down because there was no violation to the union contract and allowing the contract to be ignored in one case opens the door in other cases that could be very damaging to most employees.

The union contract protects individual workers but it exists to protect workers as a group. Grievances belong to the union, not to individuals: most union contracts do not allow individuals to pursue grievances on their own behalf beyond the first step of the grievance procedure, and stewards have the authority to decide whether a grievance should be pursued or settled, as long as the Duty of Fair Representation is not violated.


2015 Stewards Conference: In It Together

Saturday, January 24, 2015
9:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m.
DoubleTree by Hilton, Portland

Click here for more information and to register.

Registration deadline is 5 p.m., Friday, January 9, 2015Please note that workshop attendance is capped; you should only register for the workshop that you will attend.

Official SEIU 503 stewards are welcome to attend this conference to learn valuable skills and build solidarity with other leaders from around the state. We hope to see you there!

Upcoming Steward Trainings

Jan. 24 [2015] – Stewards’ Conference / Portland Doubletree by Hilton 9:30–7:30 pm / workshops include: Fundamentals of Representation (a review for experienced stewards), Just Cause, and Grievance Database Registration deadline is 5 p.m., Friday, January 9, 2015. Click here for more information and to register.

To sign up for a training please contact your local SEIU 503 Field office

In most cases, contract enforcement trainings will be offered in your area.   Please make an effort to attend trainings close to you.

Help Keep our Stewards List Updated

If you know of a steward who is not receiving this email, or who may have changed email addresses, please ask them to update their information here.


Steward Jackets

Stewards with five continuous years as a shop steward with SEIU Local 503 are eligible to receive a Super Steward Jacket. Order your jacket here.

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MRC Update 11/2/2014

More than just talk: Tools and Tips for Stewards from the Member Resource Center

Adult Foster Home Provider Uses the Union Contract to Win the War for Fair Wages

Steward: Amber Handel, AFH provider
Location: Coos Bay

Amber Handel is a steward for Adult Foster Home providers, but her assertiveness and tenacity on her own behalf, as well as newly won transparency in how service fees are set, made a big difference for Amber’s Adult Foster Home.

Hearing from another union provider in August that pay rates for some providers delivering critical care had gone up in January, Amber Handel was dismayed, as she was sure she probably qualified for the higher rate, but wasn’t receiving it.

She found that her rate had not been updated in the State’s computer system and she reached out to an MRC organizer for help. The organizer’s research determined that she needed to get her consumer’s LOTUS score on which the State used to determine the rates and it was determined that based on that score, she was to receive the rate increase.

Amber called her Case Manager and found that following the 2013 November assessment, her consumer’s qualifying LOTUS score had been entered into the computer correctly and timely, however, the System Manager had not updated her pay rate.

The rate difference between what Amber was being paid previously and what she was supposed to receive beginning in January 2014 was $3400 per month. The State was clearly out of compliance for eight months. Although the road to getting this remedied proved challenging at times, Amber got her “growl on” and her determination and assertiveness, along with having the MRC as a resource, literally paid off. Just prior to the 2014 September pay period, her monthly pay rate was adjusted to the new rate of $5000 per month and soon after; she received a $26,000 check for the arrearages.

Fighting for Progressive Discipline

Steward: Jonathan Spagle
Location: DHS, Tillamook

Ethics violations are serious and an arduous task to prove or disprove. When DHS steward Jonathan Spagle was called on to represent a fellow Case Worker accused of ethics violations, he began with a thorough investigation and found that when it comes to ethics, there is definitely gray area and it can be up to one’s interpretation.

A 15-year employee with no previous discipline, the worker unexpectedly found herself facing charges of “conflict of interest and untruthfulness ” from her employer concerning an intake she had done outside the normal scheduling hours for someone they alleged was a personal friend. She was notified they would be holding a fact-finding meeting. The worker contacted her steward, Jonathan Spagle, right away and he contacted the MRC for support and guidance.

Once confident of their rights and responsibilities regarding the fact-finding meeting, he was in a better position to represent the worker during the proceeding.

Although the worker only knew the applicant as a high school acquaintance of her sons, DHS alleged that the worker and applicant were friends, with the applicant being a frequent visitor to the worker’s home, and showed evidence that they were even Facebook friends. The worker admitted to meeting the applicant on one occasion at her home, but denied knowing her on a personal level and when management raised their friends status on Facebook – showing she’d even commented on one of the applicant’s photos, the worker stated she was unaware that she had “friended” her on Facebook and did not consider her a friend.

The worker was asked about how she obtained the application on this particular intake, whether she received a blank one from her supervisor or one generated through their system. They also inquired about the need to conduct after 4:00pm, which is outside their normal scheduling hours, even though special accommodations are sometimes made. With the fact-finding concluded, Jonathan and the worker were notified that DHS had scheduled a pre-dismissal hearing and Jonathan began building their case.

Accused of untruthfulness in how you received the application for the client, stating the worker got it from the receptionist, but the receptionist said she picked up a new one, indicating the intake was not generated through the system and a conflict of interest by assisting a personal friend.

With the continued guidance of the MRC organizer, he researched DHS rules and ethics policies, conducted numerous interviews and developed exhibits to refute the interpretation of the circumstances by DHS that led to the initial allegations. He was able to build an extremely thorough and effective rebuttal for each and every charge.

At the pre-dismissal, Jonathan argued that some of the judgments made by the grievant – where the policies are concerned – were subjective and that she did not act intentionally or maliciously and that the client, in workers’ interpretation, was not a personal friend. For each charge, he provided the mitigating circumstance and an exhibit of support, be it a statement from another caseworker regarding normal work schedule accommodations, statements of the applicant’s credibility and possible motivation to make inaccurate claims, examples of posting behavior from his own Facebook account to mitigate the charge that because someone “likes” a photo on someone’s account, it doesn’t mean they’re friends, a supportive statement from the DHS Resource Center Director, and/or statements from co-workers supporting the grievant’s credibility.

The worker did, however, admit that the accumulation of errors pointed out by management, including her recollection of how she received the application, the fact that her Facebook page showed the client as a friend, and errors on the application itself, could be perceived as her being personally involved with the client.

Admitting there could be a perception of culpability was an important acknowledgement by the grievant and perhaps allowed management to open their minds to how this could have been perceived by the grievant.
That, coupled with Jonathan’s “Final Statement with Exhibits” where he expertly presented mitigating facts, accompanied by exhibits, which refuted each charge, put doubts in the managers’ minds about how various things might be perceived.

The grievant admitted exercising poor judgment regarding the potentially perceived conflict of interest, and the Union did not argue that discipline was unwarranted, but adamantly argued that dismissal was not appropriate. Jonathan argued that the additional information put forth in the mitigating facts and exhibits supported a case where progressive discipline may be warranted, but certainly not dismissal.

Ultimately, when all arguments from the pre-dismissal hearing were considered, the DHS Human Resources Manager decided that termination was not in order and citing failure to follow DHS policy, procedure, expectations, statute and supervisor’s directives, they implemented discipline in the form of a One Step, three month salary reduction.

The grievant and Jonathan felt this was an acceptable outcome based on what they had learned to be some gray area around the interpretation of ethics violations and policies.

Tip of the day: Difficult Contract Interpretation Situations

Most grievances do not get filed because of a contract violation that is cut and dried. Every contract has some grey areas, like in negotiations when the union and management both think the language is clear in a way that each side thinks favors them, and they never discussed it to ensure there was a “meeting of the minds.” Sometimes, in negotiations, language is deliberately left unclear because both sides know they will get in a stalemate on the real issue and don’t want to hold up the rest of the contract. In cases like these, a decision is made to let the grievance procedure (and sometimes arbitration) be the process that’s used to clarify the meaning of the contract.

Here is an example in which the Union bargaining team believed that the contract language they negotiated made seniority the prime standard in awarding extra shifts:

Patient census at a nursing home had increased, and more CNAs were needed than were on the schedule. Employees had signed up on an “extra-shift” list to let the employer know that they would like to be asked if extra shifts were available.

The contract said:

“The Employer will incorporate the following guidelines when making necessary hour increases:
(a) The Employer will request on-duty employees to work extended hours to cover the unassigned shift and shall offer such hours to the most senior volunteer.
(b) The Employer will accept volunteers to assume unassigned shift hours using a seniority based volunteer list (Employees must sign-up on the list by the twentieth (20th) of the month prior to the posting of the schedule);
(c) The Employer will request on-call employees to work the unassigned shift hours;
(d) The Employer will request temporary employees to work the unassigned shift hours.”

However, instead of asking the most senior volunteer, that person was skipped over in favor of a less senior volunteer. When questioned, management said they could do so because the most senior volunteer would have earned overtime had they worked the extra shift, while the less senior volunteer would not.

Elsewhere in the contract, this language appeared:

“The Employer reserves the right to change the schedule even after it has been posted to meet its operational needs, including for low census reductions.”


“All overtime must be approved in advance by the Administrator/designee.”

Citing the “operational need” and overtime language in the contract, management said that controlling overtime costs was an “operational need” and operational need allowed management to override other scheduling provisions of the contract.

The Union Steward filed a grievance and took it through all steps of the grievance procedure. The case passed arbitration screening and, after several months, was finally at a hearing. The employer offered a settlement: they would pay the more senior worker for the overtime shift and would sign a letter of agreement that all things being equal in terms of overtime shifts, the extra shift would be awarded to the most senior employee.

The Steward and grievant turned down the deal because they did not believe that lower overtime costs constituted an “operational need,” and felt that the offer undermined the principle of seniority.
Unfortunately, the arbitrator did not agree, and as a result, the senior worker who did not get the shift, did not receive pay, and the employer had clearly established the right to ignore seniority when awarding an extra shift that would result in overtime. Union members took a chance that an arbitrator would agree with their point of view, but they were wrong; the contract language was clarified, but not in a way that favored the concept of seniority.

Should the grievance have been pursued? In this case, there is not a simple answer. The grievance was lost and the employer sealed its ability to award shifts using avoidance of overtime as a primary consideration. On the other hand, union members stood up and fought for an important principle. That battle was lost, but it positioned them to push back in future contract negotiations to strengthen the seniority principle.


Reimbursement for Costs of Representation

When a steward travels a significant distance in order to represent a worker in an investigatory, disciplinary, or grievance meeting, the principles outlined in Article VI of the AP&Ps should be followed for reimbursement of expenses related to such representation (for example; mileage, lodging and meals). If costs are to come out of the General Fund, please contact an MRC Organizer before traveling, if it is at all possible, in order to discuss possible alternatives. Requests for General Fund reimbursement may not be granted without having this discussion before the travel occurs. If it was not possible to discuss the travel prior to its occurrence, please contact an MRC Organizer as soon as possible. Requests for General Fund reimbursement for steward expenses should include the name(s) of who was represented, the type of the meeting (e.g. fact-finding, pre-dismissal, etc.), and include receipts for meals and lodging.


2013-2015 Outstanding Steward Award

Nominations are still open for the Outstanding Steward Awards. If you know a steward who deserves special recognition for:

  • skill in representation and contract enforcement;
  • success in building Union and CAPE membership;
  • outstanding leadership in problem-solving ability acknowledged by union Brothers and Sisters; or
  • skill in organizing around a grievance or other issue.

Click here to nominate a steward today! Nominations close at 5:00 p.m. November 7.


Upcoming Steward Trainings

Nov. 15 – Eugene Field Office, Arbitration Screening Panel • Saturday 9:00–4:30

Dec. 5 & 6 – Salem HQ, Contract Enforcement Training • Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30, Saturday 9:00–4:00

Dec. 5 & 6 – Coos Bay, Location TBD, Contract Enforcement Training • Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30, Saturday 9:00–4:00

To sign up for a training please contact your local SEIU 503 Field office

In most cases, contract enforcement trainings will be offered in your area. Please make an effort to attend trainings close to you.

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MRC update 10/7/14

More than just talk: Tools and Tips for Stewards from the Member Resource Center

Tipping the Balance of Power

Karen MillerSteward: Karen Miller
Location: Dept. of Human Services – Portland

Information is always key to putting together a good case.  Diligent investigation will often provide a big boost for a steward seeking information that might tip the scales in a worker’s favor especially when discipline has been given. In a dismissal case where the job has been lost and there is everything to gain if we can effectively show merit, you’ve got to do a complete and thorough union investigation. That’s how Karen Miller approached a particular dismissal case she took on as DHS Chief Steward.

Shortly after filing a discrimination charge against the State, a DHS Foster Home Certifier was dismissed for failure to perform and/or document foster home house visits mandated by DHS policy. Chief Steward Karen Miller heard about the situation, contacted the worker and in conjunction with the MRC, immediately began the union’s process of compiling information and formulating a case strategy.

As the Steward, Karen developed an extensive request for information from the State that ultimately resulted in her discovering that the worker was challenged with an incredible workload during the time in question. She found out the worker was carrying a full workload that included required monthly face-to-face visits and reporting with the children involved, the foster parents, parents, teachers, and neighbors. She was overseeing more than a full foster home review assignment.

Steward Karen’s comprehensive investigation indicated there was merit to file a grievance. She based the filing on the discovery of a number of issues like workload, software navigation, computer outages, plus the time investment needed for house and face-to-face visit schedules. The case was made that it was difficult to get all visits recorded into the required computer programs. Karen also discovered that the worker had kept records on her desk calendar and they were provided to management along with the grievance. She used the grievance to call the State to task for dismissing the worker when they were accountable themselves for much of what had gone wrong.

The grievance stressed that the level of discipline was extreme and called for the worker to be returned to the job and be made whole.  The State, via their Labor Relations Unit, reviewed the grievance.  They agreed to the Steward’s recommended remedy that the worker be restored to the job.

There’s more. In a remedy agreeable to the worker and with the necessary approval by the union, DHS not only agreed to reinstate the worker but also agreed to a request by the worker to be moved to different location, allowing for a fresh start. The balance of the agreement converted the dismissal to an unpaid suspension that protected both sick leave accruals and the worker’s PERS benefits.

The Steward’s diligence tipped the balance of power our way, saving the job of a co-worker and securing a victory for the Union.


Classifying the Unclassified

During a recent reorganization of the Oregon University System, alert Union leaders at Southern Oregon University discovered during the creation of a Central Business Center that five Administrative Program Specialists, performing what appeared to be bargaining unit duties, were designated as unclassified, or employees outside the bargaining unit.

At the next meeting of the Union leadership, past-president Danielle Wechselberger and past-VP Colleen Martin-Low brought it to the attention of the new leaders, President Charles Douglas and VP Zoey Boyles, who quickly took up the charge and began an investigation.

First, they requested position descriptions for the five workers in question. The SOU Director of Human Resources agreed to the request, but missed the initial deadline due to SOU’s on-going reorganization. By their next scheduled meeting, HR had conducted desk audits on all five workers and determined that three of the positions should rightfully be moved into the bargaining unit and two should remain as unclassified.

HR’s audit, which determined where the three BU positions would fit into the classification structure, resulted in one worker being placed into a lower classification and pay-range than they were in. This was totally unacceptable to Union leadership, whose negotiations with HR resulted in a non-precedent setting Letter of Agreement (LOA) that red-circled the workers’ pay for the duration of her time in that position. Once a ‘memorandum of understanding’ on this issue was received from HR, it was reviewed by the MRC before Leadership signed off on it.

Several of the reasons cited by HR for leaving the other two positions unclassified included; managerial duties, independent decision-making, no supervisory requirements and they even cited 2% strike prep. Leadership questioned the 2% strike prep—easily assigned to someone else—as a valid reason, but when all duties were taken into consideration, it was agreed there was sufficient justification for the positions to remain unclassified.

Tip of the day: Insubordination

Ella Bloor was having a bad day. Her computer kept crashing, the copier kept jamming, and the phones wouldn’t stop ringing. She had to have a report done by the end of the day, but it seemed like events were conspiring against her, so her ability to finish the report on time was in jeopardy. Her coworker, Susan, was out sick, and in the middle of the afternoon, her boss came up to her and said, “Susan has an appointment with a client at 4 PM today. I need you to cover that for her. “

“No way” said Ella, “I’ve got my hands full with my work and the contract says I don’t have to take on extra case work unless it’s an emergency. Can’t the meeting with the client be rescheduled?”

“I’m telling you to cover Susan’s meeting,” said her boss. “If you don’t, you’ll be fired for insubordination.”

Sally Hemmings, the department Steward witnessed this, and when she and Ella had a break, Sally talked with Ella. Sally then went into the supervisors’ office. “We have to talk about what you just said to Ella,” she said. Benito Mussolini, the supervisor looked up at her, “I don’t have time to talk about this now, see me tomorrow.” “No way” said Sally, “We’re going to talk about this now.” “Oh yeah?” snarled Benito, “Get out of my office or I’ll have you fired for insubordination too.”

Management loves power. The ability to threaten workers with punishment for being insubordinate is a tool that many managers use to enforce their power.

Even when workers stand up for their rights under the contract, they can be punished for insubordination. This whole area of labor law is one where it becomes clear that under current labor law, the system is stacked against workers. The law treats management as “Masters,” and workers like “Servants.” It is wrong and unfair, but it is the system that our contracts and labor laws operate within.

What Is Insubordination?

Here is how one management document describes insubordination:

Insubordination is a deliberate and inexcusable refusal to obey a reasonable order that relates to an employee’s job function.

Employees may not decide for themselves which instructions they will follow and which they will not.

This is pretty much how most arbitrators or the NLRB would describe insubordination. BUT, as we all know, there are different levels of insubordination and the behavior of management often has an impact on whether the actions of an employee are considered insubordinate or not.

Guideline To Use When Investigating An Employer Charge Of Insubordination

There are two basic tests for insubordination. (1) Was the worker given a clear direct order to do something? (2) Did the worker clearly know the consequences of refusing the direct order? This usually means the management person giving the direct order must tell the worker what will happen if they refuse the order.

Employees do have the right to question and argue about an order given by their boss.

It is not insubordination if a management person tells a worker to do something and the worker responds by asking questions or giving their reasons why they shouldn’t have to do what the boss wants.

It is not insubordination if the worker asks to have a Steward present to explain to management how the order given violates the union contract.

It may become insubordination if the worker consistently refuses to do what the boss wants after being directly ordered to go perform the task.

It may be insubordination if the worker does not argue with management but never does what he/she has been ordered to do.

Generally an act can become insubordination after the management person tells the worker that they are being given a direct order and tells the worker that they will be punished if they fail to carry out the direct order. This does not mean that the boss can immediately give a worker a direct order with the threat of punishment and not have to listen to the worker’s objections.

It is not insubordination to refuse if following the direct order will immediately put the worker or other worker’s lives in danger. The threat however has to be real and immediate.

It is not usually insubordination if the management person giving the order is not the worker’s normal boss or part of the “chain of command” that the worker would normally have to follow. Rather than just refusing the order of the management person, the worker should insist upon finding his/her regular supervisor and having them make the decision as to what the worker should be doing.

What should a worker do if following the order management gives will cause damage to a machine, produce a poor product or result in inferior services provided? The worker should clearly point out to management what the bad results of their order will be and ask for a witness to hear the warning the worker is giving management. If the worker does this then they generally cannot be disciplined for the resulting damage or inferior product/services.

If a worker is charged with insubordination, the Steward should perform an investigation of the situation surrounding the events. Many workers who have been charged with insubordination have been cleared when the investigation shows that management people harassed them and then they respond to the harassment by using a poor choice of words.

“Shoptalk,” that is, the use of salty language, is not automatically grounds for insubordination. Here again there are many factors involved. How much shoptalk goes on, on a regular basis? Do management people use shoptalk? Do management people and workers use shoptalk to each other? Just because there may be shoptalk as part of the regular day-to-day life of the workplace, a worker may be charged with insubordination if he/she uses an excessive amount towards a supervisor after having been asked to do something.

In another example of class bias in dealing with insubordination, arbitrators look at whether or not the supposed insubordination takes place in front of other workers. Using the idea of “masters” and “servants” most arbitrators believe that the management person is the “master,” and they tend to rule more harshly against workers if the “master” is ridiculed or disobeyed in front of other “servants.” In some cases arbitrators have ruled against workers when they bragged about what they called the boss in private.

Stewards And Insubordination

Stewards have a special status under rulings by the National Labor Relations Board and the Employment Relations Board in relation to insubordination. The NLRB has ruled, “When stewards are engaged in representational activities they are considered equals with management.” This means that when Stewards are dealing with management, as a Steward (not as an individual) they can engage in robust disagreement with a boss, they can use—to some extent—profanity, and generally they do not have to show deference to the boss. Stewards have a right to vigorously pursue an argument with management.

Here is what the NLRB said in one decision. Please carefully note the language the NLRB used:

The relationship at a grievance meeting is not a “master-servant” relationship but a relationship between company advocates on one side and union advocates on the other side, engaged as equal opposing parties in litigation.

What About Ella And Sally?

The situation with Ella is a classic case of a boss harassing a worker, but Ella needs to be careful since she was given a direct order and told what will happen to her if she refuses. On the other hand Ella has a right to argue her case and the boss clearly jumped the gun by threatening her right away.

Sally is in her right to stay in the boss’s office and continue arguing the case. She is in her steward role, and therefore, the boss cannot just dismiss her and refuse to discuss the situation. His threatening to fire her is also a violation of labor law because a steward cannot be threatened for doing her duty to represent workers.

The Savvy Steward

“Obey Now — Grieve Later”

Here is another blatantly class biased ruling that the National Labor Relations Board issued almost immediately after the passage of the Wagner Act (the original name for what we now call the National Labor Relations Act, NLRA) in 1936. There is nothing in the law or in the debate in Congress that states that management is superior to labor and that management orders take preference over labor agreements. Nevertheless, that is what this rule, that we are all too familiar with, states.

Workers are expected to obey management, even if what management clearly wants to do is illegal under the contract and then afterwards the workers can file a grievance.

How did this come about? The members of the National Labor Relations Board looked to past legal precedent, rather than what the new law actually said, when they made this ruling. In their minds the master-servant relationship between bosses and workers was clearly established in this country.

If we look back to the beginnings of this country, to the origins as a British colony we must deal with the horrendous specter of slavery and oppression. Here is what the Virginia law “An Act Concerning Servants and Slaves” said in 1705:

And also be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, that all servants shall faithfully and obediently, all the whole time of their service, do all their masters or owners just and lawful commands. And if any servant shall resist the master, or mistress, or overseer, or offer violence to any of them, the said servant shall, for every such offence, be adjudged to serve his or her said master or owner, one whole year after the time, by indenture, custom, or former order of court, shall be expired.

The law provided this type of punishment along with whipping for servants who were poor English or Irish workers; African slaves who disobeyed their masters could be murdered and the masters were, by this law, absolved of all charges. Servants but not slaves could bring complaints against their masters for mistreatment. Should the master be found guilty of mistreatment, the servant would be sold at public auction to the highest bidder.

It was this type of “law” that helped establish the law under which we live today. It is our role, as unionists, to counter balance the prevailing understanding of labor and management power. Stewards need to understand the law and their contracts so that they can help their coworkers push the envelope without being disciplined.


Upcoming Steward Trainings

Oct. 10 & 11 – Portland Field Office, Contract Enforcement Training • Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30,  Saturday 9:00–4:00

Oct 17 and 18 — Klamath Falls DHS Office 700 Klamath Ave, Contract Enforcement Training • Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30,  Saturday 9:00–4:00

Nov 15 — Eugene Field Office, Arb Screening Panel Training • 10 am – 4 pm

Dec. 5 & 6 – Salem HQ, Contract Enforcement Training • Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30, Saturday 9:00–4:00

To sign up for a training please contact your local SEIU 503 Field office

In most cases, contract enforcement trainings will be offered in your area.   Please make an effort to attend trainings close to you.

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MRC Update 8/4/2014

More than just talk: Tools and Tips for Stewards from the Member Resource Center

Overtime Issue Remedied Over Time

Steward: Jerry Johnson
Location: City of The Dalles

In the City of The Dalles, managers are required to assign overtime by seniority within each department. The City hires seasonal help during the summer.  Seasonal employees are not in the bargaining unit.

One summer weekend Jerry Johnson, an employee of the Sewer Department and a worksite steward of 11 years, was called in for an overtime shift. When he arrived he found that management had not followed protocol and had offered OT to a seasonal worker instead of a union employee.

After the supervisor had exhausted the Street Department’s seniority list, he recruited a seasonal worker from the Water Department, rather than first going to the Street Department’s seasonal worker or the citywide seniority list first. This was unacceptable and in direct violation of the collective bargaining agreement. When Jerry raised the issue, he was told that “management has the right to assign work” so he filed a grievance on behalf of the affected worker.

The member Arbitration Screening Committee agreed to send the grievance, denied by management at all steps of the grievance, to arbitration for resolution.

In the meantime, management inappropriately raised the grievance dispute during contract negotiations, which Jerry was quick to point out, insisting the grievance and bargaining be kept separate.

The Union bargaining team had proposed new language for the Overtime article that clarified how OT should be administered and management agreed. The language followed the exact process Jerry was fighting for in the grievance; OT should be offered first within the Department using the union member seniority list, then to seasonal help within the department, and then to the citywide employee seniority list.

Jerry was waiting for an arbitrator to be selected for his grievance when an MRC organizer called to check in. It seemed like the process had stalled. It turned out that he City believed the issue to be resolved with the change in contract language and had communicated that to the Union’s legal department. However, Jerry did not agree because the Union employee who missed out on the OT had not been made whole. Jerry had approached the City about resolving the issue, but the City was uninterested. Once management understood that the case was, in fact, going to a hearing, the City’s position changed. Soon after, Jerry received a letter from the City agreeing to a settlement. They offered to pay the grievant the wages he lost by not working the overtime. Jerry and the grievant accepted the City’s offer, but the grievance was not withdrawn until the check was in the grievant’s hands.

Truly a win–win. The grievant was made whole and the language on OT clarified in the contract.


Perseverance PAY$

Steward: Sabrina Rey
Location: Prestige Nursing Home

Perseverance and not going it alone really paid off for Sabrina Rey. As a new steward, Sabrina knew she was willing to go the extra mile to help her coworkers resolve problems, but to her surprise, it was an issue plaguing Sabrina herself that needed resolution and eventually, help from the MRC. 

Sabrina applied for family coverage through her employer and with Cover Oregon around the same time, and although she and her son qualified for OHP as of February 23rd, they did not recognize her fiancée as part of the family unit until they married on March 1st.

At the time she applied for employer coverage, Prestige told her it would take 30-60 days to determine her coverage status and no premium quote was given and nothing was signed at the time. Sabrina checked in with her HR person each week to see if a determination had been made, thinking that if they received family coverage, she would drop OHP. It wasn’t until May that she was told by her then, new HR person that family coverage had kicked in on March 1st, that it would run about $300 more per month and that she would have to make up nearly $1100 in premiums that had accrued between March and May.

By that time, her husband was covered by OHP and since the premium cost for Prestige family coverage was unaffordable, she requested they be dropped from the employer’s insurance. She was told the insurance would be cancelled and the premium arrearages would be written off.

Unfortunately, the insurance was not dropped and without her signed approval, they began deducting family rate premiums from her paychecks. She and her HR person spoke with Corporate thereafter, only to be told the promises they’d made previously could not be realized, as the open enrollment period had closed.

Since changes to insurance can only be made during open enrollment or due to a qualifying change or event, HR recommended she transfer to an on-call position with no benefits, a qualifying event that would stop her coverage, and then they would transfer her back to full-time. But, she would still owe $1100 in back premiums. This appeared to be Sabrina’s only alternative to avoid racking up over $7000 in future premium charges until the next open enrollment period, so she agreed. It was around this same time that Sabrina referenced her Union contract, which included information about the employer needing written consent to implement insurance deductions. That’s when she contacted the Member Resource Center.

The MRC organizer was decisive. First Prestige Corporate was contacted and he explained how unfairly Sabrina was being treated. At the same time, he was exploring ways to work with Sabrina’s organizer on a “shame campaign” should Corporate be unresponsive. But, due in part to the strong professional and non-adversarial relationship Sabrina had fostered with management, they were able to come together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and reach a satisfactory resolution.

The Corporate office immediately notified the insurance company that Sabrina no longer qualified for insurance, allowing her to get out of the current policy. They then wrote off the $1100 in back premium costs, reassigned to her original full-time position and reimbursed her for the three months of premium deductions that occurred prior to settlement.

Many things worked in Sabrina’s favor to get this optimal result; her perseverance, a good working relationship with her managers, and, rather than facing it alone, reaching out to the MRC.

Tip of the day: “Washout” Provisions in Collective Bargaining Agreements

A “Washout” provision is language in a contract (usually found in either the article on Discipline or Personnel Files) that says that after a certain amount and under certain conditions, disciplinary or other documents that are critical of the employee will be removed from the employee’s personnel file. Sometimes this will also apply to supervisor’s files.

Here are some examples of Washout provisions:

Material reflecting caution, consultation, warning, admonishment, and reprimand shall be retained for a maximum of three (3) years. Such material will, at the employee’s request, be removed after twenty-four (24) months, provided there has been no recurrence of the problem or a related problem in that time. Earlier removal will be permitted when requested by an employee and if approved by the Appointing Authority. DAS Contract

Letters of caution, consultation, warning, admonishment and reprimand shall not be used in any subsequent evaluation or disciplinary proceeding involving the employee, three (3) years after they have been placed in the records, unless there have been recurrences of a similar nature. After the three (3) year period and in the absence of a recurrence of a similar infraction, such letters shall then be removed from the employee’s personnel file and supervisory files at the written request of the employee.  Marion County

Removing Disciplines from Personnel File.  A record of disciplinary action related to resident care shall be removed from an employee’s personnel file twenty-four (24) months after it was issued, except that if a Bargaining Unit Employee receives a related discipline during the twenty four (24) month period, the original discipline will remain in his or her file until twenty-four (24) months have elapsed during which the Bargaining Unit Employee received no related discipline. This provision shall not apply to disciplines issued for resident abuse, resident neglect, sexual or racial harassment, medication errors, or other behavior that violates state or federal law. Avamere Nursing Homes

Be sure and check your contract for washout language. If you are representing someone in a disciplinary grievance and management is using old disciplines as evidence of progressive discipline, make sure those old disciplines haven’t “washed out.” In some cases, even without specific contract language, a steward can argue that an old discipline should not be used as progressive discipline after years of good conduct.

Upcoming Steward Trainings

Sept. 12 & 13 – Salem HQ, Contract Enforcement Training, Friday 5:30 (dinner} to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

Sept. 19 & 20 – Eugene Field Office, Contract Enforcement Training, Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

Sept. 26 & 27 – Medford Location tbd Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

Dec. 5 & 6 – Salem HQ, Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

To sign up for a training please contact your local SEIU 503 Field office

In most cases, contract enforcement trainings will be offered in your area.   Please make an effort to attend trainings close to you.

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MRC Update 6/4/2014

More than just talk: Tools and Tips for Stewards from the Member Resource Center

An Injustice to one is an injustice to all!

Steward: Cheri Belcher
Location: Avamere Laurelhurst – Portland

Two long-term employees from Laurelhurst Village, both dedicated, hardworking housekeepers with no absences or tardiness, received termination notices. And they received them in such a way that their paid time off (PTO) would not be cashed out and included in their final paycheck.

Their crime? Lack of proper documentation. They were unable to produce documentation in an allotted time period. In addition, they were not given an appropriate two-week notice, thereby preventing them from resigning and taking their PTO cash out with them. For one woman, this came after 12 years of employment with Laurelhurst.

Although they were nervous about speaking up, one of the workers saw the MRC phone number on her worksite bulletin board and bravely made the call. She found the MRC organizer to be informative and helpful. Once advised of her rights, the organizer put her in touch with Cheri Belcher, a seasoned Laurelhurst steward.

After several attempts by Cheri to convince management of the workers’ mistreatment, all repeatedly denied, her persistence and the support of co-workers finally turned the tide and management gave in, but unfortunately, not until after one of the terminated workers left without waiting for resolution.

Management made the remaining worker’s resignation retroactive to two weeks, giving her the ability to resign and cash out her hard earned and much deserved PTO upon her separation.

Although management had not violated the contract, Cheri and her co-workers put enough pressure on management to do the right thing, allowing this long time worker to receive compensation for the unused time she had accumulated over the course of her 12-year employment.

All workers should be treated justly – documented or otherwise. But these women, who gave years of their lives to their employer, weren’t even allowed to leave with their dignity and the gratitude from their employer that they earnestly deserved. Without the power of their union that supported them despite there being no contract violation, employees like these could easily be relegated from a permanent employee of value to something quite disposable.


Negotiation Can Turn the Tide

Steward: Danny Gonzalez
Location: City of Wilsonville

Resolving a dispute through mediation is not only beneficial for the worker involved, it may also be preferable to the employer. That’s what Danny Gonzalez found when a co-worker was being threatened with termination.

Danny, a worksite steward of two years, has developed a good working relationship with the city administrators, so he wasn’t surprised to receive a heads up from the management team that a co-worker may be in need of Union representation. Facing a disciplinary meeting, the worker was asked if she wanted a steward present and she responded affirmatively.

The co-worker was frustrated with the outcome of a discussion with her supervisor and stormed off. A transit driver, she continued to drive her assigned route for the remainder of her shift.

Knowing there had been problems with the camera in the worker’s bus, the supervisor pulled the camera at the end of her shift to see how it was working. What he discovered was video of the driver acting irate, yelling at passing cars, using what he construed to be an anti-gay slur and driving erratically. He was angry and wanted her terminated immediately.

The driver was taken off her route a few days later and put on paid leave while they proceeded with due process. Danny sat down with the driver and asked if there was anything going on in her personal life that might be affecting her behavior. As he listened, she revealed she was having medical problems and that a recent change in medication may be a contributing factor. He asked if she’d be willing to go through counseling and that it might result in a better outcome. She eagerly agreed.

Having dealt with the MRC previously, Danny emailed the MRC organizer to let him know what was going on and to get his take on the situation. An outside opinion is really helpful, says Danny. The organizer shared is knowledge, looked up contract language that might be useful and shared his opinion.

Danny took it from there. He met with management, laying out the various reasons why termination of this long time employee wasn’t the best solution.

Help her, don’t fire her – was his approach. He pointed out that the driver had been employed with the City for a long time with no prior problems or complaints. He explained she was unaware of how bad her behavior was until seeing it on tape, and was determined to change it. She was dealing with a medical issue and she was getting under control, plus she would agree to anger management counseling through their EPA program should they be willing.

Eventually, the supervisor calmed down enough that he agreed to accept the plan of action management felt was appropriate. After considering what Danny presented, they decided to retain the driver, but with a one-week suspension and 90 days of probation. A far cry from termination. Pleased to be back on her bus, she’s committed to being more self-aware and improving her behavior. She and her supervisor even sat down for a conversation and now have a better understanding of one another and better working relationship.

Tip of the day: Negotiating and the Grievance Process

The grievance process is an extension of contract bargaining. With a grievance, you are bargaining over the interpretation of the contract at the same time you are asserting that your interpretation of the contract is correct and management’s interpretation is wrong. This is true in both disciplinary and contract interpretation cases. If your contract says that discipline will be only for just cause, you are bargaining over the meaning of just cause. When grievances cannot be resolved through the grievance process, and end up in arbitration (what most contracts substitute for strikes while the contract is in effect), it means that the grievance process has failed.

Just like contract negotiations, successful resolution of a grievance through the grievance process involves some skill and finesse, but there are some basic principles that play out in almost all grievances that are settled without involving an arbitrator:

  1. Know what you want, what you need, and the difference between the two – of course you want management to agree completely with your point of view, but is that realistic? What can you live with and what will strengthen the Union besides an all-out win? Make sure that the grievant and others involved in the grievance are on board for finding a compromise.
  2. Know what management wants, and feels that it needs – is there a resolution that meets both Union and management needs? Is there a way of pushing that resolution more towards your favor through worksite organizing or some other kind of leverage?
  3. Be realistic – if your opening position is so far away from what management needs, your interest in finding a settlement will not be taken seriously, just as you do not take an extreme opening position from management seriously.
  4. Separate the problem from the people – if you have a bad relationship with the manager, don’t let personal feelings get in the way of a sensible resolution just because you want to show the manager that they are not all-powerful. If you have a good relationship with the manager, don’t let yourself be used or be hesitant to stand your ground for a fair settlement.
  5. Look at the grievance as an opportunity to solve a problem – sometimes just getting clarification on some fuzzy contract language can be a big improvement. Sometimes there is a solution that both Union and management can feel like they gained something.

Why settle?

Sometimes compromise is not possible or even desirable. There may be a point to prove, a fight that needs to be taken all the way, or management may be intransigent and unreasonable. Settlement should not be for the point of settlement or simply for labor peace, but for building our Union and maintaining the integrity of the contract.

On the other hand, there are times that taking a case to arbitration does not make sense. Getting to a hearing and getting a decision from an arbitrator takes a long time; arbitrators can be totally unpredictable, ignoring precedent or being selective about what evidence they pay attention to; arbitrators can give decisions that make neither side happy (sometimes before or during the hearing, arbitrators will encourage Union and management to settle, saying that no one will be happy with the decision); and always needing an arbitrator to settle grievances indicates that something is broken in the labor/management relationship.

A good steward must me a good negotiator, on the lookout for solutions and creative about finding wins that make their union stronger. That means understanding where management is coming from, even if you do not agree with them. It can be tough to find the balance – stewards should never be pushovers, but they do need enough flexibility to look at problems from all angles, to separate out emotions from practical realities (and to know when each are important), and see compromises that do not threaten their Union’s or contract’s strength.

Upcoming Steward Trainings

June 13 & 14, PDX Field Office Contract Enforcement Training 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

July 11 & 12, Roseburg (Location TBD) Contract Enforcement 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30, Saturday 9:00–4:00

July 18 & 19, Coos Bay Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

July 18 & 19, Klamath Falls Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00 Location TBD,

August 1 & 2 Eugene Contract Enforcement Training, Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00, Eugene Field Office

August 1 & 2 Salem Contract Enforcement Training, Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00, Salem HQ Office

Sept. 26 & 27, Medford Field Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

To sign up for a training please contact your local SEIU 503 Field office

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MRC update 5/2/14

More than just talk: Tools and Tips for Stewards from the Member Resource Center

Even Well Intended Misconduct Can Lead to Discipline

Steward: Angela Kostioutchenko
Location: EmpRes Healthcare – Portland

Caring for a family friend can sometimes take on a different and more personal persona than the relationship a care provider might have with other clients and for SEIU steward Angela Kostioutchenko’s coworker – that was precisely what landed her in hot water.

A Certified Nursing Assistant for over 14 years, Angela’s coworker had, on a couple of occasions, received warnings that her antics while on the job were sometimes inappropriate, but there had been no problems for several years prior to the incident that ultimately resulted in her termination.

When her friend, a resident of the nursing home where the CNA worked, would become down or depressed, the grievant would do something cute or funny to cheer her up and it always worked. On one particular day, the CNA engaged in a behavior that made her friend laugh, but not everyone was as appreciative.

A fellow coworker saw it and filed a complaint. The complaint went to the Director of Nursing Services (DNS) and her employment was terminated immediately, with the explanation that termination was justified because the worker had been previously warned about this type of behavior.

Now with a grievance on her hands, Angela contacted an MRC organizer and they began collecting information to build a case for reinstatement. The personnel files proved most interesting because, although the contract stated that disciplinary documents must be purged from a workers’ file after 18 months if the behavior is not repeated, they found two disciplinary documents in the file dating back 18 months or more.

There were also no investigatory notes on the current discipline because management hadn’t made any. The only information management had that corroborated the coworker’s accusation was a resident saying that the incident had happened. In addition, a newly hired DNS had inherited the termination from her predecessor and was struggling to find resolution.

At the Step 1 meeting with the new administrator, Angela was on site with the grievant, while the MRC organizer joined the meeting by phone. When the DNS was asked if the materials provided to the SEIU steward were all that they based the termination on and the Director replied it was, they were prepared to point out exactly why termination was inappropriate and reinstatement was warranted.

The two most obvious points they made were 1) prior disciplines in the grievant’s file could not be considered for progressive discipline purposes because they preceded the 18-month period for purging of disciplinary documents and should have been expunged prior to the latest incident, and 2) there were no investigatory notes to prove that a fair investigation had been conducted.

To the new DNS’s credit, she saw the error of their ways and agreed to not only rescind the termination and return the grievant to her job, but to also do her due diligence by purging all disciplinary materials beyond the 18-month threshold from ALL their employees files, a huge victory for everyone involved.

Although the SEIU representatives felt there was a case to be made for recouping the wages lost during the month the grievant had been off work since the termination, a discussion between Angela and the grievant resulted in the decision to accept the reinstatement alone as a sufficient remedy.

Language Interpretation: Union vs. Management

Steward: Kent Jensvold
Location: Basin Transit Service – Klamath Falls

When it appeared that BTS supervisors might be performing bargaining unit members’ work on the weekends by servicing dial-a-ride customers themselves instead of calling in Extra Board drivers [per their contract], Kent Jensvold, a BTS steward of 8 years, decided to do some investigating.

What he discovered was that on the weekends, supervisors had been picking up customers in a jeep, rather than using the specialized vehicles designated for these transports. By doing so, they were breaking the collective bargaining agreement that designates only employees in certain specific classification named in the contract were to perform bargaining unit work, which this clearly was. Rather than call in a driver from the Extra Board and pay them their designated two-hour shift for coming in, managers were doing the work.

When confronted on the issue, management took the position that the activity was within their purview under the Recognition article in their Collective Bargaining Agreement. Article 2 allowed for management to perform bargaining unit work for reasonable periods of time for a number of listed reasons, including maintaining technical proficiency, the term on which their case was based.

With the 30-day timeline for filing a grievance ticking away, Kent was referred to the Member Resource Center for help. It was determined that “maintaining technical proficiency” was not easily defined and therefore, the MRC organizer recommended Kent begin by filing an information request. They really loaded it up, asking for the past six months of time cards and scheduling records, among other data – a daunting task in itself and one that management certainly did not appreciate.

After a week passed with no response from management and the 30-day grievance timeline nearing its end, Kent filed a “placeholder” grievance in the event the information, yet to be received, proved the Union’s case. He also let them know at the time that he was willing to talk about resolving the violation without a grievance.

Just days before the information was to be handed over to the Union, Kent asked management about it and was told the issue would be dealt with at the supervisory level. He was also told that managers would no longer be performing this bargaining unit work and that they would strictly adhere to the contract language in the future.

Kent spoke with the supervisor involved and they were able to come to an agreement that was fair and equitable for the Extra Board drivers, even covering how they would handle ride requests that warranted pickup and deliveries that spanned more than their two hour shifts.

Tip of the day: Pre-dismissal meetings

Public employers in Oregon are required by law to allow an employee to give her or his side of the story before termination. Some public and private employers do this before any kind of significant discipline.

Pre-dismissal meetings are different from fact-finding, (or investigatory or Weingarten meetings) in that management already should have done its investigation, and come to a decision about the level of discipline. A pre-dismissal meeting is held after the decision has been made. The purpose of a pre-dismissal meeting is to give an employee one last chance to explain what happened, offer mitigating circumstances, an alternative set of facts, or some other reason why the prospective discipline is inappropriate, before the discipline is actually implemented.

Should employees go to pre-dismissal meetings?

While an employee must go to an investigatory meeting if called by an employer or risk charges of insubordination, attendance at a pre-dismissal meeting is not required of an employee. As an alternative, employees can respond in writing, or not respond at all. Whether it is beneficial to participate or respond depends on the circumstances.

A pre-dismissal meeting can be an opportunity for a steward to start the Union’s investigation by asking questions about the facts put forward by management.

In some cases, an employee or skillful steward can offer a different emphasis on the facts brought forward by management in such a way that management’s perspective is changed and the prospective discipline is lessened or eliminated altogether.

If an employee really is guilty of what they are charged with, and there are no other mitigating circumstances, a show of remorse or taking responsibility can help to lessen or eliminate the discipline.

On the other hand, management might try to use a pre-dismissal meeting to bolster their own case against an employee, especially if the employee is not careful about what they say. While this is an employee’s chance to explain, it is important that management not be given more information that can be used against the employee if the attempt to lessen the discipline is unsuccessful.

Preparing for a pre-dismissal meeting

  • Review the pre-disciplinary notice that lays out management’s reasons for discipline.
  • With the notice in front of you, interview the member, going over each point in the notice.
  • Think about the elements of just cause, and whether management has considered those elements while making its decision.
  • Plan out what questions you need to ask at the meeting.
  • Plan out what you and the member will say.
  • Use an outline for your prepared points and questions.

At the meeting

  • Ask questions.
  • Present reasons why the action should not be taken against the member.
  • Correct misinformation.
  • Explain mitigating circumstances.
  • Call for a caucus if the member seems to be losing control or saying things that make the situation worse.
  • Take notes about who was there, what was said, timelines, etc.

After the meeting

  • Debrief with the member. Tell the member honestly what you think about how the meeting went.
  • Go over projected timelines (if there are any) and next steps.
  • Ask the member questions about anything unexpected that came up in the meeting.


  • Advise a member to lie.
  • Give management information that is harmful to the member.
  • Let the member say more than they should.
  • Fail to prepare.
  • Make a conclusion before doing your own investigation.
  • Make promises that you may not be able to keep.
  • Fail to follow up after the final decision is given.


Upcoming Steward Trainings

May 9 & 10, Eugene Field Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

May 16 & 17, Salem HQ Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

May 17, Albany (Location TBD) Nursing Home Contract Enforcement 9:00–6:00

May 31, Pendleton Field Office Nursing Home Contract Enforcement 9:00–6:00

May 31, Ontario (Location TBD) Contract Enforcement Training 9:00–6:00

June 7, Pendleton (Location TBD) Contract Enforcement Training 9:00–6:00

June 13 & 14, PDX Field Office Contract Enforcement Training 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

June 20, Pendleton (Location TBD) Just Cause Training 10:00–3:00

July 11 & 12, Roseburg (Location TBD) Contract Enforcement 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30, Saturday 9:00–4:00

July 18 & 19, Coos Bay Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

Sept. 26 & 27, Medford Field Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

To sign up for a training please contact your local SEIU 503 Field office

In most cases, contract enforcement trainings will be offered in your area.   Please make an effort to attend trainings close to you.

Comments Off on MRC update 5/2/14

MRC Update 4/1/14

More than just talk: Tools and Tips for Stewards from the Member Resource Center

Watch the Clock: Timelines are Critical

Steward: None available
Location: Bureau of Labor and Industries

Beware: As stated in PECBA, the 14-day period allowed for the union’s response to an employer notification is 14 days from the date the letter is sent, not from the time the letter is actually received by the union. This has the potential to be game changing.

On June 28, 2013 SEIU 503 received a letter from the Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI) stating the agency’s intent to change the job requirement for a position held by two bargaining unit members in the Administrative Prosecutorial Unit. The classification would now require a law degree, which hadn’t been the case previously, and consequently, our members who had performed the job for over 10 years without a law degree were being targeted for layoff. It was BOLI’s contention that the requirement had been in the position description all along, indicating that the applicant “may” have a law degree.

Since the worksite had no stewards, the MRC became involved on July 10. The MRC organizer immediately called the effected workers and drafted a “demand to bargain” that was delivered to BOLI on July 12. We were to later discover, without adverse effect in this particular case, that the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA) defines the 14-day response period as beginning the day the notification letter is sent, rather than received by the other party, something that should be noted by all for future reference.

BOLI rejected our demand to bargain and the two workers affected were officially laid off from their salary range 29 jobs in August. At that point, they were both able to bump into vacant positions, one a salary range 27 (a $559 per/month cut in pay) and the other a salary range 23 (a $1535 per/month cut).

The Union filed an Unfair Labor Practice Complaint (ULP) and alleged the Employer unlawfully refused to bargain the impact the change would have on the bargaining unit employees,

We heard nothing for months, but eventually a hearing was scheduled for Feb. 4, 2014. We met with a DOJ attorney, requesting that the members involved receive back pay from the time of their layoff and that they be red circled at range 29 pay.

There was talk of settlement, but before that occurred, their attorney retired and a new attorney picked up the case. That attorney filed a motion to dismiss, citing our failure to respond within the 14-day timeframe.

The Administrative Law Judge did not dismiss the ULP and sometime thereafter, the DOJ attorney offered us a proposal of 5% pay retroactive back to August, with a 5% increase, also retroactive. Our response was unequivocally no, as we wanted the workers red circled and made whole.

BOLI said they couldn’t red circle the worker that was now at salary range 23, so our attorney proposed they move him into a higher level position, then red circle both of them at pay range 29. There was an available level 27 position so the parties agreed the worker would be transferred into that position. After six long months, BOLI agreed to red circle the members at range 29. The member who was at pay range 27 received full back pay and the member at pay range 23 received partial back pay for wages lost since their layoffs in August.

It was stipulated that this solution was non-precedent setting and should either of the members be discharged or voluntarily leave the position, the red circle would go away.

Administer Discipline Fairly

Steward: Tim Carman
Location: Portland Public Schools

A co-worker first approached Tim Carman, a seven-year Head Custodian with Portland Public Schools and Chief Steward for the last six years, about being called in by management for an investigation of misconduct. The result of the School districts investigation was that the worker was terminated. Because the offense was one that, under most circumstances, would result in termination on the first offense, coupled with the grievant’s confession of some wrong doing, Tim feared there may not be a remedy available for saving the worker’s job. He conveyed that to the worker, but agreed to look at the situation and explore their options.

What Tim and Co-Chief Steward, James Dean would later discover that termination was inconsistent with other, similar cases, something Tim knew to be systemic within Portland Public Schools.

Throughout the process, Tim and the co-worker kept in contact with the MRC for tips and guidance.

Most shocking to Tim was the lack of evidence management had to substantiate the charges on which they based their discipline. Nevertheless Tim proceeded to build the best case he could around both the lack of evidence and the disparate treatment of his co-worker.

PPS custodians are considered Civil Service workers and because of that, the Civil Service Board, rather than the collective bargaining agreement, governs discipline when it pertains to suspension, demotion or termination. Since this involved a termination and required appealing to the Civil Service Board, it was a little trickier for the stewards to navigate, but navigate they did.

Tim and James began combing through piles of records to find similar cases and to determine if discipline had been unevenly administered. Surprisingly, they found numerous cases that applied, many that documented extremely embarrassing situations for PPS. They found some pretty egregious behavior on management’s part and extreme inconsistencies. The stewards ended up with an arsenal of material to build their case.

Tim amply represented the grieved worker at a meeting to review stipulations with the Districts legal counsel prior to the appeals hearing.

Their attorney appeared awed that SEIU had records going back so far and that we could present case after case of similar circumstances with inconsistent outcomes. It was equally apparent that PPS did not have proper documentation to prove their case. As the meeting progressed, it became clear to Tim that even though the grievant had admitted some guilt, the School Board feared that should the grievant move forward with an appeal, they may not win on the termination.

The grievant had been out of work for 35 days and returning to work was paramount. The steward and grievant decided to offer PPS a proposal requesting a return to work with demotion, a lesser degree of punishment, claiming that the grievant had not been given an opportunity to correct the offending behavior. In addition, Tim argued that termination was inconsistent with other, similar cases.

The PPS attorney contacted Tim less than 24 hours after the stipulations meeting ended to ask if the grievant would still be interested in the settlement we proposed, with some minor changes. The grievant was amenable to the settlement and returned to work into a demoted position. The time the grievant was out of work due to termination was converted to the status of unpaid suspension, with no break in service.

Tip of the day: Writing a Grievance

Every grievance is different, but when you are filling out a grievance form, there are more similarities than difference in what you need to write, whether you are using the Grievance Database, a grievance form that you can fill out on the computer (you can find one in the Steward Resource Center) or filling out a hard copy form by hand, there are some universal dos and don’ts to be aware of.

Do: Fill out the grievance form completely, including contact information for you and the grievant(s), the name of the employer or agency, supervisor, who the grievance was filed with and very importantly, the date of the incident. Without the date of the incident, it may be difficult at a later time to show that the grievance was filed within the timelines.

Don’t: Hand the grievance form to the grievant and tell them to fill it out themselves. As the steward, you should be the one to fill out the form to make sure it is filled out correctly, and has the necessary information.

Do: Write a short statement explaining why the grievance is valid. This should include a one sentence description of the circumstances and a statement about why this is a valid grievance, such as “The Employer violated the contract when they…”

Don’t: Argue your case in the Statement of the grievance. If you have more than 2 or 3 sentences, you probably have written too much. For example, a Statement of grievance for a termination only needs to say “On such and such date, the employer violated the contract when the grievant (use their name) was terminated without just cause.”

Do: Cite the article name and number in the Rights Violated section and add, “and all other applicable articles.”

Don’t: Cite sections of articles.

Do: Think carefully about the remedy. For a disciplinary grievance, the idea is to make it as though the discipline never happened. The remedy for a suspension would be something like, “The employee shall be made whole in every way, including but not limited to, removal of documents related to this discipline from personnel and supervisory files, back wages, leave time accruals, seniority, retirement contributions and other benefits.” For a termination, you would also add at the beginning of the list “reinstatement to former position.”

The remedy for other kinds of contract violations may be more complicated. Sometimes there has been no economic harm to the employee, and nothing has been placed in their file that should be removed. In that case the remedy may be that the employer “cease and desist violating the contract.” Even in those situations, however, you should write, “the employee shall be made whole in every way.”

Do: Try to get the grievant’s signature on the grievance form. However, if waiting to get the signature means that the grievance might be filed late, as steward, you may sign your own name “on behalf of the Union.” In this situation, you should read and explain the grievance to the grievant, if at all possible, before turning the grievance in to the employer.

Do: Write the date the form was signed on the grievance form.

Don’t: Turn in your only copy of the grievance to the employer. You should give a copy to the grievant, send a copy to the Member Resource Center organizer you are working with, and keep a copy for your own grievance file.

Do: Keep proof of the date that the grievance form was delivered to the employer. If you send a grievance by email or fax, there will be a date stamp showing when the grievance was delivered. If you hand-deliver it, try to get a date-stamped copy when you turn it in. At the very least, document the date you turned it in. If you snail-mail a grievance, you should use return receipt mail so that you have documentation of when the grievance was actually delivered.

If you have any questions about filling out a grievance form, be sure and talk with your chief steward, another experienced steward, or call the Member Resource Center.

Upcoming Steward Trainings

April 19 9-6, Nursing home contract enforcement PDX, PDX field office

April 24, 5:30-8:30, April 25 9-4, Contract enforcement, Bend, Location TBD

May 9 5:30-8:30, May 10 9-4, Contract enforcement Eugene Field Office

May 16 5:30-:30, May 17, 9-4, Contract enforcement Salem Field Office

May 17, 9-6, Nursing home contract enforcement, Albany, Location TBD

May 31, 9-6 , Nursing home contract enforcement, Pendleton, Location TBD

May 31, 9-6, Contract enforcement, Pendleton, Location TBD

June 7, 9-6, Contract enforcement, Ontario, Location TBD

June 13, 5:30-8:30, June 14 9-4, Contract enforcement, Portland Field Office

July 18, 5:30-8:30, July 19 9-4, Contract enforcement, Coos Bay, Location TBD

September 26, 5:30-8:30, Sept 27, 9-4, Contract enforcement, Medford Field Office

To sign up for a training please contact your local SEIU 503 Field office

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MRC Update 3/10/14

More than just talk: Tools and Tips for Stewards from the Member Resource Center

Withdrawing Without Prejudice to Your Position

In December 2013 Maria Parish, a steward at the Board of Nursing Licensing Department, contacted the MRC to ask about filing an Article 101 grievance for a bully boss situation.

A co-worker was experiencing an uncomfortable and unprofessional work environment contributable to both her manager and co-workers. Finally, after being admonished in front of her co-workers for an incident and enduring numerous demeaning and biting comments, even physical contact to move her out of the way by another worker, she turned to her steward for help.

Working with the MRC, Maria brought the situation to management’s attention and although there was dialog happening, due to the strict grievance timeline, Maria filed a grievance as a placeholder in the event a remedy could not be reached through negotiation.

Following a thorough investigation by the steward and the sharing and consideration of vital information from the union and management, The Licensing Board produced its “Conclusions and Action” paper – summarized below ­– which concluded in a denial of the grievance and a promise to deal with the unhealthy environment in this workplace and an outline of what steps would be taken to ensure a positive outcome.

Conclusions and Actions

  1. The agency has taken several steps over the past year to enhance the agency’s work environment. Core values were developed and professional competency trainings were offered. Management has plans for follow up training in 2014 and to incorporate the values into performance accountabilities for all employees.
  2. Specific training for the Licensing department will be arranged within the first quarter of 2014. This will be facilitated by an outside professional and include using a team assessment tool to assist the team in gauging their effectiveness and designing an improvement plan.
  3. The manager has taken appropriate actions with respect to staff behavior and attempted to resolve issues between grievant and the grievant’s co-workers. With the acceptance of the mediation, the agency will move forward in obtaining mediation services within the first month of 2014. It is important to note that the issues identified are not issues that can be resolved immediately but require all to be dedicated to work together towards resolutions.
  4. The manager has apologized for his public approach as outlined above and will avoid having performance related conversations in the work areas in the future.
  5. Agency management has an open door policy for all employees that include direct managers, Human Resources and the Executive Director for problem resolution.
  6. The agency is committed to communicating behavior expectations in the Professional Workplace Policy and has a zero tolerance for any unsafe or physical actions between all employees. The recent updates to the Professional Workplace Policy are scheduled to be distributed to all staff in January 2014.


Based on the above, I find no violation of Article 101, Section 8 and respectfully deny the grievance.

However, the agency is committed to enforcing the Professional Workplace Policy uniformly and addressing behavioral issues within the licensing department as outlined in the conclusion.

More specifically, the agency hopes to achieve the following during the agreed to mediation:

  • A commitment to raise the level of professionalism & courtesy in the Licensing Unit
  • Increase accountability by the manager to administer equal treatment among team members
  • Develop communication mechanisms to allow issues to be raised and addressed in a timely fashion

Additionally, management has set the following objectives:

  • A commitment to raise the level of professionalism & courtesy in the Licensing Unit
  • Increase the accountability of all employees to treat each other respectfully and in adherence with our values
  • Review mechanisms allowing issues to be raised and brought forward; identify any additional avenues

Grievance Response & Remedy

The Steward’s response to management on behalf of the grievant, based on management’s and the agency’s commitments to addressing the issues raised, was to withdraw the grievance without prejudice to our position.

It was stated to management that it is our expectation that they would follow through with the action items set forth in the Conclusion and Summary sections of management’s grievance response, or the grievance may be re-filed.


Nursing Home workers at Meadow Park won a big victory in January thanks to the watchful eye of their steward Tina Gerhard. According to the contract, all workers with ten (10) or more years of seniority were to receive a contract-signing bonus of five-hundred dollars ($500) to be paid out within 60 days of the ratification of their new contract.

Tina caught that management had not complied with the contact language and attempted to resolve it informally. Due to a strict grievance timeline she filed a grievance as a placeholder and management acknowledged their obligation to comply with the contract.

Working closely with the MRC, Tina won the group grievance and all eligible workers received their bonuses.

Tip of the day: Investigation

A member — or members — come to you. They’re mad. Really mad. “It’s unfair…it’s a violation of the contract…it’s illegal…and it’s not right!” You think to yourself, “yeah, this is terrible. I’d better do something.” But what do you do next?

If your answer is “file a grievance,” you may want to think again. Sure, some problems are obvious grievances, but most of the time you’ll need to know a lot more about what’s going on. Jumping to conclusions based on false, faulty, or inadequate information will only undermine your credibility—and our union’s.

The February edition of “More Than Just Talk” included an explanation and description of critical thinking, and how important critical thinking is to stewards’ work. While examples of how critical thinking appear in every aspect of stewards’ work, one obvious place to look is at grievance investigation.


Remember, a member who’s upset, angry, and frustrated may not always give you an accurate picture of what happened. A disgruntled member may sometimes exaggerate and leave out important details. It’s up to you to investigate, look at the facts, and then decide on a strategy for dealing with the problem.

The first step in your investigation is to conduct effective interviews. To get the information you need from an upset member, sometimes requires waiting until after they’ve calmed down, either by taking them aside and talking for awhile, or by meeting with them later. While everyone has their own style of interviewing, and different situations call for different methods, some tips for getting the most information are .

  • Make sure you’re relaxed — and take your time. Listening is the key, so control your feelings and concentrate on hearing what the member says.
  • Write down important facts, including who, what, when, where, how, why, and the names of any witnesses.
  • Encourage the member to “get it all out” (both facts and feelings).
  • Ask questions that can’t be answered yes-or-no when you don’t understand something or when you need to clear something up, such as: “Why do you think this happened?” Or, “Give me an example.”
  • Once in awhile, repeat back to the worker what you’ve heard them say. This checks your accuracy and often brings out overlooked facts.
  • While there is no one “right way” of getting to the facts, there are a few things a good steward should never do:
  • Avoid making judgments during the interview. Form your opinion later, after you’ve gathered the facts and had a chance to think about them.
  • Avoid making promises about the actions you will take. Assure the worker that you will investigate and let them know when you’ll get back to them. Make sure you do!
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t guess. Promise the member you’ll find out and get back to them (and do it!).


It is important not to rush to judgment, either for or against filing a grievance before doing a thorough investigation. Interview everyone connected to the problem in the same manner. Talk to other workers, including leadworkers, other stewards, and attempt to talk to supervisors and any other witnesses. Never depend on a single version of what happened, if you can avoid it. And remember, interviews are one way of getting at the facts, but they’re not the only way.

Check documents and records that could help you decide what happened and what should be done. They include:

  • Past grievances, steward’s notes, and arbitration decisions (Local 503’s Arbitration Decisions are easily available online in the Stewards’ Resource Center);
  • The contract and supplemental agreements;
  • Employer policies and work rules, and;
  • Information that you may need from the boss.

Understand Management’s Point of View

Understanding is not the same thing as agreeing. Look for logic (or lack of logic) in management’s opinions, and at the facts (or absence of facts) that management has provided. Do the same thing with your own investigation and compare what you’ve found. Ask yourself, based on facts and logic (rather than feelings and emotions) whose position makes the most sense. Look for where more investigation is needed. Go back and try to fill the holes.

When you’ve gathered all the facts and thought about the arguments and logic that come from the facts1, then it’s time to decide whether a grievance should be filed, put your case together (if there is one), and determine what strategy (big plan) and tactics (smaller moves) that can be used.

For some people this process is as natural as breathing; for others it takes a deliberate effort. Regardless of a steward’s experience or skill, a case can always be made stronger, a decision can be made clearer, by bouncing ideas off of other stewards, chief stewards, and MRC Organizers.

1. In doing all of this, keep an eye on grievance timelines. If you are running out of time, file the grievance—being very clear with the member or members what you are doing and why, and that it is possible that the grievance may be withdrawn later.

Upcoming Steward Trainings

Apr. 25 & 26, Bend Field Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

May 9 & 10, Eugene Field Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

May 16 & 17, Salem HQ Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

July 18 & 19, Coos Bay Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

Sept. 26 & 27, Medford Field Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

To sign up for a training please contact your local SEIU 503 Field office

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MRC Update 2/3/2014

More than just talk: Tools and Tips for Stewards from the Member Resource Center

It takes a community: Adult Foster Home Licensor’s Reclass

Thank you for walking the team through this very long, very difficult and very frustrating process, without the MRC’s guidance, support and advice this would have been a much more difficult process” —Vanessa Herriott, DHS Steward

It sometimes does take a community and the members, leaders and stewards of SEIU 503 proved that during a reclassification effort by Adult Foster Home Licensors. Arguably one of the most challenging reclass efforts in many years, the team stayed strong, stood together and never gave up, a testimony to what sticking together is all about.

When the Adult Foster Home Licensors began their effort to obtain a much needed reclass from Human Service Case Manager to Compliance Specialist 2, then steward Andrea Del Pizzo worked with the members and with management to draft an accurate and current position description, the first step in any reclass attempt. The workers and management came to an agreement on the PD, but when it came time for the district management to sign off on it, she balked. It was the first sign the path would be anything smooth–and would take an entire year of ongoing effort and frustration.

Steward and Local Officer Vanessa Herriott knew that without an agreed upon and current position description, management would not consider the reclass. Steward Jeanne Gostnell stepped in to help keep it together when Vanessa enlisted the help of Deb Salgado, who agreed to be the steward of record. It was at that point the steward enlisted help from the MRC. The case was reviewed and they received guidance through a series of telephone conversations and lunchtime conference calls for the group. In light of management’s refusal to sign the PD, they began building their case from another angle.

Joshua May and Bob Kale picked up a multitude of tasks to assist the effort and help make the case. Position descriptions from Licensors across the agency were gathered, written and submitted for the Step 2 Agency Review. One strategy used was to submit a PD for a Compliance Specialist 2 from the Child Care Division instructing the Agency to substitute “Seniors” for “Children” and “Adult Foster Home” for “Family Child Care Home” to read what they currently do as Adult Foster Home Licensors. It was an innovative way to offer the critical Position Description information management had refused to sign off on! Flow charts were also included as part of the Licensors’ case, along with a previous PD showing CS2 duties signed off on by the District Manager.

The consistency of messaging became critical working closely with the MRC organizer to coordinate and review all communications between the Licensors, management and the class/comp folks took much time and effort. The grievance was sent to Step 3 when it was clear the Agency was sidestepping any real effort to get the matter resolved.

Victory! After months of effort by everyone on the SEIU doing their due diligence and jumping through too many hoops to count, the Reclassification Appeal Committee found Compliance Specialist 2 to be the best available fit for the position and the Adult Foster Home Licensors ultimately were given the reclass they fought for and clearly deserved.

The new pay scale is retroactive back to the first of the month after the grievance was filed, based on an implementation formula in the contract. Even better, the reclass equaled two pay scales – meaning that the long-term benefit for the members will bring them substantial gains in the future as well. The settlement is in the process of being determined.

It did take a community, and a very long journey on a bumpy road to meet this challenge. Please remember the way it happened – staying strong, standing together, and never giving up. Showing that sticking together is what being a Union is all about.

Critical Thinking: An Introduction for Stewards

Steward work is not getting easier. Our cases seem to be more complex than ever. The national attack on unions and public-service workers is growing more intense and has found some support here in Oregon. These attacks force us to reexamine our work as stewards and to think differently. Stewards are the backbone of the Union and the first line of defense in the workplace, so how we work and how we think directly affects our coworkers, what’s in our contracts and the enforcement of the contract.

Critical thinking skills are essential for stewards. Critical thinking means actively and skillfully thinking through information gathered from or generated by our experience, observation and reasoning. It builds our ability to accurately consider all facts on the basis of sound evidence, relevance and good reasons without prejudice. Real critical thinking over time allows you to build Union power by learning how to accurately understand situations at work and then insert yourself into those situations so that you can positively affect and predict what people will do. Over time you can develop methods of thinking through situations with other stewards that will be foolproof. If you don’t develop these skills, you will find yourself running from crisis to crisis, responding from the gut instead of from your head and burning out. Critical thinkers are rational people. People who do not think critically are forced to give in to the chaos around them.

There are a number of easy steps towards thinking critically.

  • Formulate a problem that you see into a series of questions
  • List the questions starting with the “big-picture” questions first and then the smaller ones
  • Gather the information that you need to answer the questions
  • Assess the information that you have
  • Move every unanswered or abstract question towards a rational answer
  • Make a temporary conclusion or pose a possible solution
  • Test your conclusions and solutions
  • Think open-mindedly and communicate effectively with others

Hone your conclusions into requests or demands or grievances based on a realistic understanding of what is going on around you. Keep repeating the process until you and the stewards you work with and the workers you represent are satisfied. This takes practice and cooperative work with others. Critical thinkers are not Lone Rangers.

A quick way to think of this is by saying that our steward process should always be one of studying, then taking action and then analyzing what has happened and then going back to studying situations and taking action again. Our studying, actions and analysis or reflection should be tied together in a rational process so that all three improve together over time and benefit others. It should lead to wins for our members and our Union. These wins are the test of whether our critical thinking process is correct or not.

Give yourself the permission, space and place to think critically. Draw some boundaries around your time and find a good balance between your efforts to make things better for your family and coworkers and everything else in your life. Find quiet time and a quiet place for thinking and then be prepared to test what you have come up with in a productive meeting with other stewards. Revise your ideas and approaches as you move through the process. Model this activity for others. After all, how many of the problems that we deal with are caused by bosses or coworkers who have weak or no boundaries or who insist on old approaches to new problems without much thought?

We can expect that some people will demand instant answers and solutions and we probably all know someone who lives for chaos and drama. Our immediate goal is to move them to think more clearly and not give in to their sense of crisis. There are very few instant solutions for most workers’ problems these days. Real and fair solutions take time to win and set in stone. We also all know people who drop the ball or who shift responsibility. Our goal in these situations is to help people follow through and find their own strong voices as Union members. We have to approach this with a basic understanding that most bosses will follow their own immediate interests and instincts while most workers will be confused or naïve about their long-term interests. It is not so much a matter of finding a compromise as it is finding new ways of thinking within situations where conflict is inevitable. Inevitable as conflict may be, though, it does not have to drag everyone down into chaos and dysfunction. Apply critical thinking skills to any of these problems and you will begin to find answers. Critical thinkers search for and find answers and teach what they have learned.

Upcoming Steward Trainings

Feb. 8, Salem HQ Chief Steward/Just Cause Training Saturday 9:00–5:00

Feb. 8, Portland Field Office Nursing Home Contract Enforcement Training Saturday 9:00–5:00

Feb. 22, Salem HQ Nursing Home Contract Enforcement Training Saturday 9:00–5:00

Feb. 28 & Mar. 1, Portland Field Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

Feb. 28 & Mar. 1, Salem HQ Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

Mar. 1, Eugene Field Office Nursing Home Contract Enforcement Training Saturday 9:00–4:00

Apr. 25 & 26, Bend Field Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

May 16 & 17, Salem HQ Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

July 18 & 19, Coos Bay Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

Sept. 26 & 27, Medford Field Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00–4:00

To sign up for a training please contact your local SEIU 503 Field office

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MRC Newsletter 12/1/2013

More than just talk: Tools and Tips for Stewards from the Member Resource Center

Worksite: DHS (State Contract)

Steward: Terri Reed
Location: District 10 [Bend/Prineville/Madras]

Bully Boss Beware!

When someone is being demeaned or exploited by his/her supervisor, you have a bully boss on your hands. Though bully bosses can be challenging to overcome, as adult bullies are often adept at finding non-assertive victims and flying under the radar, they should be dealt with before they suck the air out of the office, destroy camaraderie and rob work of normal satisfactions. That’s just what the workers in a Central Oregon DHS office were facing.

Sometimes bullying is obvious, like when employees are being threatened, but other times it can take on a different persona, like a boss simply ignoring the employees or not including them in discussions or decision-making. In the case SEIU 503 steward Terri Reed took on, undermining others’ ideas and input and falsely accusing someone of being out of compliance with procedures yet to be developed led to a grievance and ultimately to the removal of a bully boss.

Together with an MRC organizer, Terri researched, drafted and filed a grievance on behalf of a co-worker on two letters of reprimand with the Division Head at Step 2 and requested a meeting. Management issued a response (denial) without meeting with the grievant and steward, which they had requested. Refusing a request for a grievance meeting is in itself a contract violation. A letter was then submitted to the Division Head notifying her that a meeting must be granted prior to a decision on the grievance.

Simultaneously, the bully boss was undergoing a performance review by the Division Manager. During the review, the Division Manager interviewed the workers in the unit to determine how they felt about their boss’ performance.

The reviews were not favorable. The workers talked about the various ways in which the supervisor had displayed bullying behavior, including ignoring co-workers, talking down to them and issuing written reprimands on non-existent procedures.

Their testimony emphasized the difficulty of working in unfair conditions that create a level of anxiety and stress, of powerlessness, that discourage workers from bringing their best performance to the job, and even infiltrates their personal lives.

The grievance was resolved at Step 2 soon after, and the letters of reprimand removed from the grievant’s file. The supervisor was admonished for issuing reprimands for procedures that had yet to be established.

Although the workers were told that the supervisor (bully boss) had resigned her position, she was later demoted back into a bargaining unit position and red circled, per Article 46—Return to Classified Service.

Tip of the Day: Information Requests

In order to represent workers and enforce our union’s contracts, stewards often need information that only the employer can provide. Every steward should be aware that the employer must provide our union with the information needed to properly represent our members. This includes information that will help our union:

  • To decide whether to file a grievance;
  • To win a grievance;
  • To make the employer prove something they have said;
  • To prepare and present an arbitration case; and
  • To prepare for negotiations.

As a steward, you have the right to ask for information. Some employers try not to give us information until a grievance is filed. This is wrong. We can ask for information before filing a grievance to decide if a grievance exists.

Example: An employee claims that there is an unfair distribution of overtime in her department. The union steward can request a departmental overtime log or payroll records to see if this is true.

Proving Claims: A steward can request information that makes the employer prove a claim they have made.

Example: The employer announces that caseworkers now have quotas to meet on the number of clients they help each day. This change rests upon the claim that the caseworkers in Oregon “see the fewest number of clients of any state in the country.” Our union could request the information the employer has to back up this statement. Employers often back down from outrageous claims once they are confronted with a demand to prove what they say.

What Can You Request?
The following is a list of the various kinds of information that unions have requested and employers have had to give them. Remember this information must be relevant to the situation at hand.

  • Accident Records
  • Attendance Records
  • Bargaining notes
  • Client complaints
  • Contracts (from other bargaining units)
  • Contracts with suppliers
  • Correspondence
  • Customer contracts
  • Customer complaints
  • Disciplinary records
  • Employer memos
  • Equipment specifications
  • Health & Safety studies
  • Inspection records
  • Insurance policies
  • Interview notes
  • Job assignment records
  • Job bids
  • Job evaluations

Requests must be relevant and not unreasonable: a union’s obligation is to ask for information that is relevant to the case and not an unreasonable request aimed at fishing for issues or harassing the employer. Arbitrators, the State Employment Relations Board and the National Labor Relations Board will back up information requests if they meet these criteria.

Example: Pete receives a warning for arriving at work late twice in one week. Pete said that Joe and Kate, friends of the boss, came in late but never got warned. It would be correct to ask for the time cards and warnings issued to Joe and Kate over the last several months. It probably would not be proper to ask for 300 employees’ time records for the last five years.

Confidentiality. Occasionally a Union may have to pledge to keep the information confidential, and/or names would be redacted and/or faces smudged in photos or videotapes. This may occur if the information is concerning clients or health problems. How long does an employer have to provide the information?

Employers cannot unreasonably delay giving information to a steward. If the employer estimates that getting the information will take some time, they must show that they are working on it, not just stalling.

An employer sometimes can provide a union access to information rather than providing a copy.

Example: In response to the employer’s plan to set up a new absentee point system, a steward requests the employer provide the attendance records of all employees for the last two years. Instead the employer provides the steward with all the records and a space to examine them at work. The employer must allow the steward to copy all relevant records. If the employer can claim that the cost of copying the records is extreme, then they may charge for supplies and time for someone to make copies. In all cases, the charges should be reasonable and not more than the actual cost of time and supplies.

What if an employer refuses to provide information?
Make sure your request is in writing and includes a date by which you believe the employer can reasonably provide the information. This way the employer knows exactly what you need and you have proof of when and what was requested. Depending on a variety of factors, our Union may decide that the best course of action is to file an Unfair Labor Practice, or to wait until the case is in arbitration and let the arbitrator order the employer to provide the information.

Make sure your request is relevant. If you ask for more information than is really relevant, you may end up in a long and losing fight over the information while the grievance process grinds to a halt, or you will end up with a lot of extraneous information that can obscure what may be really important.

An information request form can be found in the Steward Resource Center under All Stewards General Resources. For more information on how to get access to the Steward Resource Center, please read the article on the Grievance Database in this newsletter or call the Member Resource Center.

Two Online Tools for Stewards: The Grievance Database and Steward Resource Center.

SEIU Local 503 has had an online grievance database in one form or another since 2007. Stewards have long desired a way to search for grievances so that they can find out how the same or similar issues fared in the grievance process. Last year, after listening to suggestions from users of the last version of the Grievance Database, we redesigned the database to address the most common suggestions. Users of this most recent version of the grievance database have found it to be easy and intuitive. It is a great way of filling out grievance forms and storing grievance information for use by other stewards looking for guidance on how similar issues have been handled in the past.

With the Grievance Database you can:

  • Search for a member in your local
  • Review the member’s contact information and correct it
  • Write a grievance for an individual you have found in the database
  • Write a grievance when you cannot find the individual in the database
  • Write a group grievance
  • Print draft and final grievance forms
  • Edit a grievance prior to final printing
  • Change the status of a grievance from unfiled to filed
  • Add notes to a grievance
  • Close a grievance
  • Search closed grievances
  • View and print a report of the search results
  • The grievance database will not allow you to send a grievance to management by clicking a button. You still need to both print it and turn it in to management, or save the grievance as a PDF file and email it to management (but it will not have the grievant’s signature).
  • The grievance database will not automatically remind you of grievance timelines. You can use the notes function as a timeline reminder but you will need to calculate the date a particular action is due and check your open grievances to see when an action is required.

What you need to get started:

  • Computer (PC or Mac)
  • A fast Internet connection (not dial-up)
  • Internet Explorer 7 or higher, Google Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox, with Java enabled
  • Adobe Acrobat or other PDF reader
  • A printer if you want to print hard copies
  • A user name and password

User Names and Passwords
Steward user names and passwords are generated when a member is flagged as a steward in SEIU Local 503’s membership database. If you are not sure whether or not you are flagged as a steward, or if you have not received a user name and password, or if you’ve forgotten your user name and password, please contact the Member Resource Center (MRC).

Getting started.

You can connect to the Grievance Database here:

Grievance Database and Steward Resource Center User Manual here:

Searching Grievances
Since the reason for having a grievance database has been to provide stewards with a way to search for grievances filed within their own local or other locals, it is very important that stewards use the grievance database to open and close grievances. Unless the grievance database is used, there will not be information to search.
You can search for closed grievances using a variety of criteria:

  • Grievance Outcome
  • Article
  • Name of grievant
  • Name of steward
  • Date Range
  • Name of Local
  • Name of Coalition

You can narrow your search results by using combinations of the above criteria. For example, if you want to see all grievances filed on Article 20 by stewards in ODOT that were won prior to mediation or arbitration, you would choose that combination of criteria on the Search page.

Steward Resource Center
Another online tool for stewards is the Steward Resource Center. The Steward Resource Center can be reached by a link off of our website right below the link to the Grievance Database or at The Steward Resource Center contains general information useful to all stewards, such as tips on making requests for information, termination agreements, last chance agreements, helpful websites, and past arbitration decisions from our Union. In addition, there is more specific information relevant to different sectors or employers. You will need your user name and password to get access to the Steward Resource Center.

For help with either the Grievance Database or Steward Resource Center, contact the MRC at the following numbers:

  • Adult Foster Care, Nursing Homes: 1.877.637.2611
  • Homecare, Child Care, Addus: 1.877.451.0002
  • State workers: 1.877.772.6551
  • Local Government, Private Non-Profit, University workers: 1-877-798-0008

Steward Trainings

  • Dec. 3, All Field Offices (V-Con) Human Services Coalition New DAS Contract Training Tuesday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:00
  • Dec. 13-14, Salem HQ 
Contract Enforcement Training
Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30
Saturday 9:00-4:00
  • Dec. 18, Eugene Field Office Nursing Home Contract Enforcement 9:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Jan. 11, Medford–location TBD Nursing Home Contract Enforcement 9:00-5:30 p.m.
  • Jan. 25-26, Eugene Field Office Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00-4:00
  • Jan. 31-Feb. 1, Salem HQ
 Contract Enforcement Training
Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30
Saturday 9:00-4:00
  • Feb. 8, Salem HQ Chief Steward Training on Just Cause 10:00-4:00
  • Feb. 8, Portland–location TBD Nursing Home Contract Enforcement 9:00-5:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 22, Portland–location TBD Nursing Home Contract Enforcement 9:00-5:30 p.m.
  • April 24-25, Bend – Location TBD Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00-4:00
  • July 18-19, Coos Bay – Location TBD Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00-4:00
  • Sept. 26-27, Medford – Location TBD Contract Enforcement Training Friday 5:30 (dinner) to 8:30 Saturday 9:00-4:00

To sign up for a training please contact your local SEIU 503 Field office 

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