30 April 2009

I hold my Sh*t Disturber Stick proudly

So, those that have been reading faithfully know I'm in a union and our contract is currently under negotiations. We also are aware that I don't like the union and have some issues with the way they do things. If you like, you can read about it here, here, here, and here.

Most recently, I asked for a meeting so that everyone could get some information on what is going on with the bargaining and how things work in general. So far we've had two meetings, one to talk about what to put in our proposal, and one to prepare for bargaining. I went to both meetings. The first I was invited to as it was a general meeting. The second one I was neither invited to nor welcomed at but attended anyway.

I'd asked the union for the meeting because I was on the phone quite a bit in order to get some answers to questions from coworkers. These coworkers didn't go to our Shop Steward because they felt she was not disclosing things, or just brushing them off. So I have become the thorn in Union Rep's side by calling for info. Literally, calling every hour on the hour until I get a hold of her. A meeting was decided upon after the bargaining began (in order to give us even more info) for this coming Wednesday at 3:30 pm.

Hm. Problem there. We are a 24 hour plant and so the night staff isn't really able to attend without losing some sleep. When I pointed this out to Union Rep, she said she made the meeting so the majority of people could attend. Double Hm. I told her it was very important that we all be available to attend and therefore a Saturday would be better, like we did for our very first meeting. After all, making sure everyone is available makes better sense than just getting the majority. She said our negotiator wasn't available on Saturdays. In my opinion, his attendance is recommended not required. He will negotiate whatever we tell him to, we shouldn't have to work around his schedule. The employees are a bigger priority then he is. IMHO. Anyway, the meeting time wasn't moved. I checked the schedule with the bosses and found we would have three more Fridays off (still!) before the bargaining would begin again....so I called Union Rep again and told her that every union member would be able to go on a Friday as we have the time off. Still no budging on meeting time.

I got a bit nasty at this point.

I told her it was unethical to deliberately exclude people when there is the possibility to include people. She had mentioned during the call that they are a full disclosure union, so I also asked why we weren't shown the proposal before bargaining had begun. This is our contract and we should be able to see the proposal and see what the union has tagged on to it. They have included items that we didn't approve or even know about that makes our proposal a lengthy 50 items (I'll tell you how I know that in a bit). I told her I want the proposal read to us or each of us given a copy to read during the meeting. She didn't say whether or not that would happen. I don't know how they can classify themselves as 'full disclosure' if they are keeping information from us. The remainder of the phone call was a lot of her telling me that I just don't understand how things work, that she's always available to talk, and then ending the call.

Not long after all that, the union had a form for us all to fill out. They didn't explain the purpose of the form or anything, just fill it out and return them to the Boss. So I took my time but did eventually fill it out. What I know is that we are required to pay union dues as a condition of our employment. But paying the dues doesn't make us a part of the union, technically we are not members unless we fill out a membership form, which is what this form was. Every single coworker I explained this to had that Brain Freeze Eye Twitch shortly after. One person wondered if he could get fifteen years of union dues refunded. Not likely.

Anyway, when I handed my form in my Boss pointed out I'd filled out one box incorrectly. It was labeled 'starting wage' which is what I entered. Boss said it was supposed to say 'current wage'. Now why would I fill out a legal form with mislabeled information? Grrrr. When I countered Boss on it he just kept saying 'talk to the union'. That's when the verbal diarrhea exploded out of my mouth. I ranted and raved about the idiocy of the union and the way they seem to be stonewalling me. I told Boss that I'd been trying to get the union to change the meeting time and how they refused, about how the letter the union gave us to explain what had happened during bargaining was vague, and how they added items to our proposal without our knowledge or consent. I told Boss that I had asked Shop Steward and Union Rep what was discussed during bargaining. I was told 'the meetings went fine' by SS and 'union visibility' by UR, and the union is claiming that the reason bargaining takes a long time is because of the company drawing things out. Boss told me something different.

He told me that they entered bargaining and told union that they wanted to discuss pay increases first. They wanted us to get the money 'in our jeans' as soon as possible because of the recession and shortened work week. Union apparently said we'll get to that in good time, the recession isn't a factor, and proceeded to discuss the union bulletin board for four hours (they want to be able to put anything up on the board, right now the company can take something down if they see it as offensive). Boss also told me that they have two proposals: keep the contract as is, and discuss the possibility of wage increases. Union told me the company had five items. Boss told me the union has 45-50 items on their proposal. The last time I saw the proposal it was only 30 items. What in blazes is in this proposal?!?!

As much as I said I wasn't going to discuss the union at work, well, that failed. I grabbed my Shit Disturber Stick and told as many people as I could about what Boss told me. When all this started in January I'd asked Boss some questions about unions and voiced my general distrust of them. Boss had told me then that I could ask him anything about the union and negotiations, he would answer any question, and that I could tell anyone what he said. So I did. As much as possible. He did make it clear that I couldn't negotiate with him at all but that he would tell me whatever I wanted to know. He also said that the company's biggest concern the last time the contract was negotiated was that the information was not getting to the general staff. When I'd asked Union Rep on the phone why Shop Steward wasn't telling us anything, she said SS isn't obligated to say anything. Well what is the point of having people on the bargaining committee if they aren't going to report back to the staff?? Snark.

Ok, so all that has happened in the last month. Our new schedule was posted on Thursday with a note saying there will be a staff meeting on the following Tuesday. One coworker is a bit more outspoken than me and asked Boss what the subject of the meeting was going to be. He told her it was about the union. Apparently he'd asked Shop Steward to tell the employees what is going on with the bargaining and SS refused to discuss it. So he said he'll tell us what's going on himself.

The staff meeting is the day before the union meeting.

I. can't. wait.

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