Something I learned as a shop steward

May 27, 2010


It can be discouraging to be a union shop steward. Short of going to arbitration it can be hard to win a grievance. Unless you get a manager to hear your grievance who is willing to do the right thing, it can take a year to move a case from the first level to arbitration. Short of arbitration, all the hearing officers who hear and judge grievances are managers. Short of full blown arbitration, management owns the destination for grievances.

Sometimes, I was discouraged as a steward. Despite the merits of my cases, it seemed I often “lost”. It was then I learned to stop focusing on winning and start focusing on really winning:

What does that mean?

If you control the journey and your adversary controls the destination, victory is yours when you make the journey the destination.

What is it we really seek to win when we file a grievance? We seek two things, the best possible outcome for our constituent and compliance with the contract.

It costs a lot of time and energy for the employer to process a grievance. If we focus on what we really seek to win, we can win even when we don’t win. My philosophy as a union steward is to file on every violation. If they fail to meet to discuss a grievance, as per the grievance article of the contract, that is another violation of the contract. I will file a second grievance on that and escalate the first grievance. Soon you have a swarm of legitimate grievances!

We own the process, the journey. We decide if and when to file a grievance. We decide how many grievances to file. They may own the destination, whether to grant or deny a grievance. But, we decide when the journey starts and we decide when to escalate a grievance.

If you play a card and it gets brushed aside, what do you do? If you have one you play another card! We can file as many grievances as there are contract violations. We never run out of cards when the contract is being violated. To quote Robert A. Jung, “if you have more cards in hand than each opponent, you may return Death of a Thousand Stings.”

If they know they will have to make the journey every time they violate the contract; the violations will eventually stop. Bad managers who do not follow the contract will clean up their act or will get tired and go away. I have been a union shop steward for over twenty years. It requires diligence, dedication hard work and often, perseverance.

We may not win all, or many, or any grievances, but sometimes that is not the victory to seek. The final outcome is the victory to seek. The focus of our efforts has to be on final outcomes. Whatever it takes to stop abusive recurring management practices and win compliance to the contract, that is the real victory we must seek.

NOTE –> These are my own personal opinions, views, information and perspectives regarding the labor movement in general and our local union, Chapter 307 of CSUEU, the California State University Employees Union at SJSU, San Jose State University, San Jose, California. This in NOT meant to represent the official union position on this or any other matter.


Kassing coming back

May 27, 2010

According to a reliable source former SJSU President Don Kassing is returning to SJSU to serve as the “new” interim SJSU President.

Negotiations for layoffs continuing today

May 27, 2010

I am in Human Resources with the other members of the negotiating team negotiating with university representatives over the impact of layoffs at San Jose State University. Today follows last week’s two days of negotiations. If you are a university staff employee and you want to see bargaining in real life, come to the third floor of the HR/UPD building in front of the Seventh Street Garage.

Copiers, security and SJSU

May 26, 2010
Copy Machine Security

Copy Machine Security Video

Click on image to view video.

This video, sent by a friend, (and reportedly from CBS) calls into question the security of common copy machines. Many of these types of copiers are all over campus in unsecured locations. It makes one wonder, is this is an issue we are dealing with appropriately?

Staff layoff negotiations update

May 25, 2010

According to a bargaining report on the California State University Employees Union Web site, “The CSUEU bargaining team met with CSU representatives at San Jose State University on May 19 and 20. Both parties exchanged proposals. CSUEU initially proposed that all SJSU layoffs be rescinded, but management rejected that proposal.” The report also said:

The union countered with a proposal for a 90-day extension of layoffs. CSUEU is proposing to move the effective date of layoffs from July 1 to October 1. The 90-day extension would allow more time for SJSU HR to solicit as many voluntary time-base reductions as possible, which in turn may mitigate the layoffs of many of those employees who have already been noticed. [Read More]

Negotiations continue Thursday, May 27, 2010 at SJSU.

Google and age discrimination

May 24, 2010

According to an article in today’s San Jose Mercury News, former Google Engineer Brian Reid’s case alleging age discrimination on the part of Google is going to be heard by the California State Supreme Court. The article said:

Reid’s (age 54) long-running legal feud with Google has reached the California Supreme Court, which this week will hear arguments that will determine if the age discrimination allegations will ever be aired to a jury. [Read More]

I am not saying Google is guilty. However the sheer number of allegations we have seen and heard lately about Google’s business practices makes me wonder. We are planning to give Google all our campus e-mail. What is the back out strategy should we decide we need to stop doing business with them at a later date?

Unions are conversations

May 21, 2010

As I sit here and contemplate the last two days of bargaining, it strikes me that so much of what we do as labor leaders has to do with conversations. The whole concept of labor law is built around the concept of facilitating and empowering conversations. We organize our unions and recruit members as a direct result of many conversations. We hold elections, after talking to folks about our unions. Our contracts are the result of conversations in bargaining. Enforcement of contracts are the result of conversations (a process we call grievances.) When we go to negotiate new contracts there are many more conversations, with our members, with each other, with management.

They may not all be verbal but if you cannot hold and participate in a conversation; you do not have a union.