I'll admit that I never participated in union functions other than voting to join ATU 1001 and in the election of officers and that I can't remember ever voting for an union supported amendment in a state election.
If you know me, you may remember that I applied for a Street Supervisor position shortly before I became ill. I don't know if I'd have gotten an offer or not but I'll tell you that in my view, there was an extra $360 a year raise because I wouldn't have had to pay dues any longer.
That said, I still have issues in the way the union has represented me since this ordeal began. Part of the blame lies with me because I didn't go out of my way to contact the union but neither did the union make any attempt to contact me. I don't think I'm a VIP deserving of special recognition but the first and only acknowledgement, in any way connected with the union, that I
was off work, was a Christmas Card from Yogi (Thanks Yogi, I really appreciate it!). While I'm at it, I'd also like to personally thank all the Longmont employees who helped me out.
A couple of things bother me. I visited the ATU Local 1001 website on a pretty regular basis. If you're interested, the title of this post links to the website. Imagine my surprise when I clicked on:
FTI - Metro, Contract Negotiations
and saw the following message:
"ATU Local 101(sic) ratified a contract with First Transit on January 10, 2009"
I understand that I was off work but I never had a clue that there was a contract vote scheduled. Was it too much to ask that someone at the union pick up the phone and call me?
As I told you earlier, I met with the union last week. I have no intention of filing a formal grievance (binding arbitration) but there needs to be change and the union is the logical place to start. The old contract is ambiguous at best and I've been told that the new contract just changes a few pay details but otherwise uses the same language.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. The contract states that an employee can be terminated for "just cause" and that the company can implement reasonable rules and regulations. It appears from the HR letters I've received that I was terminated under Article 34, Paragraph B. Please read Article 34 and tell me how anyone can make an assumption that being out sick for six months constitutes "just cause". I'll take it a step farther and say that my interpretation of Article 34 is that the company has to start paying me once I've been out for six months, regardless of my duty status :-) Seems to me, my interpertation is as valid as anyone elses.
I'm sure that the company has a policy to terminate an employee after six months (I'm certainly trying to find out exactly what the written policy says) but why hide behind the CBA? My friend Kay says it "omissions and assumptions". Omissions from the union when they wrote the contract and assumptions by the company when they interpret it. Well folks, that just ain't kosher! Contracts and the words in the contract have meaning and you can't make assumptions without possible consequences.
That was one of the concerns I took to the union. The other is that, in my opinion, the company did not follow the applicable laws in dealing with my situation and the union did nothing to protect my rights.
I understand that we're all invincible and that what happened to me was a fluke, right? Let me give you some frighting statistics. I had a condition known as an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA). There are normally no symptoms until it ruptures and it's 90% fatal when it does. 5% of US males over 60 will develop an AAA and it's the 13th leading cause of death in the US overall and the 10th leading cause for men. The point is that we're all human and what happened to me can happen to anyone. Also, consider all the other risks we face on a daily basis.
As dues paying members of the union (not me any longer but I was at the time) we have the right to demand that the union protect our rights and provide oversight to ensure that the company follows the law! The US, good or bad, lags way behind the rest of the industrialized world in protecting workers and we have to demand that what few rights we have are not trampled on, either intentionally or just through a lack of understanding. If there's any support, I'll draft a petition to the union. I can't do it by myself so contact me if you're interested. There is an email button in my profile. you can also use: firstname.lastname@example.org