What can a shop steward do outside of the normal grievance process? Can anything be done when an employee is unjustly penalized, even though the company is technically in compliance with the collective bargaining agreement?
I am a driver and shop steward at Baumann Bus’s Copiague, N.Y., yard.
A driver who had worked at Baumann Bus for 12 years lost his seniority last year. He is an excellent employee and had never been disciplined during his career.
He and his family were devastated to learn their son had a rare form of cancer. The son lived in Arizona and the driver wanted to be at his side during his treatment. The company agreed to a leave of absence, but he found he needed to stay in Arizona beyond the approved time frame.
He had exhausted his FMLA. He returned to work as a rehire, with a total loss of seniority. He had hoped the treatment would succeed; however, his son passed away.
The employee asked for my help. We did not technically have a case and a grievance was not the route to go. I told him I would help him draft a letter to our union president, Timothy Lynch, describing the situation.
This action exceeded our expectations. Timothy felt this was a moral and ethical issue. The penalty to the driver for staying at his child’s bedside was draconian, to say the least.
Mr. Lynch, with passion and logic, doggedly pursued the issue with the company. He represented the feelings of hundreds of us, and he did not give up. Within a few months, Baumann restored the seniority.
It was a win-win for everyone—the driver, the workers, the union and Mr. Baumann, because he has retained a good employee.
I am glad I could help this gentleman by speaking up. You have to right wrongs. For the shop steward, sometimes you just have to take the extra step.