January 10, 2008: Supervisors working. They’re everywhere, and enforcing the contract can be a major challenge.
But Teamsters across the country report that a well-coordinated enforcement plan can turn the tide on supervisors working and make management pay for their violations.
With the penalty up to double-time in the new contract, stewards and members need to gear up to increase enforcement.
Here are some proven strategies for increasing your success:
“Filing grievances on supervisors working can really backfire if you don’t talk with the members,” says Dawn Stanger, a veteran grievant from Vermont Local 597. “Working at UPS is incredibly tough and overburdened workers often appreciate it if someone helps them. If a member doesn’t understand why you’re filing a grievance, they can end up siding with the supervisor.”
Stanger’s advice: “Talk with members in advance. We need to get members to understand that this is ‘our’ work. Personal contact is key, especially with new members, to explain why supervisors working grievances are important.
“Follow up communication is important too. I won a lot of pay for members but only when I started giving out monthly grievance updates with amounts and explanations (but not with members’ names) did the practice really start to get support,” Stanger said.
Document Carefully and Write Clear Grievances
Carefully documenting the violation and writing clear grievances will make it easier to hold UPS to the contract.
Make sure to include the 5 Ws in every grievance:
- Who was working?
- What were they doing?
- Where were they doing it?
- When did they start working and when did they stop? Including starting and stop time will give management less wiggle room to debate how long the supervisor worked.
- Witnesses, if any. Witnesses aren’t required (our word is as good as management’s) but having them strengthens your case.
Use Contract to Counter Management’s Arguments
Management will often try to claim some loophole that justified supervisors working. But our contract clearly puts the burden on management to maintain a “sufficient workforce” and to “exhaust all established local practices…including where applicable double shifting, early call-ins and overtime,” to have our work performed by bargaining unit employees. (Article 3, Section 7).
In some areas, each operation is required to maintain a seniority list of employees requesting coverage work and the company is required to use it.
When processing a grievance, hold management to its obligations under Article 3, Section 7.
Management’s failure to adequately plan or to staff a shift is not an “Act of God” or an excuse for supervisors to work.
Weak BA? Then Handle Your Own Grievance
Many members say that weak local representation encourages supervisors working—especially when the few grievances that are filed are either dismissed or settled for a fraction of the penalty due.
We need to work together to hold our local and International Union officials accountable for firm enforcement. In the meantime, in some cases, it is better for stewards to handle their own grievances.
One Local 63 member says: “I’ve filed numerous grievances on working supervisors and won about 95 percent of them because my shop steward is on the same page. The 5 percent that aren’t resolved are handled by my BA. He waters them down and plays ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ before it goes to panel. We try to settle the majority of grievances at the first step.”
Get Your Union on the Hook
“I highly recommend contacting the local to see what strategy they recommend,” says one Michigan steward. “It makes them much more accountable if you are involving them in the process.”
Coordinate With Members
“The more members, and shifts, that work together to stop the problem the more successful you’ll be,” says Pontiac Local 243 shop steward Darwin Moore.
“At our building, part-timers and full-timers work together and notify each other of violations. We have individuals indicate that they want any extra work available. It is always good if you can show who could have done the work and that there are members who are willing.
“UPS still tries to say it is an emergency, no one is available, and that the work is time-sensitive. But we keep grieving. We still have sups that can’t keep their hands off our work, but our building is much better than most I have seen.”