Screwed on Seniority

My local represents employees who work in the trade show industry in Boston. Our contract clearly states that management has to give preference to workers ‘with relevant trade show experience prior to April 1, 2003.’ Management has been ignoring this language and hiring whoever they please—and our union officials have taken no action. In the meantime, Teamsters with seniority are sitting at home. Is this contract language legit and what can we do to enforce it?

–Screwed on Seniority in Local 82

Dear Screwed,

The contract language you’ve cited is absolutely enforceable. In fact, it is the standard language that Teamster locals with referral halls use to protect union hiring rights in the face of anti-labor laws that make it illegal to require union membership as a condition of hiring.

When your employer ignores that language and bypasses experienced Teamster trade show workers to hire individuals without relevant trade show experience prior to April 1, 2003, management is violating the contract. Any Teamster with relevant experience before April 1, 2003 who is passed over in favor of a person who lacks such experience has a winnable grievance.

Individuals who want to enforce this contract language should keep a log to document that they presented themselves as available for work and were passed over for individuals who don’t have relevant experience before April 1, 2003. They should file a grievance that states the day they were passed over and, if possible, who they were improperly passed over in favor of. The appropriate “make whole” remedy would be a day’s pay plus pension and health and welfare credit.

In reality, language like this should not be left up to individuals to enforce. Local 82 should be monitoring hiring and policing the contract. Your local union has tools at its disposal for doing so—from the chief shop steward and business agents to federal law. The National Labor Relations Act requires your employer to turn over its hiring records to Local 82 upon request.

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