TWU Local 555 President Greg Puriski
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Better Times Ahead? Hopefully...

This week the union received some very interesting news from our counterparts with the company. Supreme Manager Venckus has moved on from his role as the head of Labor Relations for Ground Operations. While he was not directly involved in negotiations, his rule coincided with the toughest time we’ve had negotiating a contract. Under his watch Labor Relations has waged non-stop war on some of our most dedicated employees.

We have seen every form of heavy-handed discipline that we could have imagined. There have been some instances in which long tenured employees with spotless records were given Final Letters of Warning and unpaid suspensions for events so minor that arbitrators would eventually reduce that discipline to Letters of Instruction (our lowest level of disciplinary letter). We have seen employees terminated for not reporting minor accidents that they didn’t even know that they’d had, only to be reinstated by arbitrators as well. There have been terminations based on the company’s inexcusable attempts to pervert the language of our contract: the MDW 11 were all terminated, and eventually reinstated, for the twisted way in which the company tried to apply the contractual language pertaining to sending you to a doctor of their choosing.

As your union advocates we have also seen Labor Relations managers, who know that they have a bad case, push forward because they’re not allowed to let up. Most recently we have seen two agents, in the same city, violate the same company policy by having the same accident only to have two vastly different levels of discipline. Agent A was a man who had five years less seniority than his female counterpart. Agent A received a Letter of Instruction for his violation, while Agent B received a Letter of Warning with a three day unpaid suspension. What was the difference? From as far as I could tell, it was only that Agent B was female. Imagine what she’d have gotten if she’d been a minority. The company was so intent to protect the position of the discipline that they’d given Agent B that the Labor Relations manager who “helped in determining her level of discipline” attempted to lie under oath about the factors he’d considered when deciding on her discipline. His reaction when caught amounted to little more than an “oops.”

We can only hope that with the change in that department comes a change in their attitudes towards our work group as well. We could be on the verge on a new and improved relationship with them, or we could be stuck in a worse situation than we already were. Hopefully the leadership change will mark an era in which our agents are innocent until proven guilty. Hopefully the company is ready to treat us with the respect we deserve by not making us all feel as though we’re under siege and by getting us a new contract and making good on the time that we’ve worked under the old one.