Know Your Rights: Members Enforce Union Contracts
This victory is being recounted by Marilyn Mara, RN, MSN, Regional Public Health Nurse for the County of Santa Clara:
“When we fight, we WIN!”
This keeps ringing in my head the day we found out the final arbitration decision for our grievance on September 13, 2018.
Our union contracts rebalance power, forcing employers to share control of wages and working conditions. But without a way to enforce the contract, all the power remains with management. The grievance process is “the heart of the contract”. What’s the point of bargaining for a contract if it can’t be enforced? I’ve learned all of this in our SEIU Steward training and took it to heart.
A group of us, five Public Health Nurses (PHNs), were denied our educational leave while attending a conference to maintain our Registered Nursing (RN) license almost a year ago, although it had been common practice in the past for the employer to grant it. At first, we tried to resolve the issue at the lowest possible level. However, when management couldn’t resolve the issue at the grievance level, we took management to “court” or to the process of arbitration. An arbitrator is a neutral person that listens and evaluates the pieces of evidence brought by management and the union. We, PHNs, demanded redress for violation of our rights.
It’s going to be almost a year since we filed our grievance. We recently received great news that we WON! There is justice after all! Although it took almost a year, which required intense determination and persistence, there is definitely a tremendous feeling of victory for upholding our rights. The arbitration process is a long one, but a worthy road to take up to fight for our rights. This is a major win for the labor movement, for working families and for our SEIU members.
Per the decision of the arbitrator, “the Employer violated the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) when it required public health nurses to use their own leave for a portion of the conference days for which they received continuing education units”.
“When we fight, we WIN!” is not just a chant. You have to LIVE it before you can know it. As one of my friends has said to me, “Justice is seen to be done.” Have the courage to fight for what you believe in, for your rights, and you may just see justice. We did.
Arbitration Decision, September 13, 2018: