Grievances and Building Power

On February 8th, Arbitrator Stephen Befort ruled against AFSCME Hennepin County Locals in our class action grievance regarding performance pay. For those of you who were not aware, the County decided to carve out workers with a performance review from December 23rd to December 31st in 2018 and deny them their contractual right to a step increase. They argued that since the increase went into effect the next full pay period (in January 2019) that they would get the 3% increase under our new contract instead of their step.

That means everyone else represented by our unions got their step increase in 2018, except individuals with reviews from 12/23-12/31. AFSCME leaders met with County Commissioners Conley, Fernando, Greene and Goettel. We requested a meeting with Callison, which she declined, stating she was already aware of the is-sue. We told them that it was wrong of the County to try to save a little money at the expense of these workers. We told them that it was wrong that all the other workers got their step and this one group of workers didn’t. The County never notified the union or workers that they planned to do this, meaning people who had budgeted to get a bigger increase were short changed.

Despite our arguments that ALL workers should receive the same treatment under the contract, Arbitrator Befort sided with the County and upheld their decision. What does this tell us? We cannot trust the grievance procedure alone to resolve our issues. What it tells us is some-thing we know intuitively: that the system is stacked against workers, that it sides with the boss. Does that mean we don’t need a grievance procedure? Does that mean we don’t need arbitration? Of course not. We need a procedure to fight management when they violate the contract, but we cannot rely on that procedure alone. We have to mobilize and put more pressure on public officials to do the right thing. We also need to ensure that this issue is addressed in our next round of negotiations so this won’t happen again.