Should People Who Work Off the Clock be Fired?

    Should people who work off the clock be fired? Is working for free the same as stealing?  At what point should we stop protecting workers who violate the contract and start enforcing our labor agreement?
    I know that our National Contract and Regional Supplements with UPS spell out the steps and reasons for termination. They specifiy certain behaviors that the company finds unacceptable and will not tolerate. Things like stealing and being impaired by drugs or alcohol while on the job. And the Union plays the role of savior by standing up for workers who get into trouble and trying to get their jobs back.
    I know the already contract addresses the potential problem of employees working before their start times or during their breaks. It says that the company does not allow it and if the You're fired for stealingproblem is grieved, the remedy will be to pay the employee for all time worked. But the company does allow it. Some people believe they even encourage it. And why shouldn’t they? Everybody likes to get something for free. And managers and supervisors are assessed on their ability to get more work done for less money, so any work they can get done for free is money in the bank.
    But what happens when an employee works off the clock? First off, he is stealing money from his coworkers. If a job needs to be done, then it’s a job the company will pay someone to do. If someone does it for free, then they have prevented someone else from getting paid to do it. That’s stealing. And theft is one of those behaviors that the company usually finds unacceptable.
    Time that is worked but is not paid and reported as income is not taxed. Social Security taxes are not paid on it and State and National taxes are not paid. Would Social Security be hurting for money today if our culture had never condoned working for free and not paying taxes. How many dollars have been denied to Social Security over the last 50 years that could have and should have been invested?
    Working off the clock gives the company a false sense of how many people it takes to get a job done. If UPS dispatches 20 drivers and half of them skip their lunch, then they get 10 hours of free work a day. That’s a whole route that is done for free. There is someone waiting in the wings for a driving job at UPS and he will never get hired (or a driver will get laid off) if the current employees do his job for free. That’s not fair when the unemployment rate is already over 7% and rising. We need to be putting people to work, not doing their work for free while they struggle.
    That employee that will never get hired is also a potential Teamster who will not be paying dues. Our dues money goes to strengthen our position at the bargaining table and is returned to us in better wages and benefits. We are doing ourselves a great disservice to keep future Teamsters off the payroll by doing their work for free and showing the company we don’t need them.
    Isn’t it time we finally addressed the issue of employees working off the clock? This is not a radical idea. Other Unions have done it. The language needs to be put in the contract that puts the burden of punishment not on the company but on the employee. And the union should step up and protect itself and the country from these workplace thieves. The Union isn’t doing itself any favors by not addressing the problem. People who work off the clock should be fired.