Stewarding — Representing a Terminated Driver

        One of my least pleasant but certainly most important roles as a steward was to represent a fellow employee who was going through the process of being terminated. I was in a lot of termination hearings over the years and I never saw two alike. But my duties as the Steward were always the same. My most last one was no exception. 
        This driver had been involved in an intersection accident, a tier 3 accident which fit the criteria of a “serious accident” for which you can be discharged without going through the 3 step disciplinary process of warning, suspension and then termination. This driver wasn’t in my center but I was leaving the building late one morning when the shit hit the fan and I was called in to represent him. I grabbed my union book, told my center manager I was going to need help with my air stops and put on my game face. I met my newest friend and we went into the office.
        A Steward has to remember that he is on equal footing with management in any office situation. You have some things that you can do to control the meeting. The first thing I always do is get out my notebook and start writing. I make sure I’ve got a clean sheet of paper, I take names and I note the time and place. If management is being bullish, you can knock them down a peg before they even get started by asking something they don’t expect. “Are you still in this office, I heard you were going to the midnight hub?” That takes the point off their arrow for a minute and gives you a chance to settle in. shock and awe
        The company has to lay out their case first. If the company just lays out their case then, without hesitation, I take the driver outside and ask him what happened. If management starts right off fishing, asking the driver what happened yesterday, I object. I ask point blank, “Why are we here?” The Steward has the right to know the purpose of the meeting and if that means you and the manager have to step outside and talk first, then that’s what must happen. Then, when the questioning begins again, I call a halt and take the member outside. I tell him what they suspect and get his side of the story. Then I can advise him on what to say and sometimes, on what not to say.
        In this case of the driver involved in the tier 3 accident, I told him up front that this was going to end in his termination. He looked scared. I put my hand on his shoulder and told him it wasn’t over by any means, that we would fight to get him reinstated and that the most important thing for him to do was to take responsibility for his role in the accident. It wasn’t the fault of the setting sun in his eyes, it wasn’t the fault of the 20 year old truck with no power. It wasn’t the other driver’s fault even though they could have stopped but didn’t. Be factual, keep it simple. If the driver is in the meeting and gets a bad case of motor mouth, I take him outside again and tell him that a pause in the conversation does not mean it’s his turn to talk. Look at your hands, look at the walls, look at me, I don’t care what, but don’t feel the need to fill every pause with another explaination. You can say too much. It’s hard to take back something you said, it’s easy to add more later if you didn’t say enough. 
        Meanwhile, I’m taking notes. Lots of notes. That serves two purposes. It slows the meeting down and it gives me a good picture later of exactly what was said. As soon as possible, certainly within 24 hours, I wll go back over my notes and if necessary, write up a summary in a more clear, concise form. That way I can give it to the BA when I turn in my grievance. Note taking is vital to good representation.
        Once all the facts are on the table and it’s obvious the company is going to terminate the driver, I again step outside with my driver and explain what is going to happen. They are going to take your ID. They may escort you off the property and if they do, go quietly, don’t talk about the case, not now, not later. No phone calls to the manager, I don’t care what your wife says, don’t call anyone but me or the Business Agent. I fill out the grievance and I get his signature on it. I leave the “contract article violated” section blank until the company announces what article they are using and then I can take out the grievance and fill it in. Before going back in I punch the grievance in the time clock. I give the grievant my phone number and the phone number of the business agent and tell him to write up a statement. Don’t wait a week, write it up today. You can go over it with the BA and fine tune it later, but write it up while the details of the accident are fresh in your mind. If the termination is for an accident, I urge the driver to take home a copy of the 5 seeing habits and the 10 point commentary. Study them, be able to recite them if called upon to do so at the termination hearing. Don’t talk to anyone about the accident. Don’t call the other driver and try to get them on your side or ask them to write a statement. Be positive.
        The next step is the termination hearing and while this is basicly handled by the BA, the Steward’s role is important here also. I call my grievant every week to make sure he is doing OK. I urge them to file for unemployment. It gives him something to do and a way to maybe get some money. I tell him to wear something nice to the meeting. Keep it simple, no gaudy jewelry, no wild clothes. Look like a driver, not like a person enjoying a vacation. Be polite, not combative. It’s OK to be nervous, this is an important meeting. On the day of the meeting, when my driver shows up, I try to hang with him. Make him feel that he has a friend. It’s not just him against UPS, it’s us. The BA is usually busy and I try to dance between the BA and the driver. Every fired employee will ask you what his chances are. I try to be honest but not overly optimistic. It’s better that he be pleasantly surprised than cruelly disappointed. The hardest part of the job sometimes in being honest.
        In the termination hearing with the business agent, I like to have the member sit between us. I again take notes, I listen, I let the BA do his job. I’m always asked by the BA if I have anything to add and I always do. Sometimes, it’s to remind the company of the hard work the driver has put in over the years and of the cost of training new drivers. I say something positive about the driver sitting so nervously beside me. I try not to be confrontational or cut down the company’s case. I’m not trying to change the company, that battle can be fought later. Then we step outside and we wait. 
        I always feel that the longer the company takes to reach a decision the better. If they are hard set against bringing this guy back, then there isn’t much to talk about. But if we’ve done a good job on the Union side, then they have some fat to chew and the longer they chew the better I feel. It’s a nervous time for the terminated employee. He will always ask how he did. I always say he did real good unless it’s obvious he wasn’t prepared. If he was asked to recite the 5 seeing habits and didn’t know them, then I tell him to get to studying because we will probably be going to panels and he will have another chance. If he recited them but was so nervous he got the order wrong, that’s OK. He did good. We have a chance.
        During this process you learn alot about a driver, his home life, hi
s personality, his feelings about the job. I’ve seen guys who I felt needed professional help and I’ve told them so. I’ve seen guys that loved their families so much and felt so bad about letting them down that it made my heart ache. I’ve seen guys cry and I’ve felt like crying a few times myself. The waiting for a decision is the hardest part because there isn’t anything else you can do. It’s up to the company.
        When we go back in the company may have another question. This is not a time to present new evidence or start an argument. But most often, they begin to present their decision. Within a few sentences you can tell what they have decided. The waiting is over. They announce their decision. If they can’t reinstate the guy, then we are going to panels and the meeting is over. We pick up our stuff and leave. I tell the member what the panel is like, how the tables are set up, to expect a court reporter, what the consequences if we lose. But if they take the guy back, then it’s a happy day. We go outside and enjoy some nervous laughter, we shake hands all around, maybe even hug. I urge him to call home and let his family know. I look outside and the sun is shining and the world is bright. It’s a good day to be a Steward.

“Running, Jumping, Fireball”

Running, Jumping, Fireballs are a Thing of the PastWe have had the first casualty of a “running, jumping, fireball”. This Gal had been notorious for running a paper route. Of course management loved her because her numbers were always great. For 15 years they looked the other way while she flung their stuff far and wide. Along comes Telematics. They found that she had “discrepancies”, in her air deliveries. They found she wasn’t leaving them where she said, or when she said. She had been living in fear of management for years, trying to do everything they wanted to stay out of the line of fire. It all worked great until the arrival of the great overseer. Now management does not have the power to lie, cheat , and steal like they used to. That includes protecting their “running, jumping, fireballs”
              Do It Right, or you won’t be doing it at all!.
                       There are no lies with Telematics!
              They won’t protect you, even if they want to!

UPDATE: The RJF mentioned here lost her job permanently through the panel system. IF you don’t do it right, you will be fired. Additionally two more people are up for termination. One was even a scab from the strike.

Obama Blamed for Sanford Affair

     Leaders of the Republican party today blamed President Obama for SC Governor Sanford’s affair with an woman from Argentina. Rush Limbaugh led the blame game with his astute analysis of how frustration with Obama’s policies is leading right minded Americans to just “give up”.
     There was a time when the cornerstone of the Republican philosophy was personal  responsibility. People are responsible for their own actions. They preached that every person has free choice and what they do with their lives shows what kind of person they really are. Good people, good families, people with strong values, these people were good Republicans. They made good choices and worked hard for a good life. They didn’t need government bailouts or social relief programs, they didn’t need Head Start or Affirmative Action or welfare. They stood on their own.
      But more recently, as moral scandals have rocked the party, Republicans have abandoned personal responsiblity. Now they blame other people for their problems.  Of course, they most like to blame Democrats for their problems. The party of personal responsibility has become the party of finger pointing. They are no longer responsible for what they do. 
      President Obama takes his own wife on a “date night” and talks about the importance of fathers taking care of their children on “Fathers Day” while Governor Sanford, father of four, skips town on “Fathers Day” and flies to Argentina on State money to be with his other women.  Rush thinks that’s Obama’s fault. I think Rush is hitting the pills again.

But Will He Include the Public Option


Obama not closing door on possible health care tax

President Barack Obama meets with governors in the Roosevelt Room of the White AP – President Barack Obama meets with governors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, …

Campaign Against Rival Could Haunt FedEx

The word bailout has gone from descriptive to derogatory.

The FedEx-sponsored Web site (brown is both U.P.S.’s color and nickname) says that U.P.S. is “quietly seeking a Congressional bailout designed to limit competition for overnight deliveries.” Along with a “bailout-o-meter” showing U.P.S.’s revenue, and a spoof of a U.P.S. commercial, the site includes statements like, “This is a bailout, plain and simple, and the American people won’t stand for it.”

FedEx’s casting of a labor-law dispute as a bailout has raised ire at U.P.S. and at the Teamsters union, which said on Tuesday that it planned to respond with its own public relations campaign.

Some advertising experts said FedEx was putting its own brand at risk by so aggressively attacking a competitor and accusing U.P.S. of taking a federal bailout.

“Hinging so much of this — even the site itself and the URL name — to a bailout brings some pretty significant risks,” said Scott Elser, a partner in LaunchPad Advertising, which is not working with either company. “It’s arguably one of the most controversial terms that you can define in politics today. They draw you there based on that, and you don’t have to surf very long to realize that this is clearly not a bailout as most consumers and business people would define it, which is writing a check to a troubled business.”

“It’s a little bit of a bait and switch,” Mr. Elser said, which “has the ability to potentially harm their brand.”

“FedEx is appearing to spend millions of dollars to try to convince Congress that a FedEx driver delivering a package is different from a U.P.S. driver delivering a package,” said Malcolm Berkley, a U.P.S. spokesman.

FedEx’s labeling of the legislation as a bailout was wrong, he said.

“There’s clearly no way we’re seeking a bailout. In fact, what we’re doing is working to eliminate an earmark that has been given to FedEx for some years,” he said.

“I give them credit for inventiveness,” said Steve Centrillo, a principal at A-Team Advisors, a consultant to advertising agencies that is based in New York.

Pinning the problems on U.P.S. rather than on unionization helped FedEx avoid sticky labor relations questions, he said.

But, Mr. Centrillo said, the use of bailout was “the most questionably ethical thing on the site.

“It’s taking a word that is extremely loaded right now, and implying that somehow, the government is writing a check to U.P.S., which is clearly not the case.”

Telematics=Potty Profit

Another delivery from Big BrownThe company has shown it’s hand for the real use of Telematics. The use is to harass drivers into using their break to cover Poop and Pea times. The company feels that any use of time for anything other than productive delivery is a theft of time from the company, and they call it excessive break. Drivers are being told that they do not have the right to break trace or wash their hands after they use the bathroom. Telematics shows the break in trace as a red line, with a heading of “no delivery made”.
     Drivers are being harassed for such breaks as a theft of time from the company. The other use is to claim drivers must count their break from their last stop, to their return to delivery, even though they are still operating a company vehicle, and subject to all of the potential problems associated with that. If they have an accident, or get injured, it will all be considered UPS time, but the driver must use their time to cover the drive to and from break. Is the company demanding we leave the vehicle in the middle of the intersection in order to walk to break? They don’t make it clear.
     We are being held responsible for the safe operation, and parking of that vehicle, but they don’t want to pay us for that time. Sounds like a theft of time from the drivers to me. Again, folks, it’s all about harassment. Telematics has no other function than to harass drivers, and the company is using it for no other purpose.
     Zero information has come from the Union regarding the harassment. My feeling is they are purposely being quiet about it, because they are afraid of the consequences of fighting such cases. Politics and all that. Our contract is very vague in these areas, and the company feels they can do whatever they want. I feel we should just go in a bag, and leave it in the back of the package car, or use the newly required PUD, (personal urinary device),installed in each car, (usually a Subway cup, or a Burger King cup, or for the girls, a 7-11 Big Gulp). The company has reduced it’s harassment to the ultimate in Brown. The new add will be, “what kind of Brown did you take for the company today?”
     Many of you will chastise me for having this conversation on these pages. The fact is, these are the kinds of discussions we are having in the office every day, with a Telematics printed sheet in front of us. They have argued with me on the Brown Cafe, and other sites, and the fact is, “Telematics is being used as a harassment tool”. Out of hundreds of meetings we have never had a discussion with a driver over excess backing. We have never had a discussion with a driver over seat belt usage. We have had a thousand discussions over where a driver took a dump, and how he charged the time.
                                                                     The company has a new motto directed at the drivers!
                                                                                   Sh-t on Your Own Time!

All UPS Supervisors Moving to California

UPS loves to abuse their supervisors. And their managers. But in California, supervisors are saying, “The buck stops here.” And after reading the following news article, I’ll bet there isn’t a supervisor the country that isn’t thinking about packing up and moving to California. Read on….

LOS ANGELES, June 19, 2009 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — A unanimous federal jury awarded former UPS supervisor Michael Marlo $162,992.85 in unpaid overtime, missed meals and rest period compensation. The nine-person jury found that UPS improperly classified Marlo as an exempt employee and wrongfully deprived him of meals and rest periods and overtime compensation in violation of California law.

“We are pleased that the jury found in Mr. Marlo’s favor. UPS has routinely overworked its supervisors and intentionally misclassified its supervisors to avoid paying overtime and deprive them of meals and rest periods that UPS is required to provide under California law. This has allowed UPS to deprive its California supervisors of substantial amounts each year,” said Mark Peters, attorney for Mr. Marlo. “We hope that the jury’s verdict will send a message to UPS to follow California law, as well as reduce the excessive workload and the number of hours it forces its supervisors to work.”

The Marlo case is the first of 55 currently pending supervisor overtime cases against UPS in California to be tried.
Wall Street Journal

I’m NOT that Old

     I was in Einstein’s Bagels the other day and it took them about a half an hour to make my order. I guess exceptionally slow service must be a hallmark of Einstein’s Bagels because they have installed a video screen above the counter for the amusement of waiting customers.
     The monitor was playing a series of  questions with 4 answers, removing one answer at a time until just the correct answer was left. These games can be kind of fun and I started getting into it when, to my surprise they asked: “What were the names of the four members of the band called The Beatles?”  Then it gave 4 choices, like “John, Paul, George and Sting?” or “Jeff, Paul, George and Ringo?”
     My God, am I so old that I have outlived the influence of The Beatles?
For anyone out there who has forgotten who The Beatles are, I offer the following video.


And for anyone who is too young to remember:   It was John, Paul, George and Ringo !

Those Damn Unions

     With so much argument about the Employee Free Choice Act going on these days, it seems the whole country is dividing up between Union lovers and Union haters. Union lovers see organized labor as the only thing standing between the middle class and mass poverty. And as Unions shrink in size, so does the American Dream. We may be the last generation in a long line of generations where the kids had a higher standard of living than their parents. Our children will hard pressed to get better jobs and benefits than we have. Even the good Union jobs are taking a few steps backwards these days in wages and benefits. 
     As the automakers stumble and fall, the Union haters are quick to point out that it was the Unions that did them in. “High wages and benefits (the backbone of the middle class) forced the companies into bankruptcy”, they howl, “It was the damn Unions.” These same people who seem to loathe the middle class never point their fingers at greedy corporations. They never accuse the carnivorous CEOs of breaking the back of a once successful company. All they can see are those Damn Unions. 
     Well here is a Damn CEO story. You may have seen it on Yahoo. “Judge orders Scrushy to pay $2.9B to shareholders.” Yes, his name is really Scrushy! Richard Scrushy, the former head of HealthSouth. 
      After reading the following description of Scrushy’s activities and using the same thinking that the Union bashers use, I think we can assume that it is management that’s ruining America. Upper management thugs are masterminding it and their low-level goons are carrying out the destruction. Shouldn’t we treat them with the same repulsion that they have for us.

Circuit Judge Allwin E. Horn, who heard the case in Birmingham without a jury, ruled in favor of HealthSouth shareholders who filed a lawsuit claiming Scrushy was involved in years of overstating the company’s earnings and assets to make it appear the company was meeting Wall Street forecasts.

Horn wrote in his ruling that Scrushy “knew of and participated in” the faked reports filed with regulators from 1996 to 2002. He said the HealthSouth founder also “consciously and willfully” violated his financial responsibilities as CEO.

During the lawsuit trial, an attorney for shareholders, John W. Haley repeatedly confronted Scrushy over what Haley described as obvious conflicts of interest. Among them was HealthSouth’s purchase of 19 acres of land next to Scrushy’s suburban Birmingham estate for $1.9 million, then giving him the land three years later. Scrushy said he got the land instead of a bonus one year.

Haley, sounding incredulous, recounted how Scrushy took an $82 investment in a company that purchased property at a discount from HealthSouth and turned it into a personal profit of about $12 million in four years by leasing the property back to the corporation.

“That’s the way it works in America,” Scrushy said.

Haley, said Scrushy was “a man of substantial means” who earned more than $226 million from the time the fraud began until he left the company in 2005. The fraud cost the company $1.8 billion.