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Member Wins Grievance, Receives Back Pay

Mary Stephens (left) received a check for more than $12,000 in back pay after settling a grievance with Health Care Services Group (HCSG).

For 29 years, Mary Stephens had worked at the Parkersburg Care Center (now owned by Genesis Healthcare, Inc.) in Parkersburg, W.Va., the first 15 years in dietary and the last 14 years in laundry. By all accounts, she was a model employee and Local 400 member.

Two years ago, a subcontracting firm, Health Care Services Group (HCSG), was hired to run the laundry.  Up until this point, residents’ clothes, sheets, towels and other personal items had been washed with two workers operating the laundry. But HCSG—looking at the bottom line, rather than the actual workload—got the brilliant idea that laundry only required one worker. This person was expected to do the work of two people all by herself.

That’s the impossible position Mary Stephens found herself in. “They cut us down to one and it should have been two,” she said. “They haven’t yet proven it can be done.”

Mary worked as hard as she could but kept falling behind. She had been set up to fail. In October 2018, she was terminated. Adding insult to injury, management did not follow proper discipline procedures. Instead, they just kept a diary of what Mary didn’t get finished, because the workforce had been cut by 50 percent.  “I didn’t like the way they treated me,” she said. That was an understatement.  After she was let go, the members at the facility united together and documented what was taking place in the laundry.  They proved that the laundry job was not able to be done by one person in an eight-hour shift.

Mary and her union immediately filed a grievance. When the case was scheduled for arbitration, HCSG reached out to the Union one more time and we reached an agreement. Under the agreement, Mary received a check for over $12,000.00. “My union did what they could and they did their job,” she said.  Mary has decided not to return to work and start her retirement.

In the meantime, the subcontractor running the laundry operation has been bringing in extra people to help, suddenly realizing the job is too big for one person. Unfortunately, this “epiphany” was too late for Mary. But her union ensured that justice was served.

Clinton Healthcare Center Workers Awarded $1,500 in Back Pay

From left to right: James Smith, Joyce Jackson, Claudene Fletcher and Dora Young, along with shop steward Tawanna Gray, received $1,500 in back pay after filing a grievance at Clinton Healthcare Center.

Like most Local 400 members, the contract covering employees at the Clinton Healthcare Center in Clinton, Md., requires scheduling to be based on seniority. Workers with the most seniority are scheduled for 10 days in each two week period, and those with less tenure might find their hours more varied, based on staffing needs.

But shortly after Clinton was purchased by CommuniCare Health Services, a for-profit company that operates 50 health care and rehabilitation centers in five states, scheduling started to change. “The new management wasn’t looking at our contract or our needs, it was just doing whatever it wanted,” said Local 400 shop steward Tawanna Gray. “I told them, ‘we have seniority and you have to follow our collective bargaining agreement.’ But they didn’t listen.”

So Tawanna spoke with her Local 400 representative, Heather Thomas, who filed a grievance on behalf of Clinton employees against management.

At first, progress was slow. But then a new general manager was hired who recognized the company was in the wrong and who worked cooperatively with Local 400 members to put things right.

“It took a while, but we let him know how many hours each affected employee was denied, and eventually, they wrote back pay checks,” Tawanna said. “And from that day forward, they’ve always looked at seniority first in scheduling.”

The total amount of back pay was nearly $1,500 for the five members who had been wrongfully denied their hours — Claudene Fletcher, Joyce Jackson, Rose Proctor, James Smith and Dora Young.

“I didn’t get any money back myself, but I was so happy for everyone who did,” Tawanna said. “The people who deserved it got it. And they were very, very grateful.

“I think it’s always a plus when the company and union agree together,” she added. “An even greater plus is when you have a GM from the company who says, ‘I see a mistake, I’ll take care of it, and it won’t happen again.’ It was a real morale booster, especially for me because I didn’t feel I had to do it all by myself. We had our union to back us up.”

Safeway Stocker Reinstated with Back Pay After Wrongful Suspension

“They threw me under the bus.”

Fortunately for Local 400 member Eric Jarrett, that wasn’t the end of the story.

Eric works as an overnight stocker at Safeway #1019 in Alexandria, Virginia. His store is one of the few locations that is supposed to be open 24 hours.

But one night, Eric was instructed to close the store when there was no cashier on duty. Even though he was following instructions, Eric’s manager suspended him and one of his coworkers.

“You have to have at least one checker in the store for it to stay open,” Eric said. “But the guy who normally does the job had hurt his shoulder and was home for two weeks. So the store had to be closed occasionally because we had no checker or because the floors had to be waxed. The store manager knew all about it. When customers started complaining, instead of accepting responsibility, they blamed it another stocker and me. But I am in no position to close the store. I wasn’t the one who decided to do it.”

Eric didn’t take this sitting down. He worked with his union representative and immediately filed a grievance and pursued it aggressively.

“I was out of work for three and a half weeks,” Eric said. “Tom [Rogers, his Local 400 representative] spoke on my behalf and did a marvelous job of getting me reinstated as fast as he could. I was impatient and apprehensive, but Tom calmed me down. He knew what he was doing and reached a good settlement.”

Eric was reinstated and awarded full back pay for the time of his suspension and justice was served.

“I’m good where I’m at right now, but as far as I’m concerned, Safeway owes me [and my coworker] an apology for throwing us under the bus,” Eric said. “Safeway used to be a good company, but they don’t care about their employees, only the bottom line. They’re making lots of money in my store, but they keep cutting back hours and running on a skeleton crew. This company can’t run by itself — they need us. I’m just thankful our union’s got our backs.”