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August 19, 2017
Posted On: Aug 02, 2017

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

From the Steward Update Arbitration Reporter
Past Practice Principle Rules in Overtime Issue
An arbitrator ordered a utility to resume automatic overtime payments to substation workers, basing his ruling on a nearly 20-year past practice. Management had stopped paying the premiums, claiming that a side agreement permitted the action. The union grieved, and retired management staff agreed with the union that the side agreement was confusing and that the company had long paid a minimum of nine hours’ overtime pay whenever outside maintenance contractors were on the job. The arbitrator ordered management to resume the practice and pay back wages to any workers denied the overtime premium.

Labor Quote
Classic Quote
"The Labor movement means just this: It is the last noble protest of the American people against the power of incorporated wealth.”
—Wendell Phillips, American orator, abolitionist, 1871

Labor Cartoon
Bob Vojtko

Steward Tip

Organizing Around Workload Issues
When the boss’s solution to economic or competitive pressures is to have too few people do too much work, the steward is often the first to see the repercussions – and be confronted with the need to look for solutions. Unfortunately, workload problems have become increasingly common as “downsizing” employers of all sorts try to wring more and more productivity out of fewer and fewer people. As difficult as they are, however, workload issues frequently are good issues to organize around. You may want to begin your organizing by trying to determine if the problem is solvable or partly solvable. Is it reasonable to think you can win some changes? Do other workers feel strongly about the workload problem? After analyzing the problem you may decide that now is not the time to take on the issue if it is one of those “head against a brick wall” situations or if not enough other workers are concerned. If you decide to more forward you will want to check your union contract and see if there is any language on workload. Check with other union leaders and staff: has anything been tried before to address this kind of problem?  Use your creativity when you think about what collective activities might be used to involve other workers in the workload issue. Remember every workplace and workplace culture is different.
—Excerpted from The Union Steward’s Complete Guide (2nd Edition, Updated)

Today in Labor History
August 02
The first General Strike in Canadian history is held in Vancouver, organized as a 1-day political protest against the killing of draft evader and labor activist Albert “Ginger” Goodwin, who had called for a general strike in the event that any worker was drafted against his will - 1918
Hatch Act is passed, limiting political activity of executive branch employees of the federal government - 1939

August 03
Uriah Smith Stephens born in Cape May, N.J.  A tailor by trade, in 1869 he led nine Philadelphia garment workers to found the Knights of Labor - 1821
Fighting breaks out when sheriff’s deputies attempt to arrest Wobbly leader Richie “Blackie” Ford as he addressed striking field workers at the Durst Ranch in Wheatland, Calif.  Four persons died, including the local district attorney, a deputy and two workers.  Despite the lack of evidence against them, Ford and another strike leader were found guilty of murder by a 12-member jury that included eight farmers - 1913
Florence Reece dies in Knoxville, Tenn., at 86. She was a Mine Workers union activist and author of
Which Side Are You On?, written after her home was ransacked by Harlan County sheriff J.H. Blair and his thugs during a 1931 strike - 1986
Some 15,000 air traffic controllers strike. President Reagan threatens to fire any who do not return to work within 48 hours, saying they "have forfeited their jobs" if they do not. Most stay out, and are fired August 5 - 1981

August 04
The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers is formed. It partnered with the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, CIO in 1935; both organizations disbanded in 1942 to form the new United Steelworkers - 1876
An estimated 15,000 silk workers strike in Paterson, N.J., for 44-hour week – 1919

Nearly 185,000 Teamsters begin what is to become a successful 15-day strike at United Parcel Service over excessive use of part-timers - 1997
August 05

Using clubs, police rout 1,500 jobless men who had stormed the plant of the Fruit Growers Express Co. in Indiana Harbor, Ind., demanding jobs – 1931

Thirteen firefighters, including 12 smokejumpers who parachuted in to help their coworkers, die while battling a forest fire at Gates of the Mountain, Montana - 1949
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) took effect today. The first law signed by President Clinton, it allows many workers time off each year due to serious health conditions or to care for a family member - 1993

(The FMLA Handbook, 5th edition, is a thorough, highly readable handbook that will help every worker get the most out of the surprisingly comprehensive Family and Medical Leave Act. It explains how unions can protect workers who are absent from work for justifiable medical or family-care reasons; block compulsory "light-duty" work programs; force employers to allow part-time schedules; obtain attendance bonuses for workers absent for medical reasons; and much more. An important tool for every union rep.)  

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

Steward Update Weekly is brought to you by your union and Union Communication Services—Worker Institute at Cornell ILR, publisher of the Steward Update print edition newsletter, which provides union stewards with helpful information and advice. We hope the Steward Update Weekly will be a helpful tool in your important work as a steward for your union; if you have questions or suggestions on how the Weekly can be more useful, please email us at

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