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March 17, 2018
Posted On: Feb 15, 2018

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Thursday February 15, 2018

In the current Steward Update newsletter
Discharge Too Severe For Sleeping On The Job
An employer failed to follow past practice in discharging an oil refinery worker with an otherwise unblemished work record for sleeping on the job. An arbitrator ruled the worker should be returned to his job with full back pay, based on evidence that showed nine previous incidents in which workers were given only written or oral warnings for sleeping on the job. In addition, the arbitrator credited the worker’s honesty in admitting to the offense and his realization that it was wrong. The discipline was reduced to a written warning.

Labor Quote
Call Out
"I work for myself, which is fun, except for when I call in sick; I know I’m lying.”
—Rita Rudner, American comedian, writer and actress

Labor Cartoon
H.L. Schwadron

Steward Tip
Promotions: Contract Language is Important
If your contract stipulates that seniority determines promotion, then seniority, not ability, should be the determining factor. If the agreement states that promotions are on the basis of seniority and ability, then the senior applicant must appear to possess sufficient ability to perform the job. If the contract says “where ability is approximately equal, then seniority prevails,” then you must judge whether the successful candidate was head and shoulders above the senior person who was denied the job. None of these judgments are easy to prove except the first, seniority. Sometimes the agreement sets forth more than two factors – past performance or attendance, perhaps – in addition to seniority and ability. In those cases, the steward must investigate management’s evaluation of the additional factors to check whether its decision was appropriate in terms of the workers’ employment history.
—Excerpted from The Union Steward’s Complete Guide (2nd Edition, Updated)

Today in Labor History
February 14
Western Federation of Miners strike for 8-hour day - 1903
President Theodore Roosevelt creates the Department of Commerce and Labor. It was divided into two separate government departments ten years later - 1903
Jimmy Hoffa born in Brazil, Ind., son of a coal miner. Disappeared July 30, 1975, declared dead seven years later - 1913
Striking workers at Detroit’s newspapers, out since the previous July, offer to return to work. The offer is accepted five days later but the newspapers vow to retain some 1,200 scabs. A court ruling the following year ordered as many as 1,100 former strikers reinstated - 1996

February 15
Susan B. Anthony, suffragist, abolitionist, labor activist, born in Adams, Mass. "Join the union, girls, and together say: Equal Pay for Equal Work!" - 1820

U.S. legislators pass the Civil Works Emergency Relief Act, providing funds for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which funneled money to states plagued by Depression-era poverty and unemployment, and oversaw the subsequent distribution and relief efforts - 1934

The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) expels the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers; the Food, Tobacco & Agricultural Workers; and the United Office & Professional Workers for “Communist tendencies.” Other unions expelled for the same reason (dates uncertain): Fur and Leather Workers, the Farm Equipment Union, the Int’l Longshoremen’s Union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers - 1950

February 16
Leonora O’Reilly was born in New York. The daughter of Irish immigrants, she began working in a factory at 11, joined the Knights of Labor at 16, and was a volunteer investigator of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. She was a founding member of the Women’s Trade Union League - 1870

Diamond Mine disaster in Braidwood, Ill. The coal mine was on a marshy tract of land with no natural drainage. Snow melted and forced a collapse on the east side of the mine, killing 74 - 1883

Beginning of a 17-week general strike of 12,000 New York furriers, in which Jewish workers formed a coalition with Greek and African American workers and became the first union to win a 5-day, 40-hour week - 1926

Rubber Workers begin sit-down strike at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. - 1936

American Wire Weavers Protective Association merges with United Papermakers & Paperworkers - 1959

All public schools in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisc., are closed as teachers call in sick to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to gut their collective bargaining rights - 2011

—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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