NEW YORK MEMBERS -Important *Power of Attorney Information* If you are unable to act due to a serious health condition, it is extremely important that your spouse, significant other or dependent has access to your completed Power of Attorney form to act on your behalf related to the retirement system.
You should advise the individual designated to contact UPSEU immediately if you become or they believe you may become incapacitated as it will potentially impact pension rights afforded to them.
This would in no way impact any decision if you become capable of acting on your own behalf and for you to reverse any decision made. Again, it is extremely important that your loved ones have access to your executed Power of Attorney. You do not submit to anyone. It is retained with your important papers.
UPSEU Wins Back to Back Arbitration Cases in Springfield
Updated On: Jan 19, 2021
With successive grievance arbitration wins last month, the United Public Service Employees Union (“UPSEU”), who represents municipal employees throughout the City of Springfield, proves it is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to defending its members.
In the Fall of 2020, UPSEU filed two different grievances against the City for arbitration before the American Arbitration Association. The arbitrators who presided over the cases issued their respective decisions on December 17th and December 18th, both in favor of the Union. “These were two big and important cases for our members,” said UPSEU Labor Relations Representative Roger Stolen, “and it was rewarding for the arbitrators to find in our favor and deal back to back blows to the City. Our hope is that it will cause the City to think more carefully about its actions toward and treatment of our members, their hardworking employees.”
The first case involved a member who was terminated supposedly due to insubordination and other unfounded allegations. However, the case stemmed from a matter that was wholly unrelated to the employee’s job, and instead from his actions as a City resident and a parent.
When the new school year began in August 2019, without notification to or authorization from parents, the BOE began giving middle school students at certain schools vouchers and putting them on public City buses, instead of regularly assigned and chartered school buses, as their mode of transportation to and from school. This was of grave concern for our member, since his child was only twelve years old at the time and had never navigated the City bus system on his own. However, our member’s complaints to the BOE and attempts to remedy this issue fell on deaf ears there, so as a City resident, he turned to the Mayor’s office for assistance. When it became clear his concerns for his son’s safety were not being taken seriously by the City either and he felt as though nothing would be done to help him, he did voice his frustrations. While there are differing accounts about how several individuals involved in the conversation conducted themselves, it was our member who ended up terminated for several unsubstantiated and embellished allegations.
After efforts to resolve this matter with the City through the grievance process proved unsuccessful, UPSEU filed the case for arbitration. UPSEU reached out to the City prior to the hearing to discuss possible settlement. However, the terms the City proposed were insulting and unacceptable and the Union chose to proceed forward with the arbitration hearing on October 13th instead. The arbitrator’s decision was issued on December 15th and found the grievant was, in no uncertain terms, terminated unjustly. As a result, the arbitrator ordered that the termination be converted to a 30 day suspension, reinstated the grievant to his position with the City and awarded him the remainder of the year’s worth of backpay and benefits he had lost when the City terminated him. UPSEU’s attorney Liz Ditman did a fantastic job of emphasizing to the arbitrator the great concerns we all show as parents when there is a safety issue or concern that pertains to our children. According to Ditman, “The City disciplined this member for his actions as a parent and it had absolutely nothing to do with his employment. Just because one accepts a position with the City, he/she can’t be expected to waive his/her rights as a parent.” In this case the city changed its bussing policy after other residents complained and City council members agreed it was outrageous and a safety concern having children ride the City busses unsupervised at such a young age.
The second case involved a member who had worked for the city for 29 years and had applied for a promotional opportunity. The member had worked in various departments during her tenure with the City and had vast knowledge of its practices and procedures. However, instead of awarding the position to her, they gave it to someone with less than one year of employment with the City and claimed that their chosen hiree had more experience. UPSEU filed for arbitration on the matter due to contract language stating that vacancies will be filled based on length of service, overall performance and ability. It was quite clear to everyone, including the arbitrator, that an injustice was being committed and the contract language being violated by the City. In the decision, the arbitrator stated that the City clearly did not conduct a fair interview process, and if they had, they would have determined that the person selected by the City did not even meet its own minimum qualifications for the job, which required three years of experience in complex and responsible department clerical work.
Attorney John Connor, on behalf of UPSEU, focused on the backgrounds of each candidate to point out the vast difference between the educational background and 29 years of experience within the City that the more senior employee member had versus someone with less than one year of experience, who the City just happened to like. With this argument and evidence, Attorney Connor was able to prove to the arbitrator that the City made its hiring decision based solely on favoritism and completely disregarded that contract language governing the hiring process.
In the end, the arbitrator sustained the grievance and stated that the employee with less than one year of employment with the City must be removed from the position and replaced with the employee with 29 years of experience. In addition, the arbitrator awarded the more senior employee the higher rate of pay for the new position retroactively to when it was wrongfully awarded to the less senior employee. The arbitrator also sent a stern message to the City by noting in the decision that “this lack of a genuine process to fairly assess the candidates is particularly troubling.”
It took more than a year for each case to go through the entire grievance and arbitration process, but the final outcomes, which corrected what the City got wrong in both instances from the start, made it all worthwhile. With the help of UPSEU and their professional labor attorneys both members will get the jobs which never should have been denied to them and each will also get a year’s worth of back pay.
Needless to say, the members who prevailed in these arbitrations, as well as the Unit President, were thrilled with the outcomes and found it reassuring to know that they have a strong union with experienced attorneys who will not only fight for them but who can, and do, win.