tales of a SEIU Local 250 shop steward

Anatomy of a grievance

One new element of workplace life with a union is The Grievance. I think the ability to file a grievance when confronted with objectionable circumstances in ANY part of one's life would be good, but for that, one must have a contract, and most people's personal life does not include such a document. However, our workplace DOES have a union contract, and consequently we have the ability to file a grievance when the employer fails to honor any or all of it.

Since I recently went through the grievance process, I thought I would offer a brief history of how things played out. I will say at the outset that, though the subject of this grievance may seem insignificant given all the problems in the health care world , it does illustrate the arbitrary nature of some workplace requirements and demonstrates that it is possible to get management to rethink some of these things when they run counter to the contract.

A final warning: Many small and tedious details may bloat this account. Remember! If you care enough about something to file a grievance, you will probably talk people's ear off about every aspect of whatever injustice has occurred. Try to maintain a sense of humor and perspective about these things!




This is the scene of the crime. It is the transcription room in Imaging Services at the hospital where I work. As you see, there are no windows and it is possible to lose track of weather, time-of-day, and other facts of the larger world after several hours spent here. There is a small potted tree in the right-hand corner-- that is NOT part of a conservatory or jungle, but rather a tribute to the Will to Survive in certain plant species. Three transcribers (and sometimes a clerical supervisor) work 8 hour days in this room and our only visual diversion is whatever artwork or photos we place on walls or bulletin boards.

One interesting aspect of this photo is the picture of a serpent on the left and a crucifix on the right. These images have historically been used in art to represent the struggle between good and evil. In our room, it represents the struggle between "The Chinese Year of the Snake" (which was last year) and the crucifix that we have because we work in a Catholic hospital. Any other symbolism should be disregarded when reviewing the facts of this case!

But back to the story: In December of 2001, in an effort to provide privacy for the clerical supervisor, the partition that you see in the photo above was placed in our room. If you work in an office, you will know that office furnishings are often the only thing in your work life that you have any control over, and thus any additions or changes to furniture can be the subject of controversy. However, after a brief flurry of objection, we accepted this change and even made it our own by inviting our fellow Imaging Service employees to decorate our side of the new partition with photos of themselves. Most of the photos were from earlier eras in our lives and it was entertaining to guess who was who.

  These are some of the photos. Included is a picture of a former high school cheerleader, an ex-airline stewardess, a former employee using a former CT scanner and many childhood photos of current employees.


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