|tales of an SEIU Local 250 shop steward|
|DO LABOR LAWS HAPPEN BY MAGIC?|
I'm here to relieve you for your lunch break!" --
Being relieved for a lunch or break has been an impossible dream to many
in our hospital -- some even feel guilty for expecting such a thing. However,
it IS state law that we have lunches and breaks, and it is also in our
Local 250 union contract. It is an issue over which grievances can be
filed, but thanks to a relatively new state regulation, that may not always
A timecard code was supplied to use on these unfortunate occasions so that Payroll could pay accordingly, and a list provided for employees to use in documenting the times and reasons for the missed lunches and breaks.
It's been the law (and MHS policy) that we are entitled to lunches and breaks for as long as anyone now working here can remember. HOWEVER, it's been a right that many only had if they insisted on it, since the wish to provide good patient care (and not abandon a patient in the middle of a medical procedure) usually supercedes the wish to insist on one's right to a timely lunch. Is it possible to provide good patient care AND employee lunches? In places with adequate staffing, yes! Former MHS employees who now work at Kaiser report being relieved with the "Hello, I'm here to relieve you for your lunch break!" statement, showing that it can be done if the will is there and staffing provided.
So where did this helpful lunch/break regulation
come from? A chance encounter with Barry Broad
at the Capitol during the UFW "March for the Governor's Signature"
on August 25th provided an answer to this question.
How did the lunch break regulation come to pass?
It came to pass like this: here is the real, unvarnished story. The Industrial
Welfare Commission was having a hearing in Burbank, and it was kind of
a quiet day and there weren't a lot of people there. We were taking testimony
generally on rest breaks and meal
| At some
point in our deliberations, the IWC was looking at restoring the 8 hour
day, and implementing that legislation, which has many controversial provisions.
Large drafts of changes in the regulations over many of these controversial
issues were being put out to the public, and at one point I simply made
a request to put into the draft something that said if an employer failed
to give workers their meal period or rest period, they would be paid one
hour of straight time every time they missed it.
in doing that was so that rather than just getting a lawsuit to inherit
for a penalty or something, that it would simply be like liquidated damages--you would get them automatically. It would be like a time-and-a-half is a penalty for having someone work over eight hours a day--the employer can avoid it by simply not working people more than 8 hours a day, and they can avoid this penalty by simply giving people their meals and rest breaks. So, the proposal sat out there for public comment for 30 days or longer, if I recall, and no one commented, at all, one way or another. No one said anything.
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