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Job Actions

There has been much talk about the unfair treatment of wage and benefit reductions for State employees.  Our wages remain stagnant while our medical insurance covers less and our insurance co-payments continue to rise.  What can we do about this situation?

We as State employees must abide by the current collective bargaining process.  Collective Bargaining is defined as: 

Collective Bargaining (Definition from

The process through which a Labor Union and an employer negotiate the scope of the employment relationship.

A collective bargaining agreement is the ultimate goal of the collective bargaining process. Typically, the agreement establishes wages, hours, promotions, benefits, and other employment termsas well as procedures for handling disputes arising under it. Because the collective bargaining agreement cannot address every workplace issue that might arise in the future, unwritten customsand past practices, external law, and informal agreements are as important to the collective bargaining agreement as the written instrument itself.

Collective bargaining allows workers and employers to reach voluntary agreement on a wide range of topics. Even so, it is limited to some extent by federal and state laws. A collective bargainingagreement cannot accomplish by contract what the law prohibits. For example, a union and an employer cannot use collective bargaining to deprive employees of rights they would otherwise enjoy under laws such as the Civil Rights statutes (Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36, 94 S. Ct. 1011, 39 L. Ed. 2d 147 [1974]). Collective bargaining also cannot be used to waiverights or obligations that laws impose on either party. For example, an employer may not use collective bargaining to reduce the level of safety standards it must follow under the occupational safety and health act (29 U.S.C.A. §§ 651 et seq.). Furthermore, the collective bargaining agreement is not purely voluntary. One party’s failure to reach agreement entitles the other to resort to certain legal tactics, such as strikes and lockouts, to apply economic pressure and force agreement. Moreover, unlike commercial contracts governed by state law, the collective bargaining agreement is governed almost exclusively by federal Labor Law, which determines the issues that require collective bargaining, the timing and method of bargaining, and the consequences of a failure to bargain properly or to adhere to a collective bargaining agreement.

When the employer is not bargaining in good faith Unfair Labor Practice charges may be filed. 

On what basis can individual employee complaints be filed?:

  • Interference - To interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their collective bargaining rights.
  • Domination or Assistance - To control, dominate, or interfere with a bargaining representative.
  • Discrimination - To deprive rights, benefits, or status in reprisal for union activities.

What actions can the union take to address the State saying they cannot afford pay increases?  The following was taken from

The refusal to comply with an information request may constitute bad faith. For example, in NLRB v. Truitt Manufacturing Co., 351 U.S. 149, 76 S. Ct. 753, 100 L. Ed. 1027 (1956), the employer committed an unfair labor practice when it refused to supply the union with information supporting its claim that it could not afford to pay a wage increase the union demanded. Over the years,courts have clarified that employers' claims of an inability to pay requested wage increases are conceptually distinct from claims that wage increases will result in a competitive disadvantage(United Steelworkers of America v. NLRB, 983 F.2d 240 [D.C. Cir. 1993]). Accordingly, in Graphic Communications International Union Local 508 v. NLRB, 977 F.2d 1168 (7th Cir. 1992), the court held that an employer was not required to disclose financial information unless it had asserted specifically that it was unable to pay a requested wage increase; an employer’s claim that a wage increase would lead to competitive disadvantage did not require it to disclose wage information.

What actions can a State employee take to address unfair wages?  As a collective, industrial or job action can be taken.  The following data was taken from

Industrial action (Europe, India, South Africa and Australia) or job action (Canada and US) refers collectively to any measure taken by trade unions or other organised labour meant to reduce productivity in a workplace. Quite often it is used and interpreted as a euphemism for strike or mass strike, but the scope is much wider. Industrial action may take place in the context of a labour dispute or may be meant to effect political or social change. Specifically industrial action may include one or more of the following:

In all cases, we as State employees must abide by the law.  Our first step is informational picketing to inform the Public of the current situation regarding grossly insufficient staffing at Western State Hospital.  

Currently Western State Hospital is understaffed by 172 full time employees, which is the number of full time positions that will be required in order to null out overtime taking all attendance statistics into consideration.  At Western State Hospital 96 additional RN2’s will be required to provide seven day a week coverage of charge nurses (taking scheduled and unscheduled absence into consideration).  Thus a minimum of three RN2’s per ward per shift are required to meet seven day a week ward charge nurse coverage per WSH’s own attendance statistics.  Western State Hospital is unable to currently meet the accreditation criteria for passing high alert medications such as insulin throughout an entire shift…  Three licensed staff per ward per shift are required to have two licensed staff present on the ward at all times (taking breaks and lunch into consideration).  Current base staffing level at Western State Hospital is only TWO licensed staff…  For each ward that has only two licensed staff present, for two hours per shift high alert medications cannot be legally provided in violation of accreditation standards.  Each employee receives two fifteen minute breaks and one thirty minute lunch break.  To meet the standard of thee licensed staff per ward per shift (based on WSH attendance statistics) requires a total of six licensed full time staff positions per ward.  Therefore…  An overtime ban would be the most effective approach of all.  An overtime ban is the REFUSAL to work voluntary overtime as a collective group.  A single day would prove the point.  An extended period would decimate WSH.

Next the new labor contract will come up for a vote.  RN’s could choose to vote down (or vote no) on the presented collective bargaining agreement.  If the agreement is rejected…  We go back to the bargaining table.  This opens up other actions that can be taken.

© Paul Vilja 2017