March 26, 2000 Trent J. Berhow, President
Food Inspectors Local 2323
American Federation of Government Employees
Denison, Iowa

 

To: All AFGE food inspector local union officers and members.

Subject: Three for one grievance sale.

Dear friends,

In keeping with my theme of aggressive administrative union actions against an agency that is continuously trying to turn more and more food safety inspections over to the industry, I want to offer you all some insight into grievance actions that I try to utilize when ever possible, as it seems that grievances, ULP’s, bad media coverage, etc., are among the things that the "big wheels" who run this agency fear the most.

 

With a little creativity anyone can turn one grievance into three or more successive grievances with little additional investigative effort. As an example I will use an issue that I am going to be addressing to local management within the next few days. It is a simple issue, "Reporting and Correction of Hazards", as per Article XIII, Section O, of our National Basic Agreement. Recently three members of my local have filed four FSIS Form 4791-27 forms, which address the "Report of Alleged Safety or Health Hazard".

 

As many of us out who work in the field do, we have local supervisors who are very "plant management" friendly. These supervisors would rather that we work in unsafe conditions as opposed to making the company spend a little money to correct a safety problem for us. Easy to say that when a grievance is filed over the fact that no corrective action to ensure our safety was taken FSIS management will without doubt deny the grievance. This is grievance number one.

 

Article XXXII, Section F, of our National Basic Agreement, "Filing and Content of Grievances", generates the next grievance. Within that section it is written that, "All grievances will be given fair and impartial consideration at each step of the procedure". As any union person knows, all grievances are filed over legitimate issues, if the issues weren’t legitimate, a grievance wouldn’t be filed. Therefore, if management denies the original grievance, it is obvious that they did not give it "fair and impartial" consideration. This is grievance number two.

 

Within Article XXXII, Section F, of the National Basic Agreement, another grievance is identified. On page 190, the issue of back pay is addressed. If you are like me, you have to work on all grievances at home, on your own time. This is time that takes you away from your family. My feeling is this; if FSIS supervisors are paid to answer my grievances, why shouldn’t I be paid to write the grievances?

 

Prior to my employment with FSIS, I worked as an hourly employee in two different union packing plants, both represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union. At one point I was one of two union stewards on the slaughter floor. As union stewards, we were paid for our representational duties, as we performed such duties "on the clock".

 

As our agency management is not about to let us write grievances in this manner, I feel we have no choice other than to file back pay grievances for our services as per Article XXXII, Section F, of the NBA, and Transition MOU #5. The great part about back pay grievances, as opposed to the first two grievances, is that back pay grievances require no oral discussion. You just file. It’s that easy. You file for the amount of time you spent preparing all three grievances, or I suppose you could file for back pay for each grievance separately. I find it simpler to follow the three-grievance approach. This is grievance number three.

 

In conclusion to this letter, I suppose some people may ask, "Is it really worth it to file all those grievances?" My response to that is "How important do you consider your job?" If you consider your job important enough to fight for, then I would say get busy, because whether or not any of us want to admit it, FSIS is in the process of turning HACCP loose on industry, and on the consumers of this country. These are consumers who are your children, spouses, parents, family, and friends. Are these people important enough to fight for? If your answer is "yes", then get busy. If your answer is "no", you should be ashamed of yourself. I would recommend that we all get busy.

 

Sincerely,

Trent J. Berhow, President
Food Inspectors Local 2323, AFGE
Denison, Iowa

 

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