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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Labor & Workers
Berkeley curbside recyclers win IWW contract fight
Berkeley curbside recyclers win IWW contract fight - management must pay double time on early Saturday work.
Berkeley, California - IWW Curbside Recyclers at the Berkeley Ecology Center won a small, but important victory Friday, January 5, 2007 by sticking to their guns and refusing to let management violate their IWW union contract.
Currently, all Saturday work must be paid at time-and-one-half standard wages, except work performed before 8:00 AM and after 5:00 PM, which must be paid at double-time (Article VII, Section C, Part 1). The same rules apply for Sunday work. Weekend work is rare, and is usually scheduled the same week as non-working holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years' Day).
Prior to 2001, the workday began at 8 AM and ended at 5 PM. In 2001, the start time was moved up to 6:30 AM by mutual consent by Management and the Union, but the Saturday and Sunday work rules remained unchanged as an incentive to schedule weekend work as little as possible.
However, on Saturday, December 30, 2006, work began at 6:45 AM, but Management refused to pay double-time for the 1:15 worked. A newer employee noticed the the contract violation and informed Shop Steward, Mike Hudgins.
Fellow Worker Hudgins brought notice of the violation to Management. Martin Borques, Chairman of the Ecology Center Board of Directors, tried to argue that the language in the contract is "a misunderstanding", left over from the time when the start time was changed, and that the double time pay should only apply if work begins prior to 6:45 AM or continues past 3:45 PM.
The IWW refused to give in, knowing full well that if Management succeeded in arguing that weekend overtime language was "a misunderstanding", that they could declare any part of the contract they found inconvenient, "a misunderstanding". If the grievance were carried out to its logical conclusion, even the Bush appointed NLRB would rule that the Union was right and Management was wrong.
Attempting to avoid any further double time payments, Operations Manager Daniel Maher declared that work would begin at 8 AM on Saturday, January 6, 2007. Shop Steward Mike Hudgins informed Management that this violated another contract provision requiring sixty days written notice to the Union (Article VII, Section A, Part 3). Hudgins further declared that he and the rest of the crew would show up and begin work precisely at 6:45 AM, regardless of Management's directive to begin work at 8:00 AM.
After a lengthy and heated meeting between Fellow Worker Hudgins and Daniel Maher, Management agreed to honor both provisions of the contract.
The lesson to be learned from this struggle are that a good contract can be a powerful tool, but ultimately direct action (or the threat of direct action) gets the goods.