Your Voice, Your Choice
OPEIU Local 39
November 2017
Know Your Rights
We're stepping back from the profiles of our bargaining units to talk about something that has been much in the news lately: sexual harassment in the workplace. Not a fun topic, but a fact of life, and an issue that the Union can help with.

In other news, OPEIU has a new membership benefit: Identity protection. Details and links below. There are also a couple of wins we want to tell you about.

We hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
It's not a compliment
Four years ago, in the fourth issue of this Newsletter, we discussed discrimination and harassment in the workplace. In the last few months, the issue of sexual harassment specifically has become big news, with the resignation of Bill O'Reilly, the trial of Bill Cosby, and the accusations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, and other powerful men. These allegations should all be considered instances of workplace harassment and while most of us don't work in the entertainment industry, sexual harassment isn't limited to Hollywood.

In the wake of the high-profile Weinstein allegations, people - mostly women, but as the Spacey allegation shows, not only women - have been talking about the sort of sexual harassment that so many experience so often. The #MeToo hashtag on Twitter prompted women to tell their stories, with many big-name stars including Alyssa Milano detailing the sort of sexual harassment so many of them deal with on an almost daily basis and so many of them go far beyond the workplace.

While it is vital to realize that sexual harassment is something that happens in all sorts of circumstances, from walking down the street to going in to work, we're going to focus on the workplace.

As stated in the previous newsletter: "Harassment happens when someone uses the characteristics of a person in a protected class against them. Constant or repeated verbal abuse, derogatory comments, the posting of cartoons or literature, lewd comments or gestures all contribute to a hostile work environment. Anyone can act as the bully -- the harasser -- not just management. But if it is coming from someone in a position of power then there can be the added element of coercion, forcing the target of the harassment into doing things that, if the person had a free choice, they wouldn't do." In the case of sexual harassment that can mean demands for sexual acts in return for advancement, being forced to watch or listen to lewd conduct or talk, and more.

Like any other harassment, the bully seeks to make the other person afraid. It's often about power more than about sex. Fear and discomfort define sexual harassment as much as any other type. The bully - the harasser - wants something, whether it is compliance, fear, or sex. They will use whatever tool they have to get it, making the victim's life hell in the process.
Graphic by @Vonny_Bravo
Not every come-on is harassment, not every compliment is going to get reported to HR, but you know bullies. When it stops being reciprocated but they don't stop, that's when the Union can help, even if what the harasser is doing doesn't meet the legal definition of harassment. This isn't a court of law this is the workplace, and different standards of proof apply.

If you get that feeling of dread, if you are devising strategies to avoid that person or area of the building, if you are changing your behavior for fear of running in to HIM again (pretty much always a "him"), contact a Steward, Unit chair, or the Union office. Most companies have rules that are far more comprehensive than the mere legal definition and many companies require taking harassment training because they want to encourage a happy, productive workforce. Refer to company guidelines, talk to your manager / supervisor (if they aren't the harasser), but also contact the Union. We can bring an outside voice into the situation and we can make sure the company follows its own guidelines, and even help mediate if the situation is between union members.

As we said in the previous newsletter: "If the company doesn't do its job of protecting workers from a hostile workplace, then the Union can file a grievance and make every effort to force the company to do what's right. Harassment is a real, true, legal thing. Every company needs to follow federal and state laws to protect workers from a hostile workplace. And it's just a bad idea to let harassment continue because it saps productivity and opens the company to lawsuits and bad press, which is why most companies have set up guidelines for employees to follow should they see or be victims of harassment. The Union can also play a role, if in nothing else, reminding the company of the need to follow the laws. All of us deserve to be in a workplace free from bullies. "
New Membership Benefit:
Identity Protection
OPIEU is offering webinars on its new membership benefit: Identity protection. "Now all OPEIU members will have a proactive, comprehensive defense against identity theft, all at no cost to you or your members."

OPEIU is partnering with InforArmor to offer complete identity protection. Features include:
  • Privacy Advocate Remediation
  • Digital Identity
  • Internet Surveillance

News from Around the Local
Two Wins for Members
It's the Unions role to not only make a contract, but to be sure that the company abides by it.

We recently had a case where a member came forward to show they had administrative leave on the books and that only a portion of their hours were paid out. Our Union filed a grievance. That's the way the process works. The company took a look and came to a settlement with the Union and the member: the member can use some of the time as both PTO and a portion was paid out in a large cash settlement.
Another win: A union member faced a nightmare: they were wrongly terminated in July. Our Union investigated the issue and discovered that the company violated the contract by not following progressive discipline rules as defined by Article XII.

The company has to meet a very stringent set of criteria before they can terminate someone. The company failed to meet that and our Union filed a grievance. And the company again had to settle. The member ended up getting a large cash settlement.
November Membership Meeting Notes
Last Wednesday we had our Quarterly Membership meeting. At the meeting we discussed the pending merger with Local 95. This merger will be a big win for all of us, making the combined local stronger, more diversified, and better able to meet the challenges that face all Unions.

There is still some work to do, but before too long there will be meetings held to discuss the merger and vote on it. It is imperative that we get wide participation in those meetings, since this is a financial change that will affect every member.

Stay tuned.
Membership Meetings
Membership meetings are held the third Wednesday of the second month of the quarter, at 5:30 PM in the Union Office.

February 21, 2018
May 16, 2018
August 15, 2018
November 14, 2018

This is your Union. Your participation gives us the strength to face the continued opposition of both companies and politicians.
Unions = Gym Membership
Know Your Weingarten Rights!
The US Supreme Court has ruled that the National Labor Relations Act gives workers the right to request union representation during investigatory interviews by supervisors, security personal, and other managerial staff. These are called Weingarten Rights.
An investigatory interview occurs if 1) management questions you to obtain information; and 2) you have reasonable apprehension that your answers could be used as a basis for discipline or other adverse action.
You must ask for union representation either before or during an investigatory interview. Management does not have to remind you of this right. If your request is refused and Management continues asking questions, you may refuse to answer. Your employer is guilty of an unfair labor practice and charges may be filed. If you are questioned in a situation where Weingarten may apply, read or present this statement:

"If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion."
Local 39 Union Offices
701 Watson Ave
Ste 102
Madison WI 53713
If you have any news you would like to share with other Members, please let us know! You can contact us via email or on our Facebook page.