Respect workers’ seniority

Karl Compton

The indispensable, laborious work of campus custodians, who sweep and scrub and keep our campus clean, often goes unnoticed. The tidy environment they provide facilitates studying and learning, and also enhances the school’s attractiveness to current and future students.

Eric Smith has been working at Contra Costa College for over 23 years. After his hours were cut, he switched to a full time job at Diablo Valley College. Smith says he was happy to be working full time again, but there was a drawback. He was told his seniority in the district meant nothing when it came to picking workstations at a different campus, even though he was working in the same district. Smith argues that the Local 1 contract protects his seniority at different campuses within the same district, and he filed a grievance to settle the issue. Smith spoke to the members of the district governing board to argue his position.

“There is nothing wrong with your interpretation,” Smith was told by a member of the board about his interpretation of the contract. “Your points are valid but it’s not just how we chose to see it and this is not the place for this to be decided,” another board member said to Smith.

Under the now prevailing interpretation of the union contract, employees with less years working for the district, including employees who have not completed their probation period, get first choice of workstation over employees like Smith.

The contract language regarding seniority is being interpreted by both the district and Local 1 union in such a way that you must use your imagination to read the same thing.

Smith is still waiting for a final decision, but from the look of things, he’s already been overruled.

The board members tell Smith that his points are viable, but that ultimately means nothing on the sixth floor of the district office. If the board of governors board room is not the place for this particular case to be heard, then why is it the last stop on the grievance trail?