...from the Hall

News of the Union from Local 237

May 19, 1998


Communicating with the Members

The key to the success of any organization is in how well that organization communicates with its members. An open line of communication allows an organization to draw upon the wealth of knowledge and experience its members possess, while at the same time allowing an equal opportunity for involvement to all those who choose to belong. It’s a win-win situation for all.

Our union has rested largely on the word-of-mouth means of communication to stay in touch with our members. While the personal touch is useful, it’s not always very successful. It is my hope that by starting to put together a small newsletter, that I can touch those who feel they have been left out of the information loop. We need the full participation of all our members, not just those who attend the meetings (though that is a very important part of being a good union member).

The purpose behind this newsletter will be to touch upon the bigger issues affecting our union. In doing so, I believe it will foster a better debate by allowing more to be involved with our current affairs. That can only be a plus for this union, as our members have a good history of offering complete solutions to many of the problems that plague us in our worksites. I look forward to the increased participation I hope this newsletter will engender.

I’m open to all suggestions for directions that this newsletter should take. Feel free to contact me at work (extension #443, C-Shift), at home (253-847-5265), or at any of the union meetings (2nd and 4th Monday’s of the month).


Chuck Whitt

President, Local 237



Local to vote in time alley on 12-hour shifts

At the May 11, 1998 union meeting, a motion was made, seconded, and passed to conduct a vote of the membership in the time alley on the issue of 12-hour shifts. Absent a motion to rescind (which was made at the May 11 meeting, and will be voted on at the May 25 meeting), the secret ballot vote will take place in the time alley on Thursday, May 28th , 1998. A Thursday was chosen in order to cover the greatest amount of members - those finishing up their graveyard tour, day shift, swing shift, day workers, and the new graveyard shift coming on. Those members on vacation, floaters, and curtailments will need to make their way down here to cast their ballot.

What are you voting on?

The vote is a poll to see how many members there are that would like to work 12-hour shifts/compressed work-weeks. Voting "Yes" does not mean that we will implement 12-hours shifts, it just means that the 12-hour shift committee will meet with the Company to see if an agreement can be worked out. If the committee can come to an agreement with the Company on terms and conditions, then that agreement would then be put to the members for approval. Only after the members approve an agreement would any switch to 12-hour shifts occur.

As previously mentioned, a motion was made at the last union meeting to rescind the motion for a vote. This is a procedural action to try to stop the vote from occurring as dictated. Since the motion was made at the last meeting, with an announcement that the vote on the motion would occur at the next meeting (May 25th), this means that a majority of the members present at the meeting is all that is needed for the motion to pass and the time alley vote to be canceled.

This action is a Parliamentary Procedure. Our union operates under Robert’s Rules of Order, which are a defined set of instructions for running meetings. The purpose behind rules of order is to allow a meeting to be conducted orderly, while at the same time providing protection for the minority so that their rights are not trampled by the majority - similar to the rules that our legislatures operate under.

They’re not always easy to understand, usually difficult to explain, but they’re there nonetheless. And history has shown that those organizations that follow the rules are usually the best run for their members. If you have any questions about the application of the rules, in this, or any other matter, please feel free to contact me. If I can’t explain it, I’ll find someone who can.

That being said, anyone who has an interest in 12-hour shifts, either for or against, would be well advised to find a way to attend the May 25th meeting.

Members of the 12-hour shift committee are:

Chuck Whitt Caustic
Lenn Richter Kamyrs
Mike Arndt Caustic
Jim Winter Waste Treatment
Craig Gisler Extra Board


Discipline at Simpson Tacoma Kraft

Recent years have seen an increase in the penalties that Simpson metes out to its hourly employees, ranging from termination’s to any amount of days off. And unfortunately, there seems to be no consistency in how the policy is applied (except that salaried employees never get days off for the same infractions union people are accused of - this has been consistent!).

One of the better known incidents involved a member accused of work-place-violence. This member was given 30 working days off.

The union grieved this matter, up to and through arbitration. The unfortunate result of the arbitration is that an arbitrator ruled that given the information he was presented, he saw just and sufficient cause for the Company’s 30 working day suspension.

We lost.

What did the union learn from this?

Probably the biggest issue is how members represent themselves at the onset of these incidents. In this case what hurt us most is that our member questioned his own judgement openly to the Company. The Company used this man’s honesty against him and sent him home for more than a month.

But if he admitted he was wrong, why pursue the grievance?

Every member of this union, of this planet for that matter, should not be afraid to question their actions. It’s the way we evaluate our impact in this world. I personally think that’s a good thing and that it gives one the tools needed to make them a better person. Because you can find fault with things you do does not necessarily mean you’ve done things wrong. It’s a process we all go through, it’s called learning.

Unfortunately, questioning your actions in front of the Company, regardless of the degree of error, is apt to get you time off. It’s happened more than once. In fact, in an unrelated grievance, the Company took the time and effort to acknowledge the honesty and openness of an employee, then gave him three days off.

The lesson here is not to take your rope to your own hanging. Honesty is a valued trait everywhere, except at Simpson Tacoma Kraft.

My advise would be to not help the Company in it’s investigation of your actions. An honest mea culpa carries no weight here. But that’s not to say that you should lie to the Company either - that action carries it’s own severe consequences. What you should do is discuss the matter with your shop steward and let him do the talking for you. That’s the job of the shop steward anyway, and they’ve been skilled in how to proceed in investigations.

The importance of shop stewards can’t be overstated. They are your legal representatives, your lawyers, per se. The have been vested with certain protections by the courts and legislatures that give them the tools necessary to successfully represent you in your time of need. Our records are full of disciplinary actions issued to employees, up to and including termination, where they have refused the right to have a shop steward present. There are former members out there that may still have a job had they elected to have a steward present during their disciplinary procedure.

The union is here to protect your rights on the job. But unless you invite them to, they can’t represent you when you need them. Call a steward, failure to do so may cost you a few paychecks, maybe even all of them!

A list of shop stewards is posted in the Union Bulletin Board in the time alley, and on most of the bulletin boards in the control rooms. If you would like a copy for yourself, contact me or the Chief Steward, Lenn Richter and one of us will get you a copy.



Contract expires August 31st, 1998

Unless you have been living in a cave for the last six years, you should be aware that our labor agreement with the Company expires this year.

A Negotiating Committee was elected earlier this year to negotiate a new contract with the Company. They’re in the process now of formulating an agenda of items to discuss with the Company when the formal talks get underway later this year.

Everyone is encouraged to seek out a committee member and share with them the issues you think should be included on our agenda. We all have to live with the agreement we’ll reach - we should all be involved in its formulation.

Your 1998 Negotiating Committee members are:

Chuck Whitt Caustic - ext. 443
Chuck Gierke Recovery - ext.198
Frank Huie Waste Treatment - ext 187
Wallace Simms Shipping - ext.427
Mike Arndt Caustic - ext.443

Member Communications Page