Union representation crucial for worksite issues
By DEBORAH A. MILES
Some people don’t realize what rights they have in facilities where they work, if they don’t have union representation. That was occurring at the Sgt. Henry Johnson Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) in Delaware County, where approximately 40 PEF members counsel and educate teenage boys with criminal behavior problems.
But then Daniel Manning decided to become a steward.
Manning, who has been a youth counselor at YLA for four years, had a conversation with the facility’s director just over a year ago and found out there was no union representation.
“I stood up to take that role so PEF could have a voice for all its employees. I feel being in a union is important. That is why I stepped up. The members now feel there is someone who is taking on the issues that need to be addressed.
“I feel in some circumstances, especially in state Office of Children and Family Services facilities, people don’t want to rock the boat. They want to believe the administration is looking out for their best interests, and take what they say at face value,” Manning said.
One of the first things he did was schedule a labor-management meeting which took place in November 2016. The agenda was approved and set seven days prior to the meeting. Then Manning got a better look at the way management operates.
“Management was unwilling to discuss mutually agreed upon agenda items, ultimately tabling a large portion of the agenda. We were trying to get a vacation shift established as well as weekly shifts.
“We are trying to make a difference so people are represented fairly and according to PEF’s collective bargaining agreement,” Manning said.
A year has passed since that first meeting, and another was held in October. The goal is to hold two meetings each year, as provided by the PS&T Agreement, which has been previously ignored by management.
Grievances also have been denied, and some staff have been mistreated and unjustly terminated due to false documentation.
“Currently, staffing is an issue. We are trying to negotiate how many day and night shifts PEF members need to be there, and days off. We continue to negotiate on what the facility needs in place to safely run the facility while maintaining a high level of security, while providing opportunities for PEF members to be with their families. We have a life outside of work,” Manning said. “We are dedicated to the work we do, but we deserve to be given more than a 24-hour notice to conduct a rebid of work shifts.”
Manning also wants to resolve a vacation block agreement and to avoid a lack of staffing.
He said the goal is to outline a six-month plan where people can choose a week of leave between January and June 2018, based on seniority.
“I believe if you stand up for your rights and beliefs, while using the tools provided by the union, it gives you the ability to negotiate an agreement with the administration that is beneficial to everyone.
“At YLA, we are moving forward one step at a time, and I’m optimistic it will make a difference because of the contract PEF negotiated for all of us.”