Friday, October 10, 2008

Fragen Sie den Geschäftsvertreter, Teil zwei*

*ask the biz rep, part two

So, how do grievances work?

Usually slowly. Grievances come about when somebody believes that they're legal or contractual right have been violated, and give their union rep (moi) a call ...

Grievances go through set stages. There is "Step 1",where I get the call from the member, take down details of what the grievance is (Unpaid overtime, non-payment of salary, termination without a writeup, etc.)

Sometimes grievances have a lot of merit and plenty of documentary evidence (or at least some) and I tell the grievant he has a good ... but not slam-bang --- chance of winning his issue.

Other times, the grievance is shaky at best, without much way of proving the issue at hand, and I tell the potential grievant he doesn't have much of a case.

Every grievance is different, and every grievance has some potential for success or failure. We have won grievances we thought we'd lose and lost grievances we were certain were in the bag.

Most times, I tell the grievant the chances of winning or losing his issue. But I never tell the grievant anything is a slam dunk, because there is always the possiblity of losing. This is because there is always the possibility that something could go wrong at any step.

And what are those steps?

Step one -- I find out the grievance from the grievant (the wronged studio employee), and call the studio about it. I talk it over with a person in labor relations, and they go off to "investigate the claim"

Step Two -- the studio representative comes back and tells me I'm full of it, there is no case, the studio is guiltless of any infraction (or not. Sometimes it goes the other way after the investigation. But not a lot.) I thereupon write up the grievance in letter form and demand an arbitration.

Step Three -- the company and TAG are unable to resolve the issue, have both dug in their heels, and proceed to a "Step Three" arbitration. This is an "informal" hearing at the Contract Services Administration Trust Fund -- CSATF to those in the know. This arbitration is usually kind of casual, heard by a studio rep and a union rep as arbitrators. They hear evidence, ask questions, and then MAY give a ruling on the case if union and company agree to let them make a ruling (which is binding). But if one side says "Ixnay", it's on to ...

Step Four -- This is a more formal hearing, with a tird party arbitrator and court-style stenographer, and it plays out like a day in court. Both sides call witnesses and give evidence, and when it's over, the arbitrator goes off and renders a written ruling. Once in a while, a settlement is reached, but mostly it's both parties making their case and the arbitrator making a ruling. Which is final.

Cases that we've done over the years have run a wide gamut: harassment, physical assault, an artist doing secretly naughty designs, you name it.

We've had more than one arbitrator say to us: "You know, I really like geting your cases. They are always interesting."


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