Solving Problems on the Job

UC employees formed Local 3299 to solve problems on the job and make UC a better place to work.  All of us realize the University can be a good place to work except when problems get in the way.  Some of the most common problems we hear about include:

  • Supervisors who don’t listen, don’t seem to care, are disrespectful, play favorites, or discriminate.
  • Short-staffing that prevents us from doing our best to help students and patients.
  • No chance to advance; hiring outsiders instead of promoting within.
  • Pay that’s too low and no way to reach the top of our pay range.
  • Hiring new employees at the same pay as long-time employees.
  • Doing work that’s in a higher classification without getting paid for it.

You’re not alone.
Whatever difficulty you’re facing at work, it’s unlikely that you’re the only person with a problem.  Most issues we face are similar.  This is important to remember because we’re often we’re made to feel like the problem is our fault.  That can make us feel alone and powerless instead of working together for positive solutions.

The contract may help – or it may not.
Every few years, our union negotiates a new set of ground rules with management, called the “contract”.

You can see the SX (Service Unit Contract)  by clicking here.

You can see the K7 (Skilled Trades Unit Contract)  by clicking here.

You can see the EX (Patient Care Technical Unit)  by clicking here.

After reading a bit, you’ll probably see that management wants a contract with limited employee rights, while the union is always pushing to expand our rights and ability to solve problems.  When management breaks a rule in the contract, employees have 30 days to respond by filing a “grievance”.  You can contact an organizer to help you file a grievance, especially if you’re facing serious discipline or dismissal.  Finally, it’s important to remember that many problems we face aren’t covered by the contract, and the contract should never limit our efforts to solve problems, especially when it comes to issues of unfairness or injustice.  If the contract is helpful, use it and if it isn’t, continue fighting for fairness using these steps as a guideline:

Step 1:  Start by talking with your co-workers about the problem.
You may be surprised to find out how many people you work with have had a similar problem.  It’s impossible to know unless you start asking questions and talk with your co-workers to see if they feel the same way you do.  Start with some casual conversation, then hold a short meeting.

Step 2:  Invite your co-workers to a short meeting.
If you find other workers feel the same way you do, or at least share some of your concerns, it’s time to get everyone together at an informal meeting.  It can take as little as 10 or 15 minutes for the first meeting.  Ask everyone to meet at a convenient place during lunch, a break, or before or after work.  Explain that it’s worth taking a few minutes for everyone learn more about the problem and discuss some possible solutions.

Step 3:  Call the union office or Member Action Team (MAT) volunteer.
After you know a little more about the problem and have a meeting planned, contact a union organizer.  Your organizer may be a specially trained worker who belongs to the union Members Action Team (MAT), or it could be one of the staff organizers employed by our union.  Either way, they’ll probably begin by asking you for information about the problem, and find out if you’ve spoken yet with your co-workers and tried to organize a meeting.  If the problem is confidential, the organizer will work directly with you.  But if the problem involves more than one person and it often does ? then the most effective approach is to involve as many co-workers as possible in the solution.  This method of problem solving is known as “organizing”, or “solidarity”, or “collective action”.  The different words all mean the same thing; we approach management in a united way to seek positive changes and improvements. 

Step 4:  Agree on an action plan to involve your co-workers
Encouraging management to make positive changes is always possible but never certain.  Sometimes management is open to changes and improvements, other times they resist even the smallest compromise.  While there is no guarantee management will make changes, be fair, or do the right thing ? they are much more likely to change if a majority of workers make it clear the problem is real and must be solved.   Your action plan should focus on a building support among co-workers around a reasonable solution.  Here are some common examples of action plans that other UC employees have used successfully to build support and win:

  • Write a petition or “open letter” and get it signed by your co-workers.
  • After you’ve collected signatures, go in a group to present the petition together to management.  Ask them for a date and time to meet again
  • Hold a group meeting with management. Propose a date, time, and place when most workers can attend.  Get commitments ahead from your co-workers to attend the meeting and express their views.
  • If the problem concerns the general public or patients, consider alerting the news media, but make sure to first call the union.

Step 5:  Follow-up and keep organizing
Most problems aren’t solved in a single meeting or on the first try.  Some issues take weeks, months, and even years to win.  You can always consider compromises along the way, but expect to keep up the pressure if you want to win your goal.  Here’s what other UC employees have done:

  • Report back to everyone after your first action.  Ask your organizer to help you prepare a flyer explaining what action we took together and how management responded. 
  • Keep it positive.  Stay focused on our solution, not on management’s excuses or negativity.
  • Thank everyone who participated the first time, encourage everyone else to get involved the next time.  Keep asking others to get involved
  • Remind everyone that solving problems takes time and solutions don’t happen overnight, but patience and persistence will pay-off.
  • Ask your organizer to invite a co-worker from another area that has successfully organized to solve a similar problem in their workplace.

If we keep organizing, stay positive, and get everyone involved, we’ll be able to continue making progress and solving problems at UC. 

We Can Do It – Si, Se Puede!