There are a few bills opposed by UE Local 170 leadership, and perhaps the most notable is Senate Bill 616. The bill, introduced January 24 by Sen. Charles Trump (R-Morgan), would make changes to the grievance procedure, with an apparent aim of handcuffing representation of fellow employees, and possibly discouraging members who have a grievance over working conditions and discipline.

The bill would:

  • Limit the number of grievants a fellow worker may represent to four per year.
  • Eliminates the allowance of a representative to be present at “any meeting that is held with the employee for the purpose of discussing or considering disciplinary action.” In other words, employees could not have a representative present at predetermination hearings.
  • Potentially reduce the amount of paid time off allowed for grievance preparation, both for the grievant and representative. Those workers would be limited to four hours paid time off “for all grievance proceedings combined, regardless of how many procedural levels are involved.”
  • Clarify that representatives shall not be permitted to use work time to perform grievance activities “if the employing state agency determines that the representative activities interfere with the assigned duties and responsibilities of the fellow employee representative.” Conceivably, this clause could be used to strategically block a member from representation duties altogether.
  • Clarify that employers are not required to grant access to state vehicles for grievances.
  • Provide for an exception to removal of a grievant’s identity in employer’s files one year after the conclusion of the grievance – cases involving suspension and termination.
  • Stipulate that when a grievant has been discharged, suspended without pay, demoted or reclassified resulting in a loss of pay or benefits, he or she may skip to Level 2 mediationinstead of Level 3. That would prolong the contesting of discipline that results in economic damage, a process that already takes way too long.
  • In the event a Level 3 decision is appealed to Kanawha County Circuit Court or the state Supreme Court, the prevailing party may recover court costs and attorney’s fees from the opposing party.

The last item would certainly discourage grievants – and the union – from seeking redress over an unfair Level 3 decision by the Grievance Board.

This bill is referred to the Senate Committee on Government Organization, and likely will appear on a meeting agenda soon in the 60-day Legislative session. January 28 was the 21st day of the session, so there is plenty of time.