Can’t Keep a Good Operator Down
Barbara Ross came to work at the Coquille Plywood plant four years ago. As a member of Plywood, Lumber & Sawmill Workers Local Union 2784, she started out putting patches in plywood. Before she started, Ross had been working two full-time and one part-time job. She had pumped gas, worked at a call center, and as a caregiver. Roseburg Forest Products (RFP) gave her the chance to make ends meet with a single job. As she learned the work, she started looking at future career opportunities. She spent time pulling veneer sheets on the round table, driving a forklift, and operating the skinner saw, which trims sheets of veneer before they are laid up into plywood.
When a bid job came open for an equipment operator on a 950, a large front end loader for moving logs and blocks in the log yard, she knew it would be a big transition. The log yard has traditionally been considered ‘men’s work,’ and Ross knew she would have to prove herself on the job.
“I really enjoyed driving, and the 950 is like a giant Tonka truck. It looked like a fun job,” said Ross, and she stepped up to the challenge.
She was awarded the bid and began training, but it was lacking—the trainer pushed her to go too fast, basically refusing to train her properly. They then assigned her to drive for the Uroko veneer lathe without properly training her on that process either. Ultimately, this ended up disqualifying her from the job.
But Ross knew what to do, she went to her Union Stewards, Markee Moreno, Terri Smith, Debbie Baker, and Jerry James. They helped her file a grievance on the wrongful disqualification and argue her case with management.
Union Steward Terri Smith had this to say, “This grievance was about everybody getting a fair shot to prove themselves on the job, no matter who they are. It’s about fairness and equality, and that’s why we have a union!”
The grievance was denied at the first step, but the stewards went to bat for her. Coworkers wrote statements and supported her, and at the second step grievance, Ross was able to win the grievance and get back on the 950 with a new trainer and a chance to qualify for the job.
The Grievance Procedure is a Three-Step Process:
Step 1: Steward and Grievant address the issue with the Supervisor, who has 24 hours to respond.
Step 2: The grievance is reduced to writing and submitted to Human Resources. The Union Representative, Steward, and Grievant meet with HR & Plant Manager to try and resolve.
Step 3: If no resolution is made, the grievance can then be brought to the attention of the corporate Human Resources for a final decision.
Markee Moreno, Union Steward, added, “The outcome was fair and it was a good discussion for both parties. Barbara explained her situation well and mentioned how the training was not working for her. They were willing to give her a second shot, so that was fair. I was pleased with how this turned out.”
Jerry James, Uroko lathe operator and shop steward said, “The one big thing to come out of this grievance is that everyone deserves a fair chance at being trained properly. If they don’t think they are getting the training they need, they need to say something. We as a union have tools to fix the problem.”
“This was a huge victory. You are only as good as your trainer. If you feel like you aren’t getting a fair chance, go to the union. You don’t have to put up with unfair treatment. I just want to say thank you to our union. We fought and I got my bid job back. I am so very grateful for this win, especially now. Thank you so very, very much for being there with me and supporting me. Soon I’ll be back in the saddle of the beast,” said Ross.
When our members know their rights and our stewards are trained to use the grievance procedure effectively, we can win gains for our members at the local level and build our union. When we fight, we win.