After a federal employee assaulted a female colleague on the job, the American Federation of Government Employees took the side of the abuser — even though the woman was also a union member — and made bosses give a cash payout to the man.
The union convinced an arbiter that management was in the wrong for trying to keep the woman from working in a hostile environment by telling him to stop volunteering for overtime during her shift.
The male guard injured the female co-worker by hurling a heavy protective vest at her from behind.
Management seemed to go light on the abuser from the beginning, taking two years to “investigate”–instead of just asking a few witnesses while their memories were fresh–with no punishment in the meantime, other than the stay-away order affecting some overtime.
Only days before the incident, bosses had sent out a memo saying there was no reason for such inquiries to take more than four months.
While the lackadaisical response might be expected to please the abuser–and while unions often rail against quick action, saying it indicates a lack of due process–the union argued that the government’s inefficiency meant that it should have no right to take even modest disciplinary actions against him.
Not only did the union’s successful grievance to the Federal Labor Relations Authority say he should not be punished, it said he should be paid for all the overtime shifts that he might possibly have chosen to work if he was not prevented from doing so because his victim was working the same shift.
Two years later, the prison concluded what was never in much doubt–that he had, in fact, thrown the vest. It decided he would be suspended for 14 days. Then it agreed to reduce it to 7, but that still didn’t appease the union.
AFGE appealed it to an arbitrator, saying he shouldn’t receive any punishment at all. The arbiter said that the incident “warrants some punishment” and “the discipline invoked by management appears well within the scope of its discretion.”
Nonetheless, because of the government’s snail’s pace, the arbiter ordered all discipline to be set aside and the incident stricken from his record, even though the most lenient punishment allowed for the infraction under the union contract was a written reprimand.
And he “ordered the parties to negotiate a ‘settlement figure’ for lost overtime, which the Arbitrator limited to thirty-five percent of the grievant’s actual earnings.”
That still wasn’t enough, and the union then demanded that he be paid interest and that it be paid for its attorneys’ time.
On appeal, the FLRA upheld the arbiter’s ruling in favor of the union, dismissing management’s argument that it was being prevented from disciplining its employees, which could lead to chaos in a federal prison.
The AFGE did not answer a question from theDCNF about who its policies say it should stand up for when one union member is causing harm to another union member on the job.
AFGE has often positioned itself as an advocate for women. Its “Women Inspire the Movement” webpage says that its National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices has worked on “safe workplaces… and protection from sexual harassment and violence at work.”
It also did not say what it would have done if the female union member would have come to the union saying that she was being exposed to a hostile work environment. Even though the union fought to ensure that the woman had to work alongside her abuser, government employee unions have often helped employees in her position get cash payouts from taxpayers by saying they were exposed to such conditions.