A recent article in the Toledo Blade shows how the public employee grievance process in Toledo is nearly devoid of all common sense – and represents a significant cost to taxpayers.
A unionized public employee in Toledo can file a grievance against the city for what seems to be an endless list of possibilities: issues over hiring subcontractors, disciplinary measures, overtime, and nearly anything else that may in any way hint of violating their contract. Over the past ten years, Toledo has seen 3,115 of these grievances filed by its employees and their unions.
The grievance process is a tangled web that involves numerous steps, countless man hours, and thousands of taxpayer dollars. Eventually after going through an unending process that involves supervisors, department heads, human resources specialists, labor lawyers, and arbitration, a settlement is usually reached. Even if a vast majority of grievances are denied, the man hours spent seeing the process to completion comes at tremendous taxpayer expense.
But the only thing more ridiculous than the process is many of the grievances themselves. Examples include the following:
• Following a 2007 rainstorm, a grievance was filed when a pump to prevent street flooding was turned on by a member of the city administrative and professional employee union, not by a member of the street, water, and drainage union. (Never mind that countless basements would have been flooded if the “correct” employee had be contacted to do the simple job of flipping a switch.)
• In June, Local 7 filed a grievance against the city for hiring a subcontractor to fix an air-conditioning unit at the Trilby Park shelter house. According to the official grievance form, the union asked that the worker, Jeff Couturier, who would have gone out to do the work, be “made whole equal to time worked by the subcontractor.”
• Nearly two years ago, Local 7 grieved when the city called a private tow-truck operator to tow a city fire truck rather than calling city employees at the fleet and facilities department. The requested remedy was “four hour call-out pay for the top two servicemen on the rotation list,” according to city records.
• A grievance was filed by Toledo Firefighters Local 92 over the practice of commanding officers visiting the homes of firefighters who call in sick. (It didn’t seem to matter to Local 92 that faking sick is a contract violation and that the increased usage of sick time has become “a big problem” according to Fire Chief Luis Santiago – the grievance was still filed.)
The bottom line is that the grievance process is being leveraged heavily by public employees and their unions in Toledo and other municipalities. Many of these grievances are entirely frivolous and only work to consume precious man hours and taxpayer dollars. While many would agree that employees should have some grievance procedure in place, the current process is entirely unrecognizable from the type of system that taxpayers expect and deserve.