BUSINESS 351 -Production workers at Acme Manufacturing Company are represented
Description of the Situation:
Production workers at Acme Manufacturing Company are represented by the United Machine Workers Union. There is a valid labor agreement between the parties. Relevant provisions from the contract are provided after the description of the case.
On September 15 Manufacturing Supervisor Joe Jackson asked Kyla Martin, a machine operator, to remain at the end of the shift and work overtime. Martin said she could not work overtime that night because of a prior commitment and suggested that other, more junior, operators be asked. Jackson agreed, recognizing both Martin’s seniority and her reason as valid.
About 15 minutes later, Jackson brought a work sheet for September 15 with a refused overtime marked next to Martin’s name and asked her to initial the sheet next to her name. Thinking that the work sheet might go into her personnel record as a bad mark, Martin refused to initial it. She told Jackson that she had refused overtime assignments in the past and never had been asked to initial a work sheet before.
Jackson replied that employees frequently had been asked to initial overtime refusals and that he was simply trying to standardize the procedure. He said the work sheets were used only as a record to show that the company had offered overtime to employees in accordance with the contract.
Martin thought that she was being tricked and again refused to initial the work sheet. Jackson then gave Martin an order to initial the work sheet and told her she would be insubordinate and liable to disciplinary action if she refused.
Martin who had recently been elected a shop steward asked if she could call over another shop committee member. Jackson agreed. Martin asked the other shop steward to serve as a witness. She then repeated that she was officially declining the overtime for the record but would not initial the work sheet unless Jackson could show her some rule requiring employees to do so.
Jackson then explained to Martin and the other shop steward that he had given Martin a “clear and direct” order to initial the work sheet on penalty of disciplinary action for refusal to do so. Since Martin still would not initial the work sheet, Jackson said he had no choice but to suspend Martin for three days. In writing up his disciplinary action statement, Jackson stated, “Shop stewards especially should understand insubordination. The company cannot have Ms. Martin setting this kind of example to the other workers.
Martin grieved the suspension and the parties proceeded to arbitration.
The union argues that the supervisor did not have grounds for suspending Martin for refusing to initial the overtime sheet since the procedure had not been required in the past. The company has not issued new procedures regarding overtime sheets so Martin was within her rights under the contract to decline the supervisor’s request to initial the sheet. Based on the company’s past practice that did not require employees to initial the sheet, the union requests that Martin be made whole (including back pay, etc.) for the three day suspension and that this disciplinary action be removed from her record.
The company argues that it has the right to make reasonable rules and enforce them. If Martin disagreed with the rule, she should have complied with her supervisor’s request and then grieved the rule. As a shop steward, she has a higher duty to ensure her actions do not violate the contract. The company requests that the arbitrator uphold its decision to suspend Martin.
The parties have agreed that the issue before the arbitrator is:
Issue for the Arbitrator:
Was the discharge of Shop Steward Kyla Martin permissible under the terms of the agreement? If not, what should the remedy be?
Relevant Contract Provisions and Regulations:
Article V: Employee Responsibilities:
The employees shall comply with the Shop Regulations attached hereto and made part of this Agreement. It is understood that the Company has a right to make reasonable rules and that the Union has a right to grieve the application of such rules if it believes they are being unjustly applied.
Article X: Management Rights:
The control of all matters concerning the operation and management of the plant and the operation of the Company’s business are the exclusive responsibility of the Company, subject to the provisions of this Agreement. The Company has the right to discharge, suspend, or otherwise discipline employees for cause.
Shop Regulation #9
The following are legitimate causes for disciplinary action that may result in suspension without pay or discharge: refusal to obey orders from a supervisor; refusal to accept instructions or constructive criticism when given by a supervisor…
For this assignment:
You will play the role of arbitrator and decide the case below. In writing an arbitration opinion, you should address the arguments of each party and why or why not you do not accept them. It is important to pay careful attention to explaining why you did not accept the arguments of the losing party without being too harsh in criticizing that party. It is also important to critique the arguments in a constructive manner. As in most arbitration cases, you must decide the issue that the parties have framed.