Prompt, Public Action
By Local 712 Overturns
WE DON'T KNOW
WE DON'T KNOW
Prompt and public action by UE Local 712 overturned the unjust discharge of Kenyon College mechanic Russell Cline.
Kenyon fired Cline for losing his driver’s permit; as the mechanic responsible for maintaining the college’s entire
fleet of vehicles, he has to test-drive trucks, vans, cars and grounds equipment. The real issue, however, was an insurance carrier rule
that threatened the college with loss of its insurance for Kenyon vehicles should an employee receive a moving violation with points.
Kenyon implemented the rule without the local union’s knowledge and without bargaining.
Local 712 filed a grievance in Cline’s defense — and that wasn’t all. As Local Pres. Bob Smith explains, the
union took action and went public, contacting the two campus newspapers, distributing a leaflet and picketing.
'A POLICY NO ONE KNEW EXISTED'
The leaflet gave the facts of the case: Cline’s first-offense traffic violation occurred in his own vehicle, on his own
time; the master mechanic had been terminated "without so much as a warning;" in six years, "Kenyon has never had any
problems with his work and he has always been a very thorough and safety-minded mechanic;" he was terminated as a result of a policy
that no one in the trades or custodial departments ever knew existed.
With picket signs reading "We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know" and "Make One Mistake You’re
Fired," union members picketed two days during the week on their lunch break and on Saturday mornings, for about a month.
"The college definitely didn’t like to see us standing out there," says Smith — particularly with
prospective students being taken on tours of the campus.
The employer asked the insurance carrier to make an exception in Cline’s case. The insurance company agreed and Cline
was reinstated — with back pay, no loss in seniority and full benefits. Kenyon agreed not to implement the rule until the parties had
bargained over it.