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CLAUSE LETS UNION PRESIDENT SKIP TOWN JOB

Kevin Glascott got a 3 percent raise this year thanks to a new union contract, but that's not the best part of the agreement.

The best part is that it says he doesn't have to go to work.

Glascott is union president of Cheektowaga's 268-member blue- and white-collar union. He still gets paid $17 an hour for his Sanitation Department job. But he hasn't had to get behind the wheel of a garbage truck once since helping negotiate a new three-year contract with the town last year.

The new clause exempts Glascott -- and future union presidents -- from his job and has him now tending only to union needs.

"We felt at the time there was a need for it," said Glascott, president of the Town of Cheektowaga Employees Association, the largest of four town unions and the only one that has this clause. "As a union, there's so much more we could be doing for our members and should be doing."

Glascott admitted last week that he has gotten some grief from peers. There have been grumblings in the Sanitation Department, too, because there's no one to fill his duties. And others question why a 268-member union needs someone to tackle union matters full time.

The Town of Cheektowaga Employees Association's old contract ran out in December 1995, and in the end there were two big issues holding up a new agreement.

Union negotiators were pushing for the union-president provision, while the town wanted the ability to reduce its work force over the years through attrition.

The union got a full-time, paid president, while the town already has saved more than $100,000 by not having to hire anyone after recent retirements, said Councilman Jeff Swiatek, an attorney who helped with negotiations.

The contract includes a provision so the town can get out of the agreement. Town officials are reviewing the issue now and, if they want to scrap the practice, have until November to submit reasons why.

"I do believe it is unique, but it's not unheard of," Glascott said. "A lot of unions have this clause."

Actually, it's unusual for a municipality of Cheektowaga's size to have such an agreement with a town union, according to labor negotiators familiar with the area's municipal union contracts.

Buffalo traditionally has granted these provisions for presidents of its police, firefighters and blue- and white-collar unions. But Buffalo police and fire have 900 members each. The city's blue-collar union has about 600 members, as does its white-collar union.

None of the town unions in Tonawanda, West Seneca, Hamburg or Amherst has this agreement. In fact, the Cheektowaga pact surprised officials in those towns.

"How much union business can there be?" asked one personnel employee from another town.

Officials at the state Public Employment Relations Board in Albany couldn't immediately determine whether this type of provision has become a trend with municipalities across the state.

It's simply a matter of whether the employee representatives feel they have enough time to address union needs, said Anthony Zumbolo, supervising mediator with PERB.

"It's a negotiable issue," Zumbolo said.

Cheektowaga negotiators are satisfied with the contract and said they had their own reasons for agreeing to the provision.

"That was one of the concessions we made in order to win some things at the bargaining table," said Robert P. McCarthy, Cheektowaga's personnel director. "We're extremely pleased with the last contract in terms with what we were able to do."

Besides, Glascott was spending much of his work day on union business anyway, Swiatek said. The town also cut five union stewards, reducing the number of town employees working on union business during the work day.

"From my perspective it made sense," Swiatek said.

There's quite a bit of union work to be done, and the matters are time-consuming and complicated, said Glascott, a town employee for 23 years. This year, there have been about 50 to 70 grievances of varying degrees, Glascott said, although neither Glascott nor the town had firm numbers.

"This is not something you can do lightly," said Glascott, who has taken a Cornell University program in industrial labor relations for the past three years. "I never knew how much was involved before I took it on. I used to be one of those people who bitched because of how long things took to get done."

Glascott ran unopposed in 1993, but that's not likely to happen come the union's December elections. He realizes this little clause may spark interest in the president's postion.

In fact, he welcomes challengers and more involvement, particularly from the more professional employees.

"If I'm not president," Glascott said, "I'm still going to be a member of this bargaining unit, so whoever is here I want them to represent me properly."

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