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Ask Sparky

April 2, 2013

Dear Sparky: I’m what you’d call a “good” employee. I’ve never had a problem with my boss and I don’t expect to. This description fits pretty much everyone I work with except for one guy—let’s call him “Bad Apple.” Here’s my issue: we all pay union dues and I’m guessing that the vast majority of our money goes to pay for one co-worker’s grievances—and I do mean grievances. Questioning in Quincy

Dear Questioning: Geez—other than that, how do you feel about Mr. Apple? Look: it’s an unpleasant reality of working for a living that there’s a “Bad Apple” in every bushel. Sounds like you have some great co-workers, though, and as a group, especially a group that has the good fortune to be part of a union, you can actually do something to help this situation.

First step: become a leader in your chapter and convince your coworkers to do the same. The more leaders in your chapter the faster and easier it is to fix things before they ever reach the grievance stage and cost anybody a dime. But don’t forget: these protections exist for a reason. Filing grievances is the mechanism you and your colleagues have for enforcing your contract. In other words: “use it or lose it.” Unfortunately, another reality of working for a living is that there are a bazillion bad bosses out there and you could end up with one tomorrow, in which case your union contract will be your new best friend.

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