Union supports grievance claim

Lynne Kozarek

A storm is brewing between the University and Teamsters, who are attempting to support two of their own in a grievance filed against a University housing supervisor.
Fifty-three maintenance workers in the Housing and Food Services department have filed a petition calling for the reinstatement of University housing workers Jean Mortensen and Scott Huntington.
Mortensen and Huntington were hired in November 1995 and dismissed in February 1996. Both workers were two weeks away from completing a 720-hour probationary period that is mandatory when a member of the Teamsters bargaining unit transfers departments.
Mortensen and Huntington took their complaints to Teamsters Local 320 Steward Bob Bryant. Bryant filed a grievance on behalf of the two, charging that their seniority rights had been violated.
“They do not feel they were removed for just cause,” Bryant said.
Local 320 member Erik Jensen said that under old union contract language, supervisors were not required to reveal why they had dismissed a worker on probation.
The new contract language, adopted in 1995, mandates counseling between employees and supervisors before a Teamsters member can be dismissed. Only after the employee has had a chance to improve job performance can the employee be terminated.
“This supervisor was functioning under the old mode,” Jensen said. “The higher-ups have chosen to back the supervisor in this case when the language seems so clear cut.”
Jensen said the Teamsters at the University will not allow administrators to get away with violating seniority rights.
Mortensen said she was told only that it wasn’t working out, and was dismissed from her job in Pioneer Hall the same day. Mortensen is still employed at the University in the women’s athletics department, but had to go back to working overnight hours.
“I’m just wondering why they have the right to skip over people,” Mortensen said. “If the union book doesn’t mean diddly, then why are we going by it?”
Mortensen said she felt the union was representing her fairly.
“I was brought up to be fair,” Mortensen said, “with equal rights to all. Those are the rules and (University managers) are not following them.”
Housing and Food Services Maintenance Supervisor George Hahn dismissed Mortensen and Huntington in February.
Hahn said he felt the issue had already been taken care of and didn’t see why there was so much controversy surrounding the dismissals.
“This is almost a year old,” Hahn said. “We’ve already held meetings on this and as far as I’m concerned it’s already dealt with.”
Hahn also said most of the information he was dealing with was confidential because of the arbitration proceedings taking place.
Nancy Arneson, human resources director for Housing and Food Services, said it is difficult for management to comment on the situation because both employees are going through the grievance process.
“The ball is not in our court,” Arneson said. “I am optimistic that a determination will be made by the end of the next couple of months.”
Maintenance and Food Services workers are also anxious to have the issue resolved and say they hope to keep the pressure on until Mortensen and Huntington have their jobs in Pioneer Hall back.