New Workers Have Rights Too!

Across the country, the protections that new hires can access from their union during their probationary period can be confusing. This too often allows anti-labor managers to tell new employees they shouldn’t, or even can’t, join the union or turn to them if something comes up.

But in Miami-Dade County, AFSCME Local 199 is fighting back.

Recently, three probationary employees all faced losing their jobs because of misunderstandings or personality conflicts with their managers. But since Local 199 has been signing up new employees at their orientation all three knew they had rights.  

“They went straight to termination because of a misunderstanding and skipped all the steps leading up to that, steps that could have corrected the record but more importantly steps that they had to take,” said Alvin Johnson, an auto parts specialist for the county. “I got my termination papers on a Thursday, went right to the union hall and they got straight to work.”

Within two weeks, Johnson has his job back and recovered back pay he was due.

Octavia Cordy, an animal care specialist, said she wanted to have her union representative present when her supervisor met with her about a misunderstanding about a specific department processes she was still learning as a new employee.

Instead, the situation escalated because her manager interpreted her request as her refusal to participate in the process and she was fired. But a month later, Cordy was back on the job thanks to her union upholding her contract and her rights.

“I tell everyone that AFSCME is a blessing because I wouldn’t have gotten my job back if there was nobody overseeing our contract,” said Cordy. “I was never alone, I always had somebody in my corner.”

Mercedes Rodrigues knew how important AFSCME is from her previous 26 years working with the county in various positions. When she rejoined, one of the first things the library assistant did was to sign up for the union.

“I never thought things would happen the way they did but it just shows you that if you don’t have your union you may be trying to tell your side of the story all alone,” said Rodrigues.

While the issue came out of the blue, Rodrigues turned to Local 199 that same day and they worked together to come up with a plan to ensure all the facts were reviewed and that she would get her job back. And it worked.

“It shows that the system works and that you never know when you are going to need to tap into the resources at your disposal,” said Rodrigues. “This was my union family at its best.”

All three members agree that new employees need to take charge of their future and sign up for membership right away. And all have become strong advocates for the union. Johnson for instance has helped to make sure everyone in his unit is a member and has even reached out to help sign up members in other units and departments.

“My story has really opened the eyes of a lot of people, both new and veteran employees,” said Johnson. “It has turned disbelievers into believers and has turned me into an AFSCME activist!”