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The Union Leader

News & Notes for Our Valued Clients February 2019

IMPORTANT INTERSECTION - Last month America celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. day. This month is Black History Month. Here's where those two events intersect for union members.

Depending on your age, you either remember, or have learned, that MLK Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. (April 4, 1968). But why was King in Memphis? Was it just another in a long string of his "usual" civil rights stops? It was not.

King was in Memphis specifically to support members of the fledgling Local 1733 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. AFSCME Local 1733 represented the nearly all-African American Memphis sanitation workers. The city refused to recognize the legality of the union. Two workers were killed in an accident involving a city truck. You've likely seen, in history books or elsewhere, pictures of striking Memphis workers adorned in their "I Am A Man" placards. The strike wasn't only about wages and benefits, it was about human dignity.

This scenario is why AFSCME was a prime proponent of making MLK Day a holiday, and other unions quickly jumped on board. It took some time, but with the support of many unions and their political pressure, MLK Day became a reality for federal employees and in 27 states on Jan. 20, 1986. (King's birthday was Jan. 15, so the date is meant to coincide as closely as possible). In the year 2000, Utah became the final state to proclaim the third Monday of January each year as MLK Day. It's a heritage all union members can be proud of.


VALUING GRIEVANCES - In union settings, grievance procedures help protect employees against arbitrary decisions of management regarding discipline, discharge, promotions and/or benefits. They also provide unions and employers with a formal process for enforcing the provisions of their contracts.

Particularly at issue now in the post-Janus world is the requirement that unions owe a "duty of fair representation" to all of the workers it represents - not just its members. This duty requires that the union act fairly, impartially and without ill will or discrimination when pursuing a worker's grievance. The union is required to take reasonable steps to investigate a grievance and must represent members in more than "a dismissive manner." Unions must be diligent with all grievances or face the possibility of a DFR complaint.

And ... you can't be diligent if you lose track of a grievance. Last year the NLRB tightened its rules around unions' responsibilities to process and track grievances. Many grievances are paperwork nightmares for stewards or union reps. One complicated grievance can fill multiple three-ring binders with back-up documents and exhibits. But the NLRB says due diligence must be done - which, in fairness, is owed the grievant. Fortunately, piles of paper can become a thing of the past. See below for information about the premier grievance-tracking system in the U.S.


SURFIN' THE NET - For over five years now, the number of people who access the internet only via a mobile device (primarily a smartphone or tablet) outdistances those who only use a desktop or laptop computer. And those numbers are growing exponentially.

In 2015, the numbers were still relatively close. 32.1 million people that year surfed the net only via a mobile device, while 24.7 million only used a desktop/laptop. Let's jump to last year. In 2018, those numbers were as follows: 44.5 million only via mobile device, 12.9 million only via desktop/laptop. The projected numbers for 2021 are 52.3 million for mobile device users only, and 10.7 million for those hanging on to only accessing the Internet by desktop or laptop computer. Again, these numbers are for exclusive access via one method or the other. Some 223 million Americans use both to some degree.

But these numbers simply reinforce the fact - not notion, but fact - that mobile device usage grows by leaps and bounds each year. Right now the device of choice is the smartphone - 10 years from now, who knows what we'll be carrying around? Here's the bottom line: unions must change with the times. You have to have a modern website - one that scales proportionally automatically to whatever device is being looked at ("responsive" is the technical term). Increasingly, you have to have a mobile app. We've shared in earlier issues of this newsletter how those 30 and younger are virtually 100 percent in cell phone ownership, with most of those being smartphones. Younger union members generally only access the Internet via their smartphone or tablet - they don't own "computers" in the way that most of us think of computers.

If your union wants help reviewing its website, or you've been putting off discussion about adding a mobile app, now is the time. Let us help you - this is what we do! Please see our contact info just below.


CONTACT US - Our customer service center is always ready to assist you. We have professional support staff trained to get you answers and/or help you through an issue as quickly as possible. E-mail us at or call (888) 248-5557, Ext. 3.


PRODUCT FEATURE - We talked earlier in this newsletter about the importance of grievances and keeping track of them. Unions are understanding this. It's no coincidence that our most popular product over the past several months has been our Unions-America GrievTrac grievance tracking system. Here's why ...

GrievTrac allows you to efficiently research, collaborate, share, archive, and directly facilitate the grievance process online. It's safe and secure: connect using SSL encryption for secure transmission of grievance information.

GrievTrac is flexible. No need to worry about how your members and stewards access the Internet (as per above) - you can access GrievTrac from any computer, tablet or mobile device. You can view the most current grievances in a list format, you can show only open grievances or only closed grievances, grievances that are coming up for review, or grievances within a specific date period - all with the click of a button. There is also a keyword search function - access all grievance data or specific data fields quickly and easily.

Never worry about missing a deadline again. GrievTrac includes complete date tracking and will email or text notifications of important grievance review dates and deadlines to all pertinent parties.

Worried about all of the piles of paper your union currently has "invested" in grievances? You scan and upload old paper files into GrievTrac - you don't have to "start over."

Other highlights include:

  • Detailed database of grievance information
  • Detailed searching and filtering options for grievance research
  • Upload PDF, Word, Excel, or any type of supporting documents


For further details, a demonstration video, pricing information and more, go to the "Data" tab at or directly to

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