BEFORE THE ARBITRATOR
In the Matter of the Arbitration of a Dispute Between
OPEIU LOCAL NO. 9, AFL-CIO, CLC
IRON WORKERS UNION,
LOCAL NO. 8 APPRENTICESHIP AND TRAINING
(Grievance of Deborah A. Quesada)
The above-captioned parties, herein "Local 9" and "Employer", are signatories to a
bargaining agreement providing for final and binding arbitration. Pursuant thereto, hearing
in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on December 4, 1998. There, both parties agreed that I should
jurisdiction if the grievance is sustained and they then presented oral arguments in lieu of
I then issued a "bench" decision, which this Award augments.
The parties agreed to the following issue:
Whether the Employer had just cause to terminate grievant
Deborah A. Quesada and, if not, what
is the appropriate remedy?
Grievant Quesada was employed as a Secretary/Office Manager from September 11,
to July 10, 1998 (all dates herein refer to 1998), when she was terminated via a July 10 letter
Apprenticeship Coordinator Gilbert Toslek, her immediate boss, that stated:
. . .
The events are as follows:
The Business Manager of Ironworkers Local
#8 was asked to speak with you on my behalf
because of our inability to function as an effective team.
The Joint Apprenticeship Committee was
informed at the July meeting of the letter to Mr. Tony
Vanderbloemen Business Manager of O.P.E.I.U. #9, dated January
28th, 1998 outlining the need
for trust and compatibility within a two person office.
On behalf of the Trustee's of Local #8
Apprenticeship and Training fund, I was directed to
dismiss you with all appropriate wages and benefits on Friday July 10th,
1998, due to the negative
work environment between us.
. . .
The Employer maintains that it had just cause to terminate Quesada because of her
inability to get
along with Toslek. Local 9 disagrees, and claims that the Employer in any event did not
progressive discipline before it fired Quesada.
The hearing established that Quesada and Toslek for some time had a stormy working
relationship; that Toslek sometimes helped Quesada by giving her money; that Toslek at
out of his way to praise Quesada's work (see Union Exhibits 1-6 which reflect Toslek's
Quesada's work); and that Toslek and Quesada sometimes bickered among themselves, so
that Toslek earlier threatened to quit his position because of the difficulty he experienced in
The hearing also revealed that the Employer did not follow progressive discipline
Quesada on July 10 even though Article X of the contract, entitled "Progressive Discipline",
Section 1. The Employer agrees that when
disciplinary action is taken against an employee,
discipline shall be corrective and progressive as listed below.
Step 1. Verbal warning;
Step 2. Written warning;
Step 3. Two (2) day
Step 4. Discharge.
Section 2. Any employee who
is involved in a disciplinary action has the right to have a Union
representative present. Any such action shall be subject to the grievance procedure.
Section 3. The disciplinary
warning/s shall be removed from the employee's personnel file within
nine (9) months providing there were no further violations which resulted in disciplinary
Elsewhere, Article XI, entitled "Discharge", contains a just
The Employer argues that it did follow progressive discipline because Quesada was
warned about her work via a January 28 letter from Toslek to OPEIU Representative Tony
Vanderbloemen that stated:
. . .
This correspondence concerns O.P.E.I.U.
Local #9 member Deborah Quesada, employed as
Office Manager for Iron Workers Local #8 Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee
since September 1995.
On Wednesday, January 28, 1998, some
simple communication was misinterpreted into a
situation that is unacceptable by either Ms. Quesada or myself.
As there are only two (2) full-time salaried
employees in the J.A.T.C. Office (the Office Manager
and Apprenticeship Coordinator) there is little room for incompatibility or a negative
During her employment with the J.A.T.C. Ms. Quesada has indicated that she would be
working elsewhere, which would seem to be the case.
The current work environment is both difficult to work in and
diminishes overall performance
in the office.
If there is not a noticeable improvement
within the J.A.T.C. office, the Trustees will have to
decide which employee they will continue to employ.
Please keep this letter on file for reference.
. . .
While this letter obviously reflected Toslek's unhappiness with working with Quesada,
therein put Quesada on notice that she was being disciplined because of her alleged
duty. Hence, said letter did not constitute the kind of formal, progressive discipline
Article X and the just cause requirement contained in Article XI.
Indeed, Toslek himself tacitly acknowledged that Quesada had not been disciplined
when he told Quesada on July 7 that he was giving her a verbal warning, which of course is
step of the progressive disciplinary chain set forth in Article X. Quesada testified without
contradiction that Toslek told her on July 7 that he was giving her a verbal warning and her
was corroborated by Union Steward Debra Dirge who also attended said July 7 meeting.
It therefore was a fundamental error and a violation of Article X of the
contract when the
Employer fired Quesada only three days later without first giving her a chance to improve
by giving her the written warning and the two-day suspension mandated in Article X.
The Employer's failure to follow the progressive disciplinary chain spelled out in
also means that the Employer lacked just cause under Article XI of the contract to summarily
terminate Quesada without first according her a reasonable opportunity to correct any
problems with her work.
To rectify that contractual breach, the Employer shall make Quesada whole by
offering to reinstate her to her former position and by paying to her all monies and benefits,
seniority, that she would have earned had she not been terminated, minus any money or
compensation that she would not have received but for her termination. Pursuant to the
of the parties, I shall retain my jurisdiction for at least sixty (60) days to resolve any
may arise over application of my Award.
In light of the above, it is my
1. That the Employer lacked just cause to terminate grievant Deborah A.
2. That to rectify said contractual breach, the Employer shall undertake the
action stated above.
3. That to resolve any questions that may arise over application of my Award, I
retain my jurisdiction for at least sixty (60) days.
Dated at Madison, Wisconsin this 17th day of December, 1998.
Amedeo Greco, Arbitrator