Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Story Time With Jonathan

Did I ever tell you about the time that I was the source of a grievance filed against the Village of Howard by the union representing Public Works employees?

When I was in school I worked summers for the Village Parks Department as a seasonal employee.  The first day of the first year I did that I learned the two most important rules of the department--Number One: don't work too fast, so the supervisors think that we are always super busy--and Number Two: don't work past 3:30 in the afternoon, because only the "union guys" can work overtime.  A number of times we had to leave projects partially-done and call in the "union guys" to complete the work--at time and a half--after we had to head back to the shop to punch out.

So, one year I was on the ball diamond crew, prepping fields for little league and softball games later that day.  It was a good gig--since I played ball just about every night--using one of the diamonds I worked on, so that one always got a little extra prep so there would be no bad hops on the infield and that the left-hand batters box didn't get that big hole that forced hitters to run uphill to first base.  That summer, the village hosted the ISC State Tournament--with the top finishing teams earning spots in the World Championships a few weeks later in Kimberly--so it was a pretty important thing.  And my team was playing in it. 

As luck would have it, on the Friday of the opening games an afternoon severe thunderstorm rolled through--dumping heavy rain on the park.  We went back to the diamond to find it unplayable.  The outfield had standing water and the infield was nothing but mud.  I radioed in to the superviser and he came to check it out.  It was already 3:00--and it would be at least two hours work to get the diamond ready to play.  So my super asked if I and my crew partner (who was also going to be playing ball on that field that night) could stay on site and "volunteer" our time to get the diamond ready to play.  He would drive our work truck back to the garage after we were done--and he would put down that we "forgot" to punch out at 3:30 so we weren't working OT.

We pumped the water off the outfield, mixed in some diamond dry to get the infield playable and restriped the field--getting it ready just in time to play the first game.  We were actually pretty proud of ourselves for getting the job done well and at a savings to the taxpayers as well--since we were "off the clock".

Unfortunately, the union steward drove by the diamond after 3:30 and saw me, my teammate and our supervisor out there working the field--with our work truck parked in the lot.  On Monday, he checked out our time cards--saw that we were not punched out at 3:30 on Friday--and assumed that we were working "on the clock" in violation of the contract.  A grievance was filed because a union member was improperly denied an opportunity to get overtime (although I can't imagine anyone giving up a summer Friday afternoon to push mud off a ball diamond and slosh around ankle deep water in the outfield).

Needless to say, a whole bunch of people got called on the carpet for this attempt to better serve the public.  Obviously, it's an incident that stays with me almost 20-years later.  Just thought you might enjoy that little tale.

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