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Don’t Mind Me, Just Following Policy!

, , , , | Working | CREDIT: phoenix103082 | June 2, 2022

When I was a senior in high school, I started working as a cashier at a grocery store. While this was not my first job, it was the first one where I was part of a union, and I learned about some of the pros and cons of unions — mostly pros like regular raises, breaks, holiday pay, etc. We had a woman there who was basically our human resources person. We did not get along, even before I worked there.

I came in for my interview and [Employee] was not there and had left work for the day. I remember apologizing and saying:

Me: “I must have mixed up the days. Is there any way you can find out which is the correct day for my interview?”

But the manager on duty advised me that I was correct as they had checked the calendar in her office and she had written it down. He, the front-end supervisor, and the other manager who came in to start his shift all interviewed and hired me instead.

I later heard through the grapevine that [Employee] was working two locations and really wanted to be hired full-time at a larger store, which would have been a promotion for her, but instead, she was placed full-time at our location only and didn’t get promoted. Missing my interview was the final nail in the coffin for her, as this was just one of a long list of mistakes she made.

She was always making excuses for why I couldn’t put in to be transferred to another department when they were hiring people for those departments like bakery or deli, and she kept me as cashier even though it was lower pay. Even so, I came back to work there over my winter and summer breaks for college.

Here is where a bit of malicious compliance comes in. Our union states that after a waiting period (I believe it was three months) we get “holiday pay” — time and a half — for working Sundays and holidays. We also are entitled to a raise every six months, and being away at college is not supposed to affect that since we join the union before leaving and come back on our breaks and still owe our dues during those times when we are still part of the union but away at school.

I got my first paycheck stub for the summer and noticed that I did not get my holiday pay for working that Sunday, nor my raise! I spoke with a coworker who advised me to speak with the store manager — he was one of the ones that interviewed me, and he always looked after his staff — since we were between union reps at the time. He was a born problem-solver and told me right away that he could fix the payroll error for me and make sure that I got not only the proper wage from now on but the backpay for the time I should have gotten the raise but didn’t. As far as the holiday pay, though, that had to be taken care of by [Employee] since she was in Human Resources, and he suggested we go see if she was free and speak with her.

She just spoke to both of us in a condescending tone about how this was union policy, that I had to start all over again with seniority, and that I had to earn that holiday pay again by being there for three months. [Store Manager] pointed out, as did I, that I was getting this holiday before leaving for college and even over the winter break that I had worked, but she just kept saying to me, “It’s union policy.” My manager calmly tried to negotiate with her and get her to correct things, and he even stated that other employees had not had to go through this. I finally just raised my hand to silence them both.

Me: “Okay, so you are saying that I can’t get my holiday pay, even though I was getting it before I left to go back to college at the end of January, due to union policy, correct?”

Employee: “Yes.”

She said this with a long dramatic sigh that was meant to say, “Like I have been telling you.”

I nodded and grinned.

Me: “But union policy also states that I don’t have to work holidays or Sundays and that I can’t be penalized for refusing to do so, correct?”

My manager grinned at me like he was very proud of me as he saw exactly where this was going.

Employee: *Looking a bit nervous* “Well, um, yes, that is true.”

Me: *With a shrug* “Okay. Then here is the compromise: since union policy states that I can’t get the holiday pay for working Sundays and holidays, for the rest of the summer, I will not work any Sundays or holidays, and per union policy, I am allowed to do this.”

She immediately started laying on the charm about how I was such a “great worker” and that they “really needed me to be there to help out with Sundays and holidays,” but I pointed out that they had plenty of other employees who were getting the holiday pay that they could count on, and I would be glad to return to working holidays and Sundays once I got my holiday pay for doing so.

My manager commented that he and I needed to change the schedule and casually mentioned that this was going to be hard.

Manager: “Now I’ll have to take you off for next Sunday, and Monday’s Memorial Day… and today is Thursday. But we’ll just have to make it work if we can’t find anyone willing to come in.”

Once [Employee] had left for the day, he called me upstairs to his office to help with the schedule since I had to work so many days each week. I walked in to find him and another manager there grinning ear to ear and telling me how proud they were of me for how I handled that situation.

On Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, I got a call asking if I could come in because they had other people call out sick who were scheduled. I just calmly explained that I was no longer working Sundays or holidays and that [Employee] could explain why.

Before the end of the summer, [Employee] found a new position and quit, and the new HR person was much nicer. One of the first things she did was make sure I and a few other college students who had similar issues with the holiday got our holiday pay reinstated. When I requested a transfer to another department, she gladly asked around and had me put in the health and beauty aides department that same week.

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