• No privacy. Women have to use mason jars, men, bottles
• Woman denied use of donated vacation time for childbirth
Callaway Nuclear Power Plant, Fulton, Mo – What would be your reaction:
• If your company wouldn’t allow you the privacy to use the restroom and instead provided a stool with a plastic bag under it to relieve yourself in public? Or you had to urinate and the only thing available was an empty water bottle or, for women, a mason jar?
• If you were out of your vacation time, about to give birth or you had a child care crisis but your company said those needs “don’t fit the parameters” that allows other employees to donate some of their unused vacation time to you to meet your crises?
United Government Security Officers of America Local 11 (UGSOA) expressed these, and other critical issues that are confronting the small union and frustrating its 91 members as they try to get a second contract with Ameren Missouri, Local 11 President Russ Langland told the Labor Tribune in an exclusive interview.
Ignoring the union’s efforts to meet basic human needs of their members, the company has refused to re-enter negotiations and has demanded that the union’s members either accept their last, best and final offer or “hit the bricks if you think you’re going to go back to the bargaining table and get a better contract. ”
That was the reply from John Neudecker, the company’s human resources manager, who oversees the company’s negotiating team.
See previous stories:
- Part 1: Potential strike at Callaway nuclear power plant a real possibility as Ameren attempts to castrate new nuclear security officers’ union
- Part 2: Ameren negotiating deceptions fostering major ‘distrust’ among security officers at Callaway nuclear plant
The union is now, reluctantly, planning for a potential strike, the Labor Tribune was told, because they may have little alternative since Ameren has made it clear to them that it is trying to use this contract to set a pattern for negotiations with three other larger unions due to expire in the next several years.
“We feel strongly that the company wants to use us as an example for the other workers at the plant when their contracts come up, to use our contract as their negotiating pattern. That’s not right for our fellow workers and it’s not right for them to try and take advantage of our members to do this,” Langland stressed.
HUMAN NEEDS DISMISSED
To give readers a feel for how unreasonable Ameren’s demands are, and how badly they are dealing with this young union, you have to understand how Ameren is ignoring basic human needs for their security officers, the very people that the company depends on to secure and protect this multi-billion dollar, potentially extremely dangerous, complex.
- NO TOILET BREAKS: As would be expected, the plant has a detailed security plan to prevent armed attacks. There are static defense positions around the plant, on rooftops, in tunnels, etc. that are constantly staffed by heavily armed Local 11 security officers working 12-hour shifts.
However, Ameren does not always provide specific relief staff to temporarily replace a security guard that has to go to the bathroom during their 12-hour on shift or who is off work due to illness.
What happens when Mother Nature calls?
Male security officers urinate in empty drinking water bottles lying around and female security officers have to use mason jars they bring to work themselves!
And for security officers on rooftops, in response to the union’s complaints, Ameren provides campstools with a suspended plastic bag under a hole in the stool. Security guards, male and female, are expected to use these, in public areas, with little or no privacy.
Ameren’s solution: use the bathroom before going on duty or call for a relief security officer that may, or may not, be available so you can try to find a real toilet.
More often than not, a relief security officer is NOT available, Langland said. So, if Mother Nature calls, oh well, use the improvised emergency options: bottles, mason jars or campstools.
“A person eats on duty and suddenly has to use the bathroom. While it doesn’t happen often, it’s a human response that can’t be helped, yet the company won’t admit there’s a problem,” Langland said.
Adding to the humiliation: If a guard needs to use the campstool, they first have to call and get permission of a supervisor before they can take the stool out of a box to use it!
GIVING BIRTH? TOO BAD
Another major issue of contention is the restrictive pregnancy leave policy Ameren is forcing on Local 11 members.
Currently, with the other unions on the property, there is a liberal vacation donation policy that lets workers give some of their unused vacation time to others who face emergencies or critical needs but don’t have adequate vacation time themselves.
However, with Local 11 members, the company recognizes this policy only when it’s needed for extended illnesses, like cancer. Other than that, tough luck!
A prime example, Langland said, is the company’s recent refusal to allow two pregnant female security officers the right to use donated vacation time from others when they gave birth. Both had used up their vacation time.
Donated vacation time is provided in cash. When someone donates vacation time to a fellow worker, the cash equivalent of the receiving worker’s pay scale is put into the designated recipient’s bank account.
In one case, a single mother of three had to go on food stamps and the state’s WIC supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children in order to feed her family because fellow workers were prohibited from donating some of their own vacation time to her. She also had to ask family and friends for financial help in order to save her home and car.
“My hands are tied. I just gave birth after a troubled pregnancy and I’ve got a new baby and two little ones to deal with, so I can’t get a part-time job to bring in some money to survive. Without my friends and fellow co-workers helping, I don’t know where I’d be right now,” she said.
“The company’s explanation for the decision not to allow co-workers to provide some of their vacation time to help her – pregnancy and childcare don’t fit the ‘parameters’ of the company’s vacation donation policy,” said Langland.
As a result, while both women have time off after the births because federal law requires it, neither is being paid because they don’t have any vacation time left nor are they allowed to accept vacation donation time from other employees.
“This is a ludicrous position,” Langland said. “If they are going to allow donated vacation hours for employees who adopt children, they should do the same for those who give birth.”
To exacerbate an already disgusting situation when dealing with basic human needs like a bathroom break, the security guards are forced to deal with unsanitary conditions while on duty.
There is no running water to wash hands at guard posts after using the makeshift toilet options noted. Women usually bring their own wipes if they don’t want to use the paper towels sometimes available.
“It’s bad enough, but if you’re on your period….”one woman said, her voice trailing off in anger.
Add to that the fact that all the security officers are working in close quarters, an illness from one can quickly spread, potentially impacting the readiness of, or even depleting the available security forces, assigned to protect the plant.
SANITARY BREAK REQUESTS IGNORED
“We understand staffing issues, but if you can’t provide extra staff to cover such human needs, at least provide sanitary facilities to allow for relief breaks,” Langland said. “But we’re ignored when we make repeated efforts to resolve this issue.
“When accidents do happen, people are humiliated, especially our female officers. Who wouldn’t be?” he asked. “It happens enough that not dealing with it is wrong. So we’re not going to ignore it even if Ameren wants to. Our members, by the resounding rejection of the company’s unfair proposal (87.5 percent voted ‘NO’), made that clear. We simply won’t stand for it.”
To make that point, the union has filed a complaint with OSHA noting that “Security officers are urinating in plastic bottles and defecating in plastic bags (which are then) placed in the common trash bin and not disposed of properly (by Ameren).”
And to make sure Ameren is “legally” aware of the problem, attorney Greg Campbell of Hammond & Shinners has notified Ameren’s Senior Vice President Fadi Diya that this toilet issue is in violation of OSHA regulations that “require employers to make toilet facilities available so that employees can use them when they need to do so…(without) extended delays.”
(PART 4 – Reactions of women who have to endure the consequences of Ameren’s putrid potty and pregnancy policies)