PEQ feature: Union works for IT employee

Posted Aug. 21, 2018 by

This feature appeared in the Summer edition of the OCSEA magazine. Read the entire Public Employee Quarterly magazine here.

William Moses, a Software Development Specialist 3 in the Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services, says as an IT professional, he has every reason to support his union. “Some people think unions are just for low wage or blue collar workers. But I tell them having an organization that has your back transcends whatever classification you’re in,” he said.

More than 24 years ago, Moses came on board with ODJFS as a Systems Analyst and is now a Software Development Specialist 3. He’s also been active in his union and been a union steward for the last 13 years. OCSEA represents employees in a variety of classification, from IT professionals, to attorneys, to health care regulators, engineers and even scientists.

Moses’ personal story of joining the union is similar to many state employees. Early in his career, he was targeted and bullied by a group of employees and management, and nearly lost his job. But thanks to the union contract that had procedures and deadlines that were consistent, objective and evenly applied, Moses was able to keep his job.

Today, Moses is considered a stellar employee by his ODJFS coworkers and management alike, even becoming a union steward to help represent his fellow colleagues. “If I ever need a steward, I’m telling you, he’s my guy,” said Jim Benedict, a long-time union activist and leader who is also an IT professional.

Because of that early experience, Moses signed a union card and never looked back. “It made me even more pro-union because of that. It cemented why I was in a union,” he said. “What happened to me, can happen to anyone, no matter what classification you’re in,” he said.

Because union-negotiated processes, like the grievance procedure, have helped level the playing field for OCSEA members, things like unfair treatment, personal animus, bigotry and even bullying are lessened in a unionized workforce. The union contract helps to make sure that management follows processes like performance evaluations that are objective and consistent, not based on some whim or personal grudge.

“All you need to look at are organizations like the Screen Actors Guild or the National Football Players Association to see that even employees with a lot of power and money also are better off when they stick together,” said Moses. “If these employees can have a union, there must be a good reason for it,” he said. “Bottom line: we cannot compromise collective bargaining and all that entails, including healthcare, pay and benefits. We have to stick together,” he said.

Recently, members in ODJFS have approached him and Benedict about signing union cards and making sure they are members in good-standing. On the recent Janus Supreme Court decision, Moses believes OCSEA will be fine. “I saw this article about Janus vs. AFSCME. “We were so sad, but now we believe it won’t be as detrimental as we thought it was going to be…the fact that we have so few non-members. All they have to do is look at the contract. You really can’t beat it,” he said.

Not only has the union negotiated benefits like vacation and sick leave payouts and traditional health care plans that are rarely found in the private sector these days, IT employees have even more reason to stand strong with their union, says Jim Benedict.

Benedict is a member of an IT committee that meets regularly with management to monitor state IT activity. The Article 8.05 Committee was negotiated by the union so management would not be able to simply administer changes in a growing and changing IT field willy-nilly.

“The union has been at the table with management around ‘IT Optimization’ from the very start,” said Benedict about the process of restructuring and “optimizing” the state IT systems that has been ongoing for more than five years now. “We have worked very hard to keep people employed,” said Benedict.

The group not only meets with management, it’s negotiated agreements so people keep their jobs, monitored contracting out and made compelling arguments for keeping IT work state-operated. Recently the group negotiated a pilot project in the OCSEA contract that will allow management more flexibility in pay and hiring, in an effort to get more money in our members’ pockets, says Benedict.

“The union has been the one at the table showing management time and time again that it’s not cheaper to contract out these IT jobs,” Benedict said. “Although it is an ongoing battle, we are there, and we’re not going anywhere.”

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