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LIUNA Local Spotlight: Public Service Employees LIUNA Local Union 572

Public employee unions have been recently met with more challenges in light of the Janus vs. AFSCME decision in June where the Supreme Court ruled that public employees no longer have to pay their fair share for union representation. Rather than let this decision weaken America’s labor movement, unions are fighting back stronger, and experiencing victories across the country, some of which are happening right here in the Mid-Atlantic region.

In August, Public Service Employees LIUNA Local Union 572 (Local 572) out of Camp Springs, Maryland received awards for its members in two arbitration hearings held in July. In an interview with Local 572 Business Manager, Larry Doggette, he discussed both cases, but ultimately attributed the Local’s wins to his dedicated members and his hard-working staff. Keep up the good work, Local 572!


                                                             Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center, Washington, DC

Q: Local 572 represents housekeeping employees at the medical center. How long has the union represented them?

A: The collective bargaining agreement dates back to October 27, 1998, so almost 20 years. Many of our members who work at the Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center are veterans themselves. This is not the first time we had to file a grievance with the medical center, but this is the first time we had to file for hazardous pay.

Q: Housekeeping is essential in a medical environment for necessary sterilization and cleanliness. What tasks fall under the employees’ job description?

A: They clean general hospital areas like hallways and waiting rooms, but what’s most concerning is when they have to dispose of trash and clean up after patients where blood, bodily fluids, or chemicals are involved. That was our reason for filing for hazardous pay.

Q: When did you know it was time to file a grievance?

A: Jake Rumph, a Local 572 steward, reached out to two Local 572 reps, Lorena Cruz and Sonia Lozano, about his concerns. In reporting their findings to me about when they went to the medical center to look into the grievance’s merit, we knew we had to file.

Q: In the arbitration hearing, the medical center representative did not counter any of the union claims, but instead said that the employees were provided adequate protection when around hazardous substances. How did you respond to that? 

A: It was disappointing to hear, especially after one of the housekeepers spoke about a time when she was stuck by a needle when she was cleaning up. That testimony along with other exhibits we showed at the hearing demonstrated a lack of protection.

Q: The Arbitrator ruled that because the employees either handle or are in close proximity to hazardous substances on a daily basis that they are deserving of hazardous pay. What does this mean for the workers?

A: All housekeepers at the medical center who handle hazardous substances will receive an hourly 8% increase. Housekeepers are the lowest paid workers at the medical center, so this increase will go a long way.

                                                                                   Johns Hopkins University

Q: Whether it’s one member or a group of members, our locals put in the same effort during the grievance process. In this case, Local 572 intervened when one member thought he was unjustly terminated from his job back in 2017?

A: Yes, he worked in the cage washing area where the university houses research animals. One day, one of the cage washing machines broke and other employees teased him over breaking it even though he had nothing to do with it. He started cursing out of frustration.

Q: One of the main reasons behind the grievance seems to be that Local 572 was kept out of discussions leading up to the employee’s termination. Is that correct?

A: We were there when he told management his side of the story. That was it. As his union representation, we have a right to know any information that has to do with the investigation in order to best represent him. University management did not inform Tiha Richardson, the Local 572 representative on this case, what they found as the investigation moved forward. When we asked for the information, they never gave it to us.

Q: Management at Johns Hopkins references written and verbal warnings as legitimate disciplinary actions to terminate your member. However, the Arbitrator found fault with the classification of your member’s disciplinary record. How do you explain that disconnect?

A: It confirmed university management didn’t have just cause to terminate the member. Most of the disciplinary actions management used to justify his termination were verbal with no documentation. Without documentation, those claims become invalid.

Q: The Arbitrator ruled that the Local 572 member would face a ten-day suspension for swearing at his coworkers and undergo 10 classes of anger management, but that he could return to work with back pay and benefits. Is there anything more you could have wanted for your member from this arbitration ruling?

A: No, Tiha and I think this is a fair ruling. I understand that the member’s actions are deserving of discipline, but not termination.