For immediate release: January 16, 2013
Contact: Jeff Mazur, (573) 635-9145
AFSCME members at St. James Vets reinstated by Administrative Hearing Commission after finding of anti-union bias in their dismissals
Rulings cite discriminatory enforcement of Missouri Veterans Commission policies against union members
JEFFERSON CITY – Three state worker union leaders have been ordered reinstated to their jobs at the Missouri Veterans Home in St. James in a ruling by the Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) that cites anti-union bias on the part of management as a reason for their dismissals.
“Three women who have committed their careers to the care of our veteran heroes, including one with almost 30 years’ experience, will finally get to go back to work because of this ruling,” said Jeff Mazur, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 72. “While it took more than two years, these state workers have finally received a small measure of the justice they’ve been so long denied.”
Missouri Veterans Commission employees Threasa Bach, Bobby Petty and Velinda Wofford were ordered reinstated in separate rulings issued by Administrative Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Dandamudi in December 2012. Bach and Petty, who are nursing assistants, and Wofford, a custodial worker, had been terminated from their jobs by St. James Veterans Home administrator Patricia Faenger in September and October of 2010 for alleged failures to appear for work and make the facility aware of their absences. All three employees were union officers of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2093 at the time of their dismissal.
The AHC relied heavily upon findings of anti-union bias on the part of the management of the St. James Veterans Home as a basis for the decisions.
“The AHC’s ruling sends a strong message that the firing of employees for simply exercising their rights under the Missouri Constitution will not be tolerated,” said Mazur. “The findings of anti-union bias at the St. James home should cause the Veterans Commission to take a hard look at how that facility is managed and make whatever changes are necessary to ensure no further violations of employee rights.”
Dandamudi’s ruling in both Bach’s and Wofford’s cases cited the inconsistent application of the facility’s “no-call, no-show” policy, the manner in which it was “discriminatorily enforced” and “the facility’s anti-union bias” as the underlying reasons for their terminations. In the ruling in Petty’s case, Dandamudi wrote that “Petty provided extensive facts as to why her dismissal was based on the facility’s anti-union bias and not for the good of the service.”
The evidence presented in the cases, all three of which were heard together, painted a picture of a workplace in which union members and leaders were subjected to substantially greater scrutiny and discipline than non-members.
The ruling found that the facility administrator advised managers to supervise union officers more closely than other employees. It also concluded that managers provided rationales discouraging membership in new employee orientations. Further, it found that while employees were permitted to wear shirts emblazoned with the logo of other voluntary organizations, they were explicitly prohibited from wearing shirts featuring a union name or logo.
While these cases were pending before the AHC, the St. James administrator responsible for the dismissals, Ms. Faenger, was elevated to a position within the Veterans Commission’s central office. She currently serves as the Deputy Director for the Homes Program, which oversees all seven of the state’s veterans’ homes.
Though none have returned to work as yet, AFSCME Council 72 expects that the Missouri Veterans Commission will put Bach, Petty and Wofford back on their previous work schedules as quickly as practical.
Copies of the rulings in Bach v. Faenger (No. 10-1932 PER), Wofford v. Faenger (No. 10-2059 PER) and Petty v. Faenger (No. 10-2058 PER) are available upon request.