As an update to our story of two weeks ago about the battle between two union workers for the foreman’s job, the top union job at the Lewiston Water Department, there has been a flip flop.
Michael Townsend, 51, who was appointed to the position on May 29, chosen by the town board in a three to one vote over Daniel Zahno, 40, based on Townsend’s seniority, has been dis-appointed by town Supervisor Dennis Brochey and sent back to his old job at the Highway Department.
Brochey has appointed Zahno to the foreman’s position effective June 15.
Last month Townsend and Zahno were deemed by the town board to be equally qualified and since Townsend has more seniority (28 years) he was chosen over Zahno who has 16 years with the town.
Zahno, who is a union steward, filed a grievance with the union’s backing arguing that he had superior qualifications which trumps seniority, according to the collective bargaining agreement between the town and Teamster’s Local 264 Union.
Union President Brian C. Dickman, Secretary Treasurer Darrin C. Ziemba, and Business Agent Mark W. Boling supported Zahno arguing he is more qualified than Townsend based on the fact that Zahno had filled in at the foreman’s position when the previous foreman, Robert Nablo, was out on vacation or sick time.
According to Townsend no union representative met with or spoke to him prior to making the determination that he was less qualified than Zahno, something Townsend disputes.
Zahno apparently won the job – at least temporarily through the grievance procedure.
There is up to a three step process spelled out in the collective bargaining agreement between the town and the union.
1. The aggrieved party (in this case Zahno) submits the grievance in writing to the department head. Since there is currently no appointed department head, Brochey, as supervisor, is the administrative head of the department.
The department head shall give a written response approving the grievance of denying it.
2. If the grievance is not resolved at step #1, and the Union wishes to appeal the department head’s decision, it can submit the grievance to the Town Supervisor, which in this case, again, is Brochey.
3. If no agreement is reached at the second step the union has the right to submit the matter to arbitration.
What happened in this matter was that Brochey denied the grievance as the Department Head of the Water Dept. at step one, then approved the grievance as Town Supervisor at step two.
Brochey explained that he felt his authority as supervisor had more legal force than at the department head level.
The matter may not end here.
While the union argues that the supervisor has the unilateral right to resolve the grievance as he determines, the town board has consulted with town attorney Brain D. Seaman.
According to a source familiar with the matter, the board has been advised that they are undisputedly the employer and Brochey needs ratification of his decision to appoint Zahno by the majority of the town board.
This may wind up in court.