A number of years ago, back when I was a person who worked for a living, I had occasion to test a process. At the time, I didn't know that was what I was doing. It was only after the fact that I realized it.
It was in the early 80's and I was living and working in San Diego. Where I worked, an overtime list was maintained. Overtime was doled out in a fair manner by keeping track of the number of overtime hours each employee worked or was asked to work. Refusing overtime was calculated in because of fairness. Refusing an hour was the same as working an hour. In other words, it was all about the opportunity, not the actual overtime worked.
I usually refused overtime. I didn't need the extra money and, according to my analysis, I actually took home less per hour of overtime worked than I did per hour of regular time. After taxes, that is. There were plenty of others who would willingly take the extra time. I accepted only emergency requests or if everyone else refused to work it (extremely rare).
There was a protocol involved. The overtime list dictated who was to be asked and in what order. The worker with the least hours charged was asked first. A simple, but fair, system.
There came a time when I learned that I was skipped over on the overtime list. Nothing important, the work was not critical or an emergency situation. It was a 2 hour slot that needed to be filled. A two hour slot that happened to be the two hours before my shift (midnight to 8 AM) began.
I brought it to the attention of my supervisor who dismissed my concerns by pointing out how I usually refuse overtime.
So I filed a grievance through the union.
My union steward, John, worked very hard (he said) to win the grievance. That it was a cut and dried offense, clearly laid out in the contract, made me wonder just how hard that work was. I won, of course, and learned this when my supervisor, Elaine, called me over one morning to discuss what work I would do on this two hour overtime... The conversation went something like this:
Elaine: I would like you to perform these routines when you come in early tonight.
Me: Am I coming in early tonight?
Elaine: Yes, of course, you won the grievance.
Me: Let me understand this... you are asking me to work overtime this evening?
Elaine: Yes, I am asking you to work overtime.
Me: Ah, I see. Well, thank you but I would rather not work it.
This, of course, set off some minor fireworks. Elaine was puzzled and frustrated and could not understand why I was refusing the overtime when I had filed a grievance to (in her words) "get the overtime." I explained that the grievance was over being bypassed on the overtime list. This just increased her puzzlement.
John, on the other hand, threatened to never handle a grievance for me again. I told him to re-read the contract and try to understand that the grievance was over the lost opportunity, not over lost earnings.
I wonder, to this day, whether anyone understood.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago