Federal workers who double as union shop stewards had a very, very interesting year in 1977. So did management types who handle labor-relations within the bureaucracy.
The labor people handled dealt with a variety of unusual work-related cases in addition to the regular grievances about discipline, work shifts, coffee breaks and other important, but routine, labor management actions.
Cases fielded by unions ranged from the problems of a man who came to work dressed in a skirt, to an attempt by the Tresury Department to discipline an employee for shooting coyotes from his government-owned helicopter.
Some of the odd-ball cases which Uncle Sam tangled with unions over during the 1977 year:
The incident of the G-man who decided to come to work dressed as a G-woman. Some coworkers protested that his switch was disruptive. Management asked him to keep his shirt (and tie) on. To make a long story short, the man finally won the rights to dress as he wishes because his change of attire is part of a medical-psychiatric program that may lead to a sex change operation.
A U.S. Customs Service pilot, flying patrol along the Mexican-U.S. border, spotted a coyote. He whipped out his gun and, while flying the helicopter, pinged away at the animal. (Whether he hit it or not isn't knwon). The worker was charged with improperly discharging his firearm. His union took up the case, arguing he was only following an old Texas "tradition" of helping local ranchers control the "varmit" population. After many hours of arbitration, the charges against the man were dropped on orders from Customs head-quarters in Washington.
Federal union officials at a California Army base asked for permission to use an abandoned building for union business. They got it.
After pumping several thousand dollars into redecorating the building the union decided to get some of its money back. It started sub-leasing space in the building to other union locals. The commanding officer told them to get out of the landlord business. The union appealed but, as of this moment, it is still losing the case although it retains the building for its own use.
In Detroit, an Internal Revenue Service worker had a flower pot on her desk. It contained a lovely plant, with a tag on it which said: "Oh What A Beautiful Day. Now Watch Some Bastard Louse It Up!"
A colleague objected, saying that such dirty language shouldn't be tolerated from a plant and that the sign could be offensive to some members of the public visiting the office. An open-minded arbitrator ruled that management couldn't have the sign taken down, since it would violate an agreement between the union and the IRS to negotiate working conditions.
A grievance which began shortly after the naton's July 4, 1976 bicentennial celebration. Downtown Washington was swamped with local people and visitors who came down to watch the fireworks display at the Monument.
A number of federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, closed buildings and parking lots on security grounds. (Although many top-federal officials and their friends were allowed to park and to watch the display from the comfort of their offices).
Some workers at DOT protested. The union took up the case of the closed parking jobs, arguing that employees were further inconvenienced because they couldn't get themselves, and their children, to the bathroom. The case kicked around for more than a year until administrative law judge Robert J. Feldman issued the final ruling. It said in part:
". . . Some employees may have been denied the dubious priviledge of parking their cars on a weekend in respondent's" (DOT's) garages, and their children may have been deprived of their inherent right to use the respondent's toilet facilities after prolonged abstinence due to watching the bicentennial celebration.
"More pragmatic than facitious is the assumption that formal remedial action is thought to be necessary to forestall the imminent threat of a similar tragic occurance during the tricentennial observances in the year 2076."
It was a very intersting year.