West Frankfort settles union grievances


City officials have announced that four grievances filed by Laborers Local 773, which represents West Frankfort’s Street Department workers, have been settled.

Street Commissioner Tara Fasol-Chambers detailed the settlements at the conclusion of this week’s West Frankfort City Council meeting.

In the first grievance, union workers said they were required to use their personal cell phones for work purposes, and requested $40 per month reimbursement from the city for the use of their phones. The union also requested 16 months of back pay for the phone use. In the settlement, the city will pay for eight months in arrears – $320 each for four street department employees. The city has purchased prepaid phones for the workers to be used for work purposes going forward. In addition, street department employees have been instructed to limit personal cell phone use to emergencies only while on the clock. The city was already paying for cell phones for the Street Department superintendent and foreman.

The second grievance related to a change in the time the lunch hour is given. Fasol-Chambers said employees had typically taken lunch at 9 a.m. The workers’ shift starts at 7 a.m., and by the time equipment is started and moved to a particular work site, it is often 7:30 or 7: 45, which does not allow much time for morning work projects before lunch, so the lunch hour had been moved to 11 a.m. The union dropped the grievance, and employees will take lunch at 11 a.m.

The third and fourth grievances were related to disciplinary actions taken with a particular street department employee. The city has agreed that a written record of verbal warnings regarding threatening language used and tardiness would be removed from the employee’s file. The city will issue a memo to all city employees reminding them that they are required to arrive prior to their scheduled start time and call in to their supervisor if an emergency warrants a late arrival.

Fasol-Chambers said that the city had also agreed with the union on a more open policy of communication.

“Everyone trying to work better together in the future might resolve some of these issues before they get to the grievance stage,” she said.


West Frankfort crews hang holiday decorations

Roger Stanley supervises as Jimmy Edwards and Jeff Woolard hang decorations with the help of Kent Earnheart and Foreman Larry Presley operating the backhoe.

On Tuesday, West Frankfort Street Department crews began the task of hanging Holiday decorations throughout the downtown area. The city took over the decoration duties from the Chamber of Commerce earlier this year.

Volunteers had traditionally put up the decorations early on a Saturday morning. Workers are expected to meet this Saturday as well – if needed.

“The Street Department is trying to help volunteer efforts by getting an early start, this year,” said Street Dept. Commissioner Tara Chambers. “Our city has owed such debt to those who turn out on a traditionally cold morning to work hard so that others may experience the lighted scene down Main Street.”

— Bruce A. Fasol

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