IBEW 1245 has over 8,000 grievance-related documents on permanent file, and generates hundreds more each year.
If you wonder how the union keeps everything straight and error-free, look no farther than Lita Clark.
For the past 20 years she has tracked every PG&E grievance from the time it is filed by a business rep to its final resolution. If you’re a steward who has ever searched for a precedent for your grievance, you are walking down a trail that has been carefully maintained by Lita, who plans to retire in February.
“She organized everything, keeps everything straight,” said Assistant Business Manager Ken Ball, who has relied on her organizational skills for years. “If the company doesn’t write something on time or get something to us on time, she’s on their ass.”
If the company happens to make a mistake on a grievance number, the union has been able to rely on Lita to catch it.
“She’s so efficient about that the whole company’s afraid of her,” joked Ball. “I sometimes tell the company I’m going to sic Lita on them.”
Ball’s attack dog imagery is hard to square with the genial, soft-spoken woman who says her philosophy is to “look on the bright side.”
Having an interesting job helps. That job includes updating the union’s voluminous Contract Section Index every month, and shepherding new contracts through the International union’s approval process. When a new business rep comes onto the staff, Lita puts together a folder documenting all the open grievances in their assignment area. When they phone in a request, she makes it her mission to assist.
But a little bit of the attack dog can be glimpsed if you happen to be a rep who fails to get documents to her in a timely manner. Put your ear to her door and you might just hear her scolding a rep for tardiness: “Don’t give me those excuses!”
Dealing with so many grievance cases hasn’t hardened her heart to those who run afoul of company rules. She’s simply perplexed that employees would put their job in jeopardy by watching pornography on a company computer or borrowing money from petty cash.
“It kills me they’d waste all their years of service like that,” she said.
But the grievance procedure was created, in part, to ensure that all members get equitable treatment and a chance to survive their mistakes. Lita has been an integral part of that process. She’s also helped that process keep up with technological developments.
“She has organized all the Fact Finding, Review Committee, PreReview Committee and Arbitration cases into searchable documents” that can be accessed on the union’s website, said Assistant Business Manager Ed Dwyer. “And she’s kept Kenny and me in check. When we make a mistake on a document she brings it right back. She’s the reason we don’t make mistakes.”
Lita began her career at IBEW 1245 in 1988, just four years after arriving here from the Philippines. She became librarian in 1993 and it’s hard to imagine the library without her. But at the end of February she plans to shelve her last folder and retire to her home in Vallejo with her husband Lee, whom she married in 2006. Later in the spring she plans to visit her son and three grandchildren in the Philippines.
“Lita has given this union many years of conscientious service,” said Business Manager Tom Dalzell. “Years from now our members will still be benefitting from the order that she maintained in our library. We wish her the best.”