Justin Kmetz has worked as a transporter radiology technological assistant at St. Rose Hospital for 18 years. He’s also a dedicated Teamsters 856 shop steward. For Justin, the best part about his job is his co-workers. Read on to find out what inspired him to become a steward and why he’s proud to be a Teamster.
This interview has been edited and condensed
What’s your day-to-day job like?
One of the things I do is assist x-ray techs with their exams. I transport patients to and from their exams and pay close attention to detail regarding the patients I transport. Safety is important. We have to make sure we move patients the right way and that others are doing the same.
What do you love about the work you do?
One of the things I like about my job is the people I work with. I’ve developed a really close friendship with all of them. In my department, we’re not a large group, but we’ve gotten close, almost like family. Of course, there are times we don’t get along, but we always try to help each other make our job better. You spend so much time at work — it’s your second home — so it’s important to get along with the people you work with.
Why did you become a shop steward?
I felt like I had a lot of ideas about the job duties and our pay that I thought would be fairer. And then Mark Dierking, our steward at the time, said I should be at the bargaining table with them so I could be heard. So, when negotiations came around again, Matthew [Mullany] was our new BA [Business Agent or Local 856 representative] and Mark introduced me to get me into negotiations. From that moment on, I told Matt I was interested in becoming a shop steward and that was it.
Why do you believe being in a union with your co-workers is important?
It’s important to have a voice – to negotiate, bargain and argue on your behalf. If you have just one person speaking up and saying what’s wrong, they don’t hear you, but if you have stewards and members speaking up together you’re much stronger.
Recently, a manager asked one of our members to train another for 90 days and she was promised training pay. After about a month and a half, the manager said they couldn’t pay the member. The next pay period her check was less and there was a deduction. She asked the manager why and the manager said he had payroll deduct what was already paid.
When we called him on it, the manager’s solution was to pay her only for the minutes she trained the member instead of per hour – 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there — so only about $2 for the day.
I advocated for the member and told the manager he was being deceitful. In the end, we got the HR director to pay the member for all the time she worked.
Why are you proud to be a Teamster?
Because of the support we get from our BAs and other shop stewards. And above all, because of the name and reputation of the Teamsters. Our name says a lot.
“Mark Dierking was someone we all turned to when we had a problem or an issue and felt like something wasn’t right. He trained students and he trained me to be a shop steward.” -Justin Kmetz
Mark passed away this October. He was a strong Teamsters 856 shop steward who will be missed by us all. Our thoughts go out to his loved ones.