Not all victories happen quickly or seamlessly. Many require persistence and Teamsters who are willing to stay the course and fight back. Nishtha Wright, a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) for Contra Costa County learned this lesson firsthand last year.
As an LVN, Nishtha is required to renew her license every two years. For years, she would travel to the Board of Vocational Nursing & Psychiatric Technicians in Sacramento with proof of her continuing education credits and the required fee, and renew her license in person.
Last year, on the day before her license was set to expire, Nishtha asked her son to go to Sacramento and handle the renewal process for her.
“A woman told him he could pay the fee at a kiosk in the lobby and the system would be updated instantaneously,” said Nishtha. “But I advised him to renew with a live person and get a receipt, as I’ve always done.”
When Nishtha received the receipt, she text messaged a photo of it to her supervisor.
“The next day, she called and told me I could not work because the website said my license renewal was overdue,” she said. “Then she told me my receipt was no longer good enough proof even though it had the state seal, my renewed expiration date, license number, and it had always served as proof in the past.”
Nishtha was not allowed to work for four days until the Board’s website reflected her new expiration date. The loss of pay impacted her tremendously.
“I’d just moved into a new apartment and had to put down a lot of money to do so,” explained Nishtha. “I planned to take half of that check and the next to pay my rent. I wasn’t able to afford it and started off behind. It took a while for me to get back on track.”
A few weeks after the unpaid leave, Nishtha contacted her Teamsters 856 representative, Richie Andazola. They filed a grievance, and at step 3, argued the case before Labor Relations. “We said the employer had no cause to withhold Nishtha’s salary for four days and that she was denied her Skelly right to respond to the discipline,” explained Richie.
Labor relations rejected the grievance, saying it was invalid because there was no specific contract violation.
Local 856 was not deterred. “We appealed the grievance to arbitration and initiated the Arbitrator selection process,” said Richie. “But the County agreed to settle the grievance prior to the arbitration step.”
Persistence paid off, and Nishtha was paid for her lost time.
Nishtha says that without Local 856 willing to go to bat with her, she wouldn’t have fought back. “I’m a fighter and I like to stand up for the underdog, but I couldn’t do it on my own,” she said. “Being a Teamster empowers me, and I definitely feel like someone is in my corner.”