WCCUSD Teamster wins backpay in grievance settlement

Magdalena Perez is a custodian at the WCCUSD Nutrition Center

Magdalena Perez is one of the lucky ones — she wakes up every morning excited to get to work.

“I come in feeling so energetic,” said Magdalena. “I like the commotion and the energy, and I take a lot of pride in making sure the building is clean.”

Magdalena began as a lunch worker at the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Nutrition Center then transitioned to her custodian job about five years ago.

Recently, with the help of her Teamsters 856 representative, Veronica Diaz, Magdalena won a grievance settlement including backpay for performing work not included in her job description.

Part of Magdalena’s everyday job includes lifting and transporting large containers. She sets up empty containers to be used and transports full containers outside. In order to successfully perform the work, Magdalena drives a forklift. However, use of a forklift is typically the job of an employee in the warehouse not one of the nutrition center’s custodians.

Although operating a forklift was not part of Magdalena’s job description, she was asked to use it daily and also regularly renewed her permit.

The Teamsters 856 contract with WCCUSD requires the School District to pay a five percent differential to all employees who are required to have a special certification on top of what’s in their job description.

“Someone saw me driving the forklift and made me aware that it was not part of my job description,” said Magdalena. “That’s when I learned about the five percent.”

Veronica, one of the Local 856 representatives for WCCUSD Teamsters, stepped in to advocate for Magdalena.

“We filed a grievance and at step three the District proposed a remedy to pay Magdalena only on the days she works the forklift,” explained Veronica. “But that day her supervisor told her she wouldn’t be using the machine anymore. So, we rejected the settlement because not only is use of the forklift an absolute operational necessity, but Magdalena deserved to be compensated fairly for her work.”

At step five of the grievance process, while Veronica and Magdalena were preparing to take the issue to the WCCUSD Board, human resources proposed a fair settlement. Magdalena will receive the five percent wage differential going forward, as well as retroactive pay back to April.

For Magdalena, a person who loves what she does, the win was a great addition to her work satisfaction.

“I’m happy because this is something I deserve and it felt good to have help getting it,” explained an emotional Magdalena. “Before this, I didn’t know much about the union. But my gosh, I can’t describe it — it feels like somebody cares about our lives. We feel safe.”