LaborNet - Internet Board
Global online communication since 1991 for a democratic, independent labor movement
Home | Current Blog | News Archive | Video | Resources | Back Links | About LaborNet

image image

AFSCME International Officers & An Open Letter To AFSCME Convention Delegates
Source Sue Smith
Date 08/01/31/15:47

Dear International Officer:

At the AFSCME International Convention this July in San Francisco,
elections of officers will take place. I would like to relate my
personal experiences with one of the people who currently holds office as
an International Vice President.

In October 1990, I started working at AFSCME Illinois Council 31. I
worked in the accounting office. During my tenure, Henry Bayer became the
Executive Director. I was very impressed with the way Henry handled
finances. His expenses reports were submitted timely and every expense
was documented. He was not one of the pushy employees that turned his
reports in today and expected a check tomorrow nor was he one of the
lackadaisical employees that would turn six months worth of expenses in at
once.

Henry did not exhibit any "greedy" tendencies. His salary as Executive
Director was at or below the salaries of other Executive Directors. I
remember one instance, when he requested only a 3% raise knowing that
everyone else in the Council received at least 4%.

However, one area crucial to Union beliefs involves the treatment of
employees. Please review the employee turnover rate since Henry has been
Executive Director. Contact current and former employees and hear their
take on Henry.

Here's the story I will tell you:

AFSCME had a self-insured health care plan. Instead of an employer paying
huge monthly premiums for coverage, the employer takes more of a chance
but can save quite a bit of money. We paid small monthly premiums to a
3rd party administrator, for claims processing and re-insurance. When an
employee, or dependent, had a claim, the administrator applied the
discounts and paid the claim with company money. Each Monday, the claims
that were processed in the prior week were sent to our office where my
boss reviewed each claim and then the administrator released the checks on
Wednesday. There were two caps in place to limit the company potential
for high costs. Reinsurance would step in and play claims after either:
(1) an individual claimant surpassed a specified dollar amount, or (2)
the group claims exceeded a predetermined amount, in a calendar year.
Some of the factors used to determine these cap amounts were past claims
and future potential claims.

In 1998, I suffered a brain aneurysm. I had the aneurysm clipped, the
blood in my head began to flow properly and I made a full recovery, better
than ever, I was back at work in 3 weeks. I of course had many tests, CT
scans, etc done. One test result I never saw or heard about showed a
tumor at the base of my skull.

Five years later, I was having some problems and another CT scan showed
the tumor. This brain surgery was not the piece of cake the first one
was. I had quite a bit of swelling in the brain and the Dr couldn't
remove the entire tumor. I went back to work after a little over 11 weeks
but was still recovering. My boss called me into his office the morning I
returned to work and asked quite a few questions about my health. I was
completely honest and explained everything the best I could. The Dr was
not able to remove the entire tumor, I would need CT scans every six
months, the Dr. left a two-inch section of bone out of my head, and most
importantly, the tumor was benign.

Eleven days later, my boss' secretary asked me to attend a meeting at 9:00
a.m. When I went into the meeting, my boss said he wasn't yet ready, he
would meet with me later. I went back to my office and received a phone
call from the bank representative we had worked with for years. The bank
president had received a call the preceding Friday from my boss, he asked
that the bank representative be removed from any further contact with our
company "solely" because she and I were friends. The representative asked
me what was going on. My boss' secretary slipped me a note that the boss
would meet with me now. When I entered the office and sat down, the
secretary said, "Is now when I shut the door?" I quickly became
terrified. At this point, I still didn't know what was going on. (No
one told me what the meeting was about.) I said "no" I didn't want the
door shut. I went back to my office and tried calling the Henry Bayer. I
finally talked with him and he refused to let me leave the door open, take
in a witness or even a tape recorder. He did however tell me the meeting
wasn't disciplinary, but did not tell me what the meeting was about. Two
years later, my attorney received notes that detailed conversations the
prior weekend between my boss and Henry Bayer that discussed terminating
me.

My gut instinct told me not to go into a closed-door meeting without
protection and I wasn't going to disregard it. When I refused to allow
the door to be shut, I was terminated. I was given 5 minutes to leave the
building. To show you how tense the situation quickly became, my boss
called the people at the front and back doors and told them I was not to
be allowed back into the building. He had a locksmith come within an hour
and change all of the locks. I didn't yet drive since the surgery and had
to wait on the sidewalk on that 100 plus, August day for my mom to pick
me up.

I filed charges with the IL Dept of Human Rights and the EEOC. After a
year, I found out that AFSCME had never responded to the charges. A
meeting was held at the IDHR with my former boss where the case
administrator asked many questions. By this time, I had made a full
recovery, was able to see and walk correctly and even drive. At the end
of the meeting, the case administrator told me that since I had made a
total recovery, the IDHR could not help me but he felt I was wrongly
terminated and should continue my claim with the EEOC.

In the meantime, I had received a phone call from another former employee
who claimed she too, was fired by my boss, after she suffered a stroke.
My boss told her he was doing her a favor because he felt stress from the
job contributed to her stroke. I also received a "shocks" report from
9/23/03 that was prepared by the claims administrator listing 5
claimants. I was listed as the 2nd highest individual. The report said
I was diagnosed with the tumor 5 years ago and listed my ‘prognosis' as
Terminated 8/26/03. Another item I received was from a former claims
administrator who discussed how my boss showed unusual interest in high
claims.

The EEOC investigated and told me that I could sue in court. I couldn't
afford an attorney so I filed pro se. Briefs were filed back and forth.
Then, the judge's office contacted an attorney and asked him to represent
me on a contingency basis. He spent large sums of his own money, took
depositions and received reams of paper. I remember at one of the
depositions, he took me in the other room and incredulously stated "they
fired you because they were afraid you were going to cost them too much!"
It was what I had been claiming all along. He was the one that got copies
of the bizarre notes my boss had written in the week before he fired me,
the week before the closed-door incident, where my boss wrote he wanted to
terminate me and had discussed it with Henry.

The first court said they disregarded the statement from the employee who
claimed she was fired after suffering a stroke because it wasn't
notarized, the statement from the claims administrator was disregarded
because he wasn't an expert, and the short time span of eleven days from
when I returned to work and was subsequently fired didn't prove a casual
link because then every case with a short time span would be suspect.
The appellate court said they didn't need to rule on the lower court
decision because Henry Bayer stated under oath that he made the decision
to terminate me and therefore anything my boss did was "irrelevant". I
received the following in an email from my attorney afterwards:

"I hope you know how disappointing your case has been to me. In
practicing employment law I am used to cases not always going the way I
hope they would. It is a difficult area of the law. Nonetheless, I have
always felt as though the Courts have carefully considered my claims. In
your case it just seems like the Court simply ignored the evidence we were
presenting. This is very difficult for me to accept."

Please note:
Henry had discussed terminating me the weekend prior to the meeting he
told me wasn't disciplinary. Reports written about the meeting state the
meeting was to discuss "problems" at work.
Henry denied any type of protection at the meeting (leave the door open,
bring in a witness, bring in a tape recorder).
Henry never asked why I was afraid to have the door closed.
I emailed Henry after I was fired and asked why the bank representative
was taken off the accounts and he replied it was a matter between the
Council and the bank. He did not want to discuss it. Under deposition,
when my boss was asked why the bank representative was taken off the
account, he said I had made a transfer wrong and when another employee
tried to correct it, the representative would not speak with her about it.
It would be easy to check and see that I did not make a wrong transfer.

I have kept all of the reports and papers. I can show that the supposed
work problems cited were fictitious. I have nothing to hide, nor anything
to gain by circulating these documents. I only hope to keep another
worker from suffering what I went through.

Please help circulate this letter to all delegates. A Union leader
should follow Union beliefs, don't settle for less.

Sue Smith
#8 Toler Bend Box 106
Franklin, IL 62638
217 370-6652
rickandsue@dishmail.net

[View the list]