Published: May 26, 2021

Our union is a powerful association of workers fighting to protect each other from bad working conditions and to ensure that our careers stay intact. We often use the power of our contract language to confront abuses from management, but sometimes those violations are so egregious that we must take on legal measures as part of contract enforcement.

That was the case with Valerie Hackett, a former employee of Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) who was wrongfully terminated from her position. A fundamental pillar of being in a Union is that employers have to demonstrate just cause when issuing discipline or when terminating employment. In this case, ODF did not follow the steps of progressive discipline before terminating Ms. Hackett. The agency failed to adhere to just cause and local management engaged in retaliatory behavior.

After fighting for nearly two years, Ms. Hackett has now won her case! She won a settlement of over $75,000, to cover her lost wages and benefits. She also filed a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), which determined that substantial evidence existed to support the claim of unlawful employment practices and discrimination.

Unjust cause and retaliatory behavior are workplace issues that our union fights hard to confront. We will not be silent when workers and stewards face unfair labor practices on the job, and we will bring together union members in an effort to fight on this issue as a group. This settlement sends a clear statement to ODF leadership that our Union is serious about supporting our members and stewards, and enforcing the contract. The agency must listen to frontline workers and investigate claims of discriminatory practices and retaliatory behavior by local management.