Vera Octavio, a Delaware toll worker represented by AFSCME Local 2362 (Council 81), could not figure out why she had received a larger-than-usual paycheck last November. She had not gotten a raise as far as she knew. Nor was she informed of any bonus.
It was no mistake, and she had her union to thank for the extra money in her paycheck – an example of why being a union member is about rights as much as it is about negotiating for better wages and benefits.
This good-news story began when Octavio returned from medical leave in 2009. Eventually, she realized that she was not being properly compensated by her employer for the hours she had worked.
She took it up with her supervisor, who explained that the Delaware Department of Transportation had failed to account for the extra pay she should’ve earned for working odd hours – a “shift differential” she should’ve received. Management had failed to account for that properly.
Refusing to settle for a portion of what she was owed, she sought help from her union, which filed a grievance with her management. That pressure led to her department agreeing to pay her retroactively to 2009. That’s why her latest paycheck was so much larger.
“All too often the ultra-right want to tell us that our unions are out of date and useless,” said Mike Begatto, Council 81 executive director. “What may seem to be a small victory for one person was a huge payout for Sister Octavio. It was her money, she worked for it, she fought for it and she won it. Without a union, she would not have had the recourse to fight to get it back.”