Rod Workman is a veteran corrections officer in Illinois with 24 years of experience under his belt. He also served as a reservist in the Illinois National Guard, was deployed four times abroad in service of his country and served stateside due to the pandemic.
Despite his military service, Rod was retaliated against by his union, AFSCME Local 817 of Council 31. Before one of his deployments, he tried to apply for a soon-to-be vacant position, as the current employee was retiring. Rod notified his union chief (a former reservist himself), and his employer’s human resources department of his intent to apply for the position.
“The union knew, HR knew, and the union chief knew about it,” Rod said. But the union told Rod that, while deployed, he would be considered a “non-entity” and would not be considered for the position even though he held seniority. Rod warned the union chief that if the union went forward with the promotion without him, he would file a federal USERRA complaint. The union chief told Rod that his opinion “doesn’t matter,” although reservists sat through USERRA briefings for every deployment and these briefings discouraged employment discrimination against veterans like Rod.
The Human Resources Department told Rod that he could not apply for the soon-to-be vacant position because the agency had not posted the position. However, the agency would wait for his return before posting the position. HR said that if the agency posted the position before Rod’s return, he would be notified through email.
Upon his return from deployment, however, Rod discovered that the agency filled the position without notifying him as promised. He tried to file a complaint through his union, but the union refused to help him. Instead, Rod filed a federal complaint on his own. “The union tried every union thing that they could to stifle my complaint,” Rod said.
In the end, Department of Justice took up his case and recommended that the agency award lost wages and benefits; there were no repercussions for AFSCME Local 817.
Since the incident, Rod transferred to a different facility, where he was able to advance in his career and his new colleagues treat him with respect. He left AFSCME Local 817 and did not join the union operating in his new workplace and has had no issues. He works with incarcerated prisoners working to “de-program and de-institutionalize” before their release, and most importantly, he does not have to worry about union interference any longer.