Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Another perspective on Jason Glassey

Somewhere or another I bragged about presenting multiple sides of a story. Well, here's another perspective on the Jason Glassey story that I previously blogged about - only this time, Jason Glassey was the victim of an evil agency that ignored due process.

Glassey was fired because of incident in which he fired paintballs from a play gun at a van which had hogged the left lane and drove slowly blocking Glassey in. As vehicles on the right pulled ahead of the slouch Glassey finally got alongside the van. He wound down his window, grabbed a paintball gun and fired four balls marking the windshield and passenger side window of the van.

The van driver managed to contact state police who pulled Glassey over as he exited the Parkway. There he admitted what he had done and told the cop: "It was stupid. The guy pissed me off because because he wouldn't move (to the right)... I feel so stupid and sorry for what I did and promise never to do anything like this again."

Then came the really big stupidity - from officialdom - a brainless, humorless, absurd over-reaction....

Glassey was charged with "possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose."

Paintballs are a toy, not a weapon. They cannot injure. And Glassey had the paintball gun for shootout games with a bunch of friends, which is a perfectly lawful purpose.

Uh, shooting at a vehicle is not a lawful purpose, though. But let's continue.

And in a disciplinary hearing his boss, the director of toll operations at the Turnpike solemnly declaimed: "By your act of aggression, you have demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the personal property and safety of Garden State Parkway customers."

Again, the writer is maintaining that paintballs are just silly toys, and that drivers should just lighten up. Sorry, but hazards are hazards.

Now let's get into the meat of the issue, and what is in my view the stronger argument.

Under their labor agreement with the toll collectors union the Turnpike Authority have, in any case, ceded their power to unilaterally terminate an employee. A firing is subject to appeal and the decision of a mutually agreed arbitrator.

The arbitrator ruled against the Turnpike too, saying Glassey should be reinstated conditional on being cleared by a doctor as physically and psychologically fit.

The Turnpike refused to accept the binding arbitration.

They appealed the arbitrator's ruling in court and this time, first up, they won in an odd case without any published reasoning.

Then the toll collector, supported by his union, Local 196 IFPTE, went to the state supreme court against the NJ Turnpike and the lower court ruling....

In their 31 page ruling this week the supreme court justices five to zero sustain the arbitrator's reinstatement order and castigate the Authority for its refusal to abide by arbitration. Arbritration is meant to determine disputes and not be a "springboard" for litigation, they say.

"A court may not substitute its judgment for that of a labor arbitrator and must uphold an arbitral decision so long as the award is 'reasonably debatable.' The award reinstating Glassey without backpay entitlement imposed an eleven month unpaid suspension and return to work conditions. This award was not the proverbial slap on the wrist. It was a considerable penalty that recognized economic realities and social norms..."

As was noted elsewhere, the New Jersey State Supreme Court decided the case on this narrow issue.

And now Local 196 of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers can brag about their model union member, "Quick Draw" McGlassey (who can draw with the paintball gun, and can draw glasses and mustaches with the pen).


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