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Double-Duty: Working for Missourians Abroad and at Home

>>AMY SUSAN: Hi, I’m Amy Susan, Director of Communications for the Missouri Department of Labor on this week’s edition of labor talk, a podcast where experts discuss workplace issues that affect your life, I’m joined here with Jim Avery, he’s the chairman of the State board of Mediation, and we’re here to talk about what the state board of Mediation does and about his recent tour. So, welcome to the show Jim.

>>JIM AVERY: Thank you.

SUSAN: Can you tell us how long you’ve been here and what exactly your job entails?

>>AVERY: Yeah. I’ve been with the Missouri State Board of Mediation now for about 2 ½ years and my job, I’m the Chairman. I oversee activities that deal between labor unions and public entities.

>>SUSAN: Okay, now I understand that you’ve been working overseas as well as here in the official capacity, tell us about that experience.

>>AVERY: For the last year now I’ve been a member of the Missouri Natural Guard with the 203rd Engineer battalion and out of Joplin, Missouri. We’ve been stationed in Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan and we were assigned there to do rock clearance, which is to fide one side bombs and dispose of them.

>>SUSAN: What do you mean when you say dispose of them?

>>AVERY: Well, you know we blow them up before they blow us up. So hopefully we find the bombs before they find us.

>>SUSAN: Wow. So how did you fit that into your schedule when you were also working as a chairman for the State Board of Mediation?

>>AVERY: Right. Basically I just had to work a little bit longer. Sometimes we had phone calls that you know lasted 3 or 4 hours and you know I’d have to get up at 2 in the morning just because the time differences. We were 11 ½ hours different, so some you know I’d have to work my schedule or everybody would have to work their schedule so that we could meet at the same time on the phone. So just telecommuted basically.

>>SUSAN: So you heavily relied on technological advances?

>>AVERY: Yeah.

>>SUSAN: Okay. Did you have computers around everywhere or do you rely on your cell phone or what means did you use to communicate with our office while you were overseas?

>>AVERY: Yeah. We used a phone system and it’s a way that soldiers can call back home. Instead of calling back home I called back to the office. So it was just a satellite system through the military, but it’s just a on my end it looks like a regular phone, so it’s kind of like an internet phone, I guess.

>>SUSAN: Did your tour and your service give you any perspective when you returned back to the states?

>>AVERY: I have a huge responsibility as Chairman of the State Board of Mediation, but being an officer in the military, you have a different, but equally large responsibility. So it helps with the time management and just the different responsibilities that come along with both jobs. Actually I think my job as Chairman helps me as an officer in the military and my military position helps me as chairman also. You know one kind of helps the other, you know with different aspects.

>>SUSAN: And when did you leave for your tour and when did you return?

>>AVERY: I left in July of 2009 and I got back September 20th of 2010.

>>SUSAN: Welcome back.

>>AVERY: Yeah, it’s good to be back.

>>SUSAN: Tell us a little bit about what the State Board of Mediation does and how that impacts Missourians.

>>AVERY: State Board of Mediation deals with the election process of a labor union within a public entity. For example, if xyz fire department wants to become part of the union that whole process goes through our office. So from the petition filing all the way through to the election we do that whole process. And I actually go out and hold the elections myself. So we hear the petitions or we receive the petitions. Sometimes the two sides don’t agree. When they don’t agree, I try to get the two sides to agree. We have meetings on the phone or in person if needed and that’s where the mediation part comes in. We try to get them to come to an agreement and work together. If they can’t then the full board will meet and have a hearing to decide what the outcome is going to be and then we move forward. We’ll hold the election and that’s basically what we do.

>>SUSAN: Why do people utilize the State Board of Mediation? What are their goals?

>>AVERY: We provide a service for individuals in the State who are interested in either joining a union or actually removing the union from their workplace. So there’s also something called the decertification election. If there’s a labor union that’s not doing their job and they want to get rid of the labor union, we provide that service also. People that use the state board of mediation are looking for somebody that can help the process. So we don’t just hold the election for them. A lot of times what we need to do is we need to get the two sides together to agree so if you have group A the employer and group B the union they’re the people that want to join the union, a lot of times they don’t agree on just little things about the election. For instance, where do we want to have the election or what time do we want to have the election? You know, some people want it to be from 8-10 and some people want it to be from 8-11, believe it or not sometimes they just can’t come together, so I have to come step in and try to reason with both sides and get them to agree. Or they might not agree on a location. Hey we don’t like this location or we don’t like this location, so I try to help them think about what would be a neutral location that they can both agree to and basically when they would normally be at a standstill, we step in and get them to agree to move forward with the process to keep moving forward and if we can’t come to an agreement, then we can use the whole board to have a hearing and they would present their case, both sides would, and the board would make a ruling on that’s what we would do. So, when I go to an election I don’t care either way how the election goes. My job is just to go there and be the neutral party and conduct a fair and proper election.

>>SUSAN: Well, thanks Jim for joining our show. If you guys have any other questions or concerns, you can submit those by visiting labor.mo.gov, click on news and notices and then click on labor talk podcasts.