Members’ Rights

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

A union member is asked to report to the boss’s office. The boss fires off a question. The union member asks: “Could this meeting lead to discipline?” The boss says, “Maybe.” The member responds, “I want to see my steward before I answer!”

Legal? Yes! All union members can — and should — make this request if they’re being questioned by management about anything that could lead to disciplinary action. Bosses have no right to refuse.

THE WEINGARTEN CASE

Why? Because of a 1975 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all workers have the right to union representation when a supervisor or boss asks for information that could be used as the basis for discipline. This decision gave workers and unions specific rights called Weingarten Rights (from the name of the case). All union members in your workplace should know about them.

Why? Because of a 1975 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all workers have the right to union representation when a supervisor or boss asks for information that could be used as the basis for discipline. This decision gave workers and unions specific rights called Weingarten Rights (from the name of the case). All union members in your workplace should know about them.

Why? Because of a 1975 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all workers have the right to union representation when a supervisor or boss asks for information that could be used as the basis for discipline. This decision gave workers and unions specific rights called Weingarten Rights (from the name of the case). All union members in your workplace should know about them.

DON’T WAIT TO ACT!

You can take your own action if you see a worker is in a meeting or conversation with management where they are in danger of being disciplined. You don’t have to wait for the worker to ask — you should make sure you’re part of that meeting yourself. When you arrive, check to see what the issue is about. Then meet privately with the member for a couple of minutes. Talk with them about questions that may be asked. Advise them to be careful — that anything they say could be used against them. Warn them not to volunteer any extra information, to keep answers short, and to stay calm. Remind them they’re not alone: the union is there to support them!

WHAT STEWARDS CAN DO

During the meeting, you should take notes on what was said and who said it. Not only will this help you keep your facts straight, but it could make the boss nervous if he or she doesn’t have much of a case.

As a steward, your power includes:

  • Stopping the boss from harassing or abusing the worker;
  • Asking the supervisor to clarify any questions the member may not understand;
  • Advising the worker how to answer questions;
  • Providing the boss with additional information when the questions have ended.
  • Requesting a recess during the meeting if you need more time to talk privately with the member.
  • Requesting that the meeting continue another time if information is presented that requires additional investigation or preparation.

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

You cannot negotiate over the subject of the meeting. And you do not have the right to tell workers not to answer a question or to give untrue answers. Refusal to answer questions can be a reason for discipline.

If a worker’s steward is not available, another steward or union officer can be asked to attend. Workers also have the right to ask for a particular union representative, if both are equally available.

Here are a couple of final points to keep in mind:

If a worker is asked to provide information about another employee, he or she also has the right to ask for a steward. Why? Because failing to answer could lead to disciplinary action — and, therefore, the right to representation.

Management can have private conversations with workers that will not lead to discipline — issuing a warning or other disciplinary action, for example. On the other hand, workers should know that a casual conversation with a supervisor that starts harmlessly (over work, for example), but begins to lead to the possibility of trouble, can be stopped until a steward can be asked to be present.

EVERYONE IS REPRESENTED

Local officers and stewards also have a right to be represented—don’t fall for a common company line that stewards and officers ‘don’t need further representation.’ All union members have this right.

Weingarten Rights can be powerful tool in doing our job of defending union member’s rights. But, remember these rights are worthless if you don’t enforce them on the job!

Courtesy of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)  http://www.ranknfile-ue.org

RIGHTS: THEIRS & OURS

How many times has this happened: a problem arises at the workplace and the contract is “silent” on the issue at hand. Management claims that since the contract doesn’t cover the issue, the union has no basis for a grievance; that “management rights” allows them to do most anything they want. Often times we are faced with a grievance and have trouble finding a specific remedy in the contract. This is where the recognition clause comes in.

Most often the recognition clause is at the beginning of the contract and reads something like this: The employer recognizes the Union as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent, for the purpose of establishing wages, hours and conditions of employment.

WHERE DO UNION RIGHTS COME FROM?

The reason this kind of language is so common is that the recognition clause is just repeating what the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) says in Section 8(d) [most state labor laws dealing with public sector employees also have similar language]: For the purposes of the Act, to bargain collectively is the performance of the mutual obligation of the employer and the representative of the employees to meet at reasonable times and confer in good faith with respect to wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.

PROCESSING GRIEVANCES IS A FORM OF BARGAINING!

So under most of our contracts and under the law, the employer must bargain with the union — and processing grievances is a form of bargaining — when unresolved issues regarding wages, hours and conditions of employment arise.

Here’s an example: Employees have always been allowed to have radios in their work area. A new foreman orders all radios taken out of the work area. He claims they distract employees from doing more work. He also claims that under the management rights clause he has the right manage the work place, and this gives him the right to make changes.

MANAGEMENT RIGHTS

This is a perfect example. The right to listen to radios isn’t in the contract, but the steward files a grievance under the recognition clause and says that the foreman also violated section 8(d) of the NLRA [or appropriate state law]. Removing radios would be changing employees’ conditions of employment and therefore the foreman must bargain with the union before making any change.

Although the management rights clause says the employer has the right to run the work place, this is a general right and does not mean they can change any working conditions any time they want to. Management rights clauses that list specific items like, “management has the right to set starting times” means the union can’t complain about management setting starting times, unless some other part of the contract addresses the same issue.

 

Courtesy of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)

For more information visit the UE web site at  http://www.ranknfile-ue.org/stwd_idx.html#Grievance%20Handling  © 2002 UE

 

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