Saturday, April 18, 2015

Understanding Weingarten

In 1975 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that employees in unionized workplaces have the right to the presence of a union steward during any management questioning that the employee reasonably believes may result in discipline.
This all started in 1972 when Leura Collins was investigated by her employer, J. Weingarten, for possibly stealing from the lunch counter.  It was reported that Collins was seen taking a $2.98 item while only paying $1.00.  The investigator eventually cleared Collins when it was discovered that she was forced to use the larger box when the smaller boxes ran out.  The Local found out about the questioning and filed charges with the NLRB.
Here is an example of a Weingarten Card.

Your Right to Union Representation
“If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting.Without union representation, I choose not to answer questions.”
So what does all this mean in “plain” English?
Simple.  If your Boss, Supervisor or someone who represents the company with the authority to, starts asking you questions and you believe you could be punished because of the answers, you have the right to a union steward.
The key is your belief.  Since you are the only person who knows what the answer is your belief that you could get into trouble is all that is needed to justify your request.
So if you just got through backing into your bosses Mercedes in the company parking lot and your supervisor asks you if you know anything about it, you would be safe in asking for a steward.
So you have invoked your Weingarten Rights.  Now what?  The boss has some choices.  He can either:
1.   Find you a Steward or other Union Representative.
2.   End the interview all together, or
3.   Talk you into answering the questions without a steward.
What do you do if they ignore your request?
I recommend that you politely repeat your request until they get tired, get you a steward or let you go.
The moment the interview is over I highly recommend you write down everything that everyone said during that meeting and contact your Local Representative immediately.
What if I talk without a rep?  Unlike the Miranda warning we remember from all those TV crime dramas the Weingarten Rights will not protect you if you go ahead and talk.
So even though your employer has violated Federal law, they can still use what you say against you.
What if they ask me to write a statement?  Isn’t that sort of the same?
Yes it is.  If the employer is requesting information from you about anything that can affect your employment and you feel you may be punished, you can request a steward.
Now what can the steward do during this interview?  Can the steward do more than just be a witness?
Yes.  The steward has the right to:
1.   Be informed what the company is investigating.
2.   Have a private talk with the employee before questioning.
3.   Ask pertinent questions during the interview.
4.   Ask for clarification about questions.
5.   Give advice to the employee on how to answer a question
6.   Help by pointing out mitigating circumstances.
I usually tell an employee give the shortest answers possible.  Many times I have seen employees dig their own graves by saying far too much.
One such example was an employee who was accused of sleeping on the job.  He not only talked himself out of his job he provided a three page written statement explaining how it was impossible for him to be sleeping.
I had told him to simply answer “no, I was not sleeping” and leave it at that, but he wouldn’t listen.
Finally, don’t be fooling into talking when the boss tells you “don’t worry, you have nothing to worry about.  We just want to get to the bottom of this before everyone can go back to work”.

Yea.  Right.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

U.S. Census Bureau Security Officer killed in cowardly attack

SUITLAND, MD - A Security Officer working at the U.S. Census Bureau was fatally shot by accused kidnapper Ronald Anderson before firing on another person and leading police on a car chase before finally being gunned down by police.

It is reported that Anderson rammed the Census Bureau gate with his car and shot the Security Officer, Lawrence Buckner, at least once in the chest.

The Officer approached Anderson’s car after he observed the man arguing with someone, police said.
Bucker, a five year veteran at the Census Bureau and an employee of Masters Security, passed away from his wounds.

Masters was not available for comment.

The kidnapped woman, who was found safe, was later identified as Anderson’s wife.

Anderson is in police custody and is expected to survive to stand trial for his actions.  Anderson was free on bail at the time of the attack for drug possession and assault in another matter.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Getting nothing but complaints and no workable grievances?

This is a very common problem especially with young or inexperienced groups.  But don’t think it can’t happen do you because your group has been around a while.  It can.
Many times members will bend the Local’s ear with complaints about what the company is or isn’t doing and they will expect the Local to do something about it right then and there.  But when you asked them to sign a grievance or provide a statement they said “I don’t want to get involved” or “I’m afraid of retaliation”.
Sound familiar?  It did for me but for a different reason.  See I worked in “law enforcement” as a guard for many years prior to getting involved in the Union and this was a very common problem when officers would get called to respond and the citizen demanded that they do something about it right then and there.  They would also get a similar response when it came time to swear a complaint out.  “Oh, I don’t want to get involved” etc.  You get the picture.
James Arness
Marshal Dillon
So how to you get around this?  That is the $64,000 dollar question after all.
First and foremost you must work hard to communicate and explain to the Member what could, would or should happen.  Walk them through the steps should they decide to file a grievance and tell them what could happen as well as what should happen.  But don’t forget to tell them what won’t happen if no one steps up to do the right thing.
Think of a Local like a small town or village just starting out.  In the beginning everyone had to fend for themselves.  Those with power took advantage of those that did not until the people banded together and formed a governing body to watch over everyone.
This governing body had to write and pass the laws that were going to bind everyone and after that they had to set up a mechanism of enforcement and justice.
Don Knotts
Deputy Barney Fife
In the early days the village only had a sheriff with maybe a couple of deputies to help out part-time.  As time went by the village grew into a town and finally into a city with a government that grew to fill the city’s needs.
Local Unions are that government and the Stewards are the “Cops of the Shop” and just like the law in your town they also had to deal with reluctant citizens who would rather complain than act.  It’s your job to educate and encourage those citizens to do the right thing.
Albert Einstein once wrote that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  You need to tell the member to stop complaining and start filing grievances.