Know Your Employer’s Rights?
“Why should we care about employers’ rights?” you say.
“Employers have an army of advisers and consultants who stand ready to attack at a moment’s notice.”
That may be true. But knowing your employer’s rights, or more specifically, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that you hold with the employer, will save you and your members a lot of grief.
For example, a member of your Local believes the employer has violated his rights.
You’re the business agent. You have a duty to represent your member.
Investigate the Allegation
Go back to the scene of the violation and interview the aggrieved member and all witnesses. Keep a log of your meetings with accurate notes throughout your investigation including list of attendees. Review and print copies of any e-mails, letters, texts, etc. and keep them in an individual file marked for this purpose.
Thoroughly review and understand the terms of the CBA you hold with the employer. You may discover that the alleged attack on member rights is not covered by the CBA. Or the CBA language upholds the employer’s actions.
Suddenly, you’re between a rock and a hard place.
You have an obligation to the member, which you’ve initially met by investigating the allegation. You also are accountable to the rest of your membership. You must consider whether the member’s cause is impractical or “unwinnable” under the CBA’s terms.
Union Business Agents Have Rights Too
If you determine this is the case, you have the right to dismiss your member’s claim.
Put the issue in your CBA “Negotiation” file for future bargaining. No contract is perfect or can account for every situation.
If the CBA does cover your member’s rights, your contract likely includes grievance, mediation and arbitration procedures. I’ll discuss those options in a future post.
Has this situation ever happened to you? What did you do?
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments. I want your feedback!