Stewards Seminar 2017

Welcome leaders! This page is dedicated to supplying you with as many tools as you may need.

Was that insubordination? 
Arbitrators usually look at insubordination as a serious offense and have established a principle of "obey now, grieve later".
In the course of representing members, stewards often must use forceful language. Judges have ruled that this is appropriate and cannot be used as insubordination against the steward.
Employers often view insubordination as one of the "capital" offenses - up there with fighting or stealing. And, as steward you should advise members that the general rule is to obey the order and grieve later. However there are some questions to consider if you find yourself building a case for a member who has been disciplined for an insubordination allegation.
1.    Was the employee given a direct order? Refusing suggestions, advice and the like may not be insubordination.
2.    Was the member aware that the supervisor was giving a direct order?
3.    Was the language clear? An order to stop smoking may mean in the current location or totally stop the behavior - it isn't clear.
4.    Was the order audible? Many workplaces are noisy.
5.    Was the member giving any warning about refusal? Sometimes Arbitrators want to know if the supervisor warned the person that the behavior was insubordinate.
6.    Was there an on-going personality problem between the member and the supervisor? Provocation does not void insubordination but it might mitigate the severity of the discipline.
7.    Did the member willfully disobey or disregard the order?
8.    Was the order reasonable?
9.    Did the member feel as though complying would endanger lives?
10. Was the member set-up?
11. Did the charge arise out of exercising rights under the collective bargaining agreement or law?

Weingarten Rights

The Supreme Court in the case of NLRB v. J. Weingarten Inc. held that an employee in a Union work place who is being questioned by management, and who has reasonable belief that he or she could be disciplined, has a right to Union representation prior to answering management's questions.

The member must make a request to have union representation before or during the interview. The Steward cannot request representation for the employee. Management cannot pressure an employee to drop a Weingarten request. The interview must be investigatory. How can you tell? It is usually not when an employee is called into the office to be given a discipline letter.

It may be investigatory if the boss asks questions that the employee thinks might result in discipline, if answered. A urine test may be investigatory, and management must allow employee to consult with union whether to take the test. The right only exists where a member "reasonably" thinks that discipline might result. Stewards have the right to be included in any interview that may result in an employee's discipline, unless the employee wants no representation.

A Steward has the right to know the reason and subject of the interview before it starts, and take the employee outside for a private conference. A Steward may also speak during the interview, request clarification from supervisor to ensure member understands the questions, advise the member how to answer questions, and provide additional information after the interview. You do not have the right to argue the case. This is not a grievance meeting.

If you or your members' Weingarten rights are not respected by management, then immediately tell your Business Agent.

Tips during investigatory interview

  • Take as much control as possible.
  • Indicate willingness to cooperate fully.
  • Caucus with employee as necessary.
  • Ask questions to assist employee to tell their story, mitigating circumstances, etc.
  • Closing statement to summarize favorable information.
  • Take good notes.

New Employees

Sign up new employees for union membership! Every employee in a union work place must pay dues, but is not required to be a member. When employees don't join the union, they have the option to pay lower dues, can cross the picket line, and can WEAKEN the strength of the union. These employees who are not members cannot attend union meetings, vote on the contract, run for union office, or vote for union officers or stewards.

Resources: Beeson, Tayer & Bodine