Stewards Seminar 2017
Welcome Leaders! This page is dedicated to supplying you with as many tools as you may need to be successful Stewards and strong educated representatives for the Union.
We need Your Leadership
Stewards bring strength and structure to Teamsters Local 315. Stewards have the vital role of bringing the workers’ voice to the labor movement. As a Steward, you hold many responsibilities, the main one being the team captain for rallying and supporting your coworkers.
How to Help the Unhappy Coworker
What Makes a Well-Crafted Grievance?
A Steward’s Roles & Responsibilities
- Educate your coworkers about the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), about the importance of making sure the CBA is followed and how to effectively challenge CBA violations.
- Organize coworkers to fully understand their protected rights and benefits under the the CBA and the Law, and how Local 315 fights for worker safety and protection in the workplace.
- Introduce yourself to new employees and introduce them to their CBA and Local 315. Protect the Union’s work by monitoring who is performing that work. Tell your Business Agent if you see non-members performing bargaining unit work.
- Report grievances and workplace disputes to your assigned Business Agent.
- Represent Members when the Boss wants to ask them questions that could lead to discipline (Weingarten Right).
- Post official flyers/information from Business Agent into Union Bulletin Board.
- Inform Members about current events, meetings, and activities within Local 315.
- Notify Members of their responsibilities within Local 315, including monthly dues, observance of authorized picket lines, and attending Union workplace meetings (i.e. contract proposal meetings).
- Resolve problems between Members and setting good examples, as a Leader does.
“Obey Now, Grieve Later” (What is Insubordination?)
Has your boss asked you or a coworker to do something that is not part of your job requirement? It happens. A lot. And what should you do? Obey now, grieve later. When you outright refuse a direction from your employer, that is insubordination. Employers will often treat insubordination like fighting or stealing. If you are building a case for a member to fight these allegations, in addition to the basic information of when, where, who, ask them to tell you exactly what was said, as if you had a tape recorder playing and ask these questions:
- Was this a direct order?
- Was the member aware this was a direct order?
- Was the language clear or can it have several interpretations?
- Did the member hear the order? Some workplaces are noisy.
- Was the member given a warning about the consequences of refusing – that discipline might result.
- Is there more to the issue, such as an ongoing problem between the member and supervisor? Issues of provocation don’t eliminate insubordination, but can weaken the allegation of insubordination.
- Did the member willfully disobey the order?
- Was the order reasonable?
- Did the member believe the task would harm themselves or someone else?
- Was the member set up?
- Was this order a result of exercising the CBA?
Weingarten Rights – Right Reserved to All Union Brothers and Sisters
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 an employee to consult with the union regarding whether to take the test. The right only exists where a member “reasonably” thinks that discipline might result. If requested, 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.
Plan how you want the meeting to go. Prepare strategies for yourself, and pick three main objectives in your case. What is my goal for this meeting? Who needs to know about this meeting? Who needs to attend this meeting? Who needs to be de-briefed after the meeting? Think about any areas of conflict in the case and develop strategies ahead to handle them.
Bring a notebook and pen. Take as many notes as you need to, and jot down any questions that may come up in your head during the meeting.
Outline the meeting and make an agenda of how you want to start the meeting, cover key points, and finalize the outcome before the meeting. Stick to your plan as best you can and do not get sidetracked.
Gather information from the meeting, and treat the meeting as a resource tool. Rather than giving out information, gather data. Ask questions, take notes, and repeat back their answers for clarification. Instead of reacting to confrontational responses, ask another question (i.e. “Why do you say that?”, “Can you give me a specific example?”)
Write and restate agreements once you accomplish your goals of the meeting.
How to Help the Unhappy Coworker
In larger workplaces, there’s likely a distant coworker who doesn’t like the union. They will often be vocally upset and angrily defy reason. There is a lot of fault aimed at the union, their leaders, and as always, dues.
The Unhappy Coworker can be a lot of work for the Steward. To help the Steward attend to this behavior, you need to understand as a Steward you take an honest look at every complaint that arises, regardless of the coworker. Conflicts may be stemming from a round-the-clock complainer, but if there is legitimacy and reasoning in their argument, see it through with them. Sometimes you find common ground with people you least expect to, and helping them with real issues will make you go far with handling related complaints and possibly the complainer, too!
But alas, if it is an unreasonable or unacceptable complaint, on behalf of your coworkers and your union, Stewards can develop strategies based off of scenarios mentioned below to approach these events.
Step in! Unhappy coworkers will often talk the ears off everyone around them except for Stewards, Business Agents, or any person who comfortably represents the union and knows how to appropriately respond. If you catch them in the middle of a rant, confront them head-on to set them straight.
Prepare responses to these anti-union attacks. Use the most complained-about topics and have some quick answers in your back-pocket ready to go. Having a good comeback will help resolve conflict, especially in front of others. It doesn’t make them like the union, but it makes them think twice before making issues out of irrational thinking.
Stand together! Get some of your union brothers and sisters to come together to agree to a common response to the complainer for support. (i.e. “You know, John/Jane, I’m tired of hearing your complaints about the union. I think the union does good for us. I don’t want to hear anymore, ok?”)
The best solution? Educate, Agitate, Organize! Turn the anti-union coworker’s views on its head. Ask them why they complain so much. Ask them lots of questions. Sometimes one sour experience with the union can define how a coworker perceives the entirety of the union. Do they understand how the union operates? Do you understand the benefits that were a direct result of the union’s presence? The best answer to an Unhappy Coworker is to educate them on the union, agitate those remaining unsettled arguments about the employer, and organize them to be actively involved!
Here’s a list of strategies to use when helping a member fix an issue in the workplace.
Listen- Carefully listen to your coworker. Ask open-ended questions and encourage them to talk freely. Consistently review facts with the member since during an investigation more facts will be more readily available further down the road.
Inform- Explain the steps that will be taken towards solving the problem. Establish whether the problem is grievable or not, and if it is, explain how a grievance works. Go over investigative steps, explain the time frame of the case and the flexibility needed for any delays. Be honest and never make promises.
Investigate- Who? What? When? Where? Why? Witnesses? Include any relevant and reliable witnesses. Ask questions and keep written records of everything.
Read the Contract- Review your CBA for any relevant provisions or language. If any language is vague, consult with your Business Agent. Also look at memorandum, letters of understanding, work rules, laws, past practices for possible violations, and any other documents that may help guide you.
Meeting- Before filing a grievance, meet with the immediate supervisor and try resolving it informally. Settling workplace disputes at the lowest step is preferred as a Steward. If an issue cannot be resolved at this initial step, file a grievance in writing.
Writing the Grievance- Before writing out a grievance, talk with your Business Agent. File it according to policy and Local 315’s instruction. Make sure to include all necessary information required on the form. Write in clear and concise phrases. Make copies of grievance.
___ Interview the grievant, witness(es), and management. Ask all parties questions including the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and Witnesses. Get a written signed and dated statement from witnesses.
___Keep written records of all interviews.
___Request copy of members’ related consultations if it is a disciplinary grievance.
___Request any other management records needed (i.e. personnel policies, payroll records seniority list, attendance records, etc.)
___ Does the problem affect others in the workplace?
___Is filing a grievance the best strategy for this circumstance?
___See previous grievance settlements for precedents, and learn the other Stewards’ experiences in similar investigations.
___ Seek advice regularly with your Business Agent.
___ Review the case with the grievant.
___Prepare for the manager’s arguments.
___Outline your presentation in writing.
___ Be aware of the time limits for filing a grievance and following the steps of the procedure!
Investigation Fact Sheet
Preparing for the Grievance
- Organize and prepare for the case. Have your facts in writing and understand your main points. Anticipate arguments.
- Avoid arguments amongst your team in front of managers. We are stronger when we fight together. Respect your union brothers and sisters.
- Stick to the main points, avoid going off topic. Insist on discussing the issue at hand.
- Understand the main points of the companies’ argument. Narrow the differences and look at solutions for both the union and the company.
- You may disagree with management, but disagree respectfully.
- Avoid unnecessary delays. A grievance is always time sensitive.
- Settle a grievance at the earliest stage of the procedure.
- In discipline, the burden of proof is on management. Insist on evidence.
- Avoid bluffing. Develop a reputation for honesty.
- Be prompt and follow through when working on a grievance.
- Maintain your position until proven wrong. Avoid hurried conclusions.
- Enforce the contract. Insist the company live up to terms of the agreement.
What Makes a Well-Crafted Grievance?
Limiting statements to basic facts. Who? What? When? Where? Why? Witnesses?
Reserve arguments, evidence, and justification for the actual face-to-face meetings. Arguing outside of the scheduled meetings can be used against the union by the company.
Refer to all contract violations, if required by the contract. If your contract requires you to refer to specific contract language, include all contract provisions that may apply to your case. If you use “violated the contract, including but not limited to Article __”, it allows you to add violations if they are found later in the case.
Clearly state the union’s position with the grievant’s or Steward’s opinion. “John Smith was unjustly discharged.” Do not use phrases such as, “I think, I believe...”
State a complete resolution. The purpose of a grievance is to restore the grievant to the position they were in before the grievance. If a worker was wrongly discharged, ask that they be immediately reinstated and “Made Whole”, with full back pay and rights, privileges, benefits, and expungement of the incident from their record.
Show the written grievance to the grievant. Double check they understand the proposal for resolutions.